by MaryJanice Davidson
Series: BeWere My Heart #1
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Publication Date: March 31, 2020
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
These social worker bear shifters give the term "mama bear" a whole new meaning! Bestselling author MaryJanice Davidson is back with this brand-new paranormal romance series featuring a foster care system for at-risk shifter babies and teens.
Werebear shifter Annette Garsea is a caseworker for the Interspecies Placement Agency. When a selectively mute and freakishly strong teen werewolf is put in her custody, Annette has to uncover the young girl's secrets if she's to have any hopes of helping her. And not even the growling of a scruffy private investigator can distract her from her mission...
Bear shifter David Auberon appreciates Annette's work with at-risk teen shifters, but he's not sure if her latest charge is so much a vulnerable teen as a predator who should be locked up. All that changes when he, Annette, and her motley band of juveniles find themselves dodging multiple murder attempts and uncovering a trafficking cartel that doesn't just threaten the kids, but risks discovery of the shifters by the wider world of homo sapiens.
Content warnings: View Spoiler »death of parents (in past, off-page: one parent died of cancer, one of another medical condition, and two in a car accident), suicidal ideation (in the past), child abuse and trafficking « Hide Spoiler
MaryJanice Davidson’s Undead series was my introduction to paranormal romance, and I have fond memories of the utter ridiculousness that was Betsy, shoe-loving queen of the vampires. I was excited to see she had a new series, this time starring shifters, and it’s exactly the hilarious fluff I needed right now.
Annette is a werebear social worker who cares deeply for her charges and knows the system – after all, she was once a foster kid herself. What she doesn’t have time for is any other sort of relationship, even if it’s with David, the super hot investigator that she’s worked before. All that changes, however, when they’re thrown together on a case involving a violent attack by a teenage werewolf who refuses to speak – and then suddenly goes missing. Another attempted murder, a dead body, and some Skittles later, it’s clear that something suspicious is going on, but will Annette and David be able to solve the case in time to save the kids?
“I’d hoped my residual class would have rubbed off on you—”
“—but you just suck it in,” Pat lamented, “like a classless black hole from which nothing can escape, including class.”
Annette was, literally, exactly what you’d expect a mama bear to be. Her life revolves around the kids she works with, and she even volunteers at the local (secret) shifter NICU. Her soft exterior, though, doesn’t mean that she won’t fight back hard if her cubs are threatened! David was a bit harder to get a read on. Part of the fun is that bits and pieces of the characters’ back stories are revealed as the story develops, but I think, for David at least, it was a distraction, as all I really got from him initially was that he liked sweet stuff and had a crush on Annette. She and David have known each other for around two years, and while they’re both attracted to the other, they also believe the other isn’t interested in them. Their coworkers, however, have been shipping them for ages and are spreading rumors that they’re dating, which they both vehemently deny, reinforcing the belief that the other isn’t interested. So, yes, this was definitely one of those situations where a simple conversation would’ve bypassed most of the angst.
“Uh. Guys? It’s way past time to get back to the problem at hand. It was time to do that five minutes ago, but I got caught up in the narrative. Which happens a lot around here,” David muttered.”
But, look, I’m going to be honest, that’s just one minor bit of a completely and utterly ridiculous plot. A social worker and an investigator almost get run over in a parking garage, so naturally they’re given temporary custody of one of the affected kids, and then they’re pretty much left to their own devices to investigate. Riiiight. Of course, the investigation involves copious discussions about food (Skittles, salmon, sushi are favorite topics) and frequent digressions about pretty much everything under the sun. The writing style is quirky, sometimes very stream-of-conscious, and took a little getting used to, and I can see that it would be off-putting to some readers. At times, the secondary characters outshone the main characters, from Dev the teenage Houdini to Annette’s best friend, Nadia, her foster brother, Oz, and her roommate Pat.
“He could feel his mind receding into quasi-sentience as his senses adjusted to being ten, thirty, a hundred times stronger, as everything got bigger and brighter and more, as his bipedal concerns
(rent, unrequited crush, oil change, Skittles)
faded, to be replaced by other, simpler worries
(new territory, potential intruders, potential mate, protect cub, Skittles).”
I have a lot of reservations about Caro, the “selectively mute” teenage character. For one thing, the description isn’t accurate – Caro won’t talk at all, period, not just in select social situations. It’s a minor thing in the grand scheme of things, but I don’t like when mental health rep is so obviously wrong. Also, when David and Annette are forced to seek shelter with a Stable (that is, a non-shifter) couple who’s friends with David, he casually outs her as a Shifter. Annette herself feels uncomfortable about the outing, and it sat wrong with me, as well. Yes, they’re practically family to David, but Annette’s been taught all her life that the survival of Shifters depends on hiding themselves from Stables. I did find Annette’s musings about Stables and how Shifters interact with them (for the most part, they don’t) fascinating, and I’m guessing that’ll be something that’s explored as the series continues.
Overall, this is absolutely delightful fluff, and I will definitely be looking forward to the next book in the series.