This is the second book in the Grizzly List series and fully enjoyable on its own.
Oscar is an agoraphobic, white spirit bear shifter who lives in Colorado. He’s mostly solitary, working from home as a phone psychic and lacking companionship. But Oscar’s not looking for a mate. He just wants someone to snuggle with…so he reaches out via the interwebs to find a like-minded bear.
Patrick is a burly, closeted grizzly bear shifter with many hypermasculine friends. He’s a firefighter, one of those smoke jumpers who carve fire breaks into the mountainside. He’s never believed in the mate mythology, but he’s feeling unsettled now that his best friend, Fin, has found a forever mate. Intrigued by Oscar’s ad, and always looking for a good snuggle, Patrick responds.
Oscar and Patrick hit it off via messaging and agree to meet. That’s when it gets real. Oscar is plain-out terrified to meet Patrick in person, and Patrick comforts him through his panic. They connect, and it’s so sweet. I really enjoyed Patrick’s compassion, and I loved how they built a strong intimacy through friendship, and cuddling, and cookies. Oscar loves to bake and Patrick loves sweets—he’s a grizzly and they are all about hibernation prep.
Over the course of several weeks, Oscar is able to let his guard down and let Patrick guide him into a sexual relationship. I really liked how these guys bonded, even though they didn’t expect to feel so strongly about one another. It’s so new and invigorating that Oscar feels ready for more than one-on-one time, and agrees to meet with Patrick’s friends for a dinner out. It turns bad, fast, for reasons that Patrick can’t understand, and Oscar—barely holding his panic in—can’t explain.
I am not generally a fan of the break-up-to-make-up scenario, but I really felt it worked here because Oscar invested time investigating his life and planning how to improve it, even if Patrick isn’t part of it. It’s so out of his comfort zone, and yet, it’s a growth he desires for his own sake. I loved how he reached out and made new friends, ones who accepted him, and gently nudged his boundaries wider and wider. Patrick was the epitome of a hacked-off grizzly, snapping at his friends and co-workers, generally miserable and unhappy, missing his cuddle bear.
The end is an HEA reunion to beat all, with a giant claiming and coming-out. I had to giggle with glee at how absolutely smitten Patrick was and allowed himself to be, and Oscar was no wilting flower. He stood up for himself and claimed all that he wanted, too.
The novella is well-paced with an excellent level of slow-burn between Oscar and Patrick. Their sexytimes are super yummy, with tenderness, and hesitation, and all the good feels. I think the only thing I struggled with was a bit of formatting. When Patrick and Oscar are messaging it appears on the page as if it is a face-to-face conversation, and that was kind of confusing. Otherwise, I’d gladly go back for more snuggling with these two!