4-star,  M/M,  Not my kind of smut,  Romance,  Sweet sweeter sweetest

Grumpy Bear (Bear Camp #1) by Slade James

Release Date: January 28th

This is an honest to God gem!

I can’t remember the last time I was so pleasantly surprised by a book. Not only is Grumpy Bear a super sweet story that gave me all the warm fuzzies, but it’s also extremely well written. And the detail and authentic feel of the story setting was damn impressive.

This is an M/M, sunshine-grump, hurt-comfort, hairy Bear kind of romance. And yes, it is a romance even if the title and blurb might imply something smuttier … such as orgies in the woods.

Synopsis: Coleman Sawyer is the epitome of a grumpy Bear. He’s also the owner of a clothing optional, gay camp ground aptly called Bear Camp. He doesn’t have the energy for hook-ups, and starting something with an employee is just a recipe for disaster. But then Luke Cody turns up on his doorstep looking for a job. Luke is a musician, most definitely not a Bear, and he’s beautiful. Luke’s sunny disposition is the very opposite of Sawyer’s. But he’s also down on his luck, close to becoming homeless, and has been hurt by people he loved one too many times. Despite their differences, and despite their respective principles and intentions, there’s an instant attraction between them. Luke brings out all of Sawyer’s protective instincts, and Luke can see beyond Sawyer’s grumpy, reticent facade.

This is a low-angst story, despite both of the MCs having some pretty shitty stuff happening in their backstories. I would even call it a happy-read. The feel of the entire story is – despite some minor dramatics – just so very warm and inclusive. The camp and everybody there are like one big family (dysfunctional relatives included) and I loved it.

Most of the book takes place during a long weekend, and despite the short time-frame, the connection between Luke and Sawyer never felt rushed. It felt like an organically growing affection and was just so very sweet.

So, I really, really loved this story. Luke is, despite his crappy circumstances, a positive and kind person. He’s struggling, wanting to follow his dream of making music, but for now he’s just happy to stay off the streets. Still, he’s willing to risk his heart when he meets Sawyer.

And Sawyer, big Bear as he is, is a teddy-bear at heart. A teddy-bear who can’t express himself for shit. The contrast between Luke and Sawyer was utterly charming. Luke prattles on when he’s nervous, beating himself up internally for his lack of filter. While Sawyer is the monosyllabic type beating himself up for not saying more. They’re adorable.

Apart from really liking the story itself, I admit I’m equally impressed by James’ writing skills. I mean, come on. Who expects this kind of high-quality writing from a story about a gay Bear camp? Not me, that’s for sure. I expected to be entertained and to enjoy some steamy scenes, but now I’m in actual awe. And it’s so obvious that James’ knows what he’s talking about. The camp, its guests and inhabitants, the everyday minutiae of managing a camp ground. It’s so very authentic without being unnecessarily detailed or long-winded. I’ve read way too many books where it’s obvious the authors skipped doing proper research and tries to half-ass it, making things up or just glossing over. And it annoys the hell out of me because that kind of incompetence can ruin an otherwise fine read. Worldbuilding matters, and in that aspect, James kills it!

So why won’t I give this book a 5-star rating? Well, I was going to. But I try to be as consistent as possible when rating books, and one of my criteria for a fiver is that I can see myself re-reading it in the future. And I won’t be re-reading Grumpy Bear because of personal tastes. Let’s just say that the intimate scenes were a bit too hairy for my liking and leave it at that. Fur-lovers, though, they will adore this story!

I will, however, without a doubt, keep an eye out for more of Slade James’ books because his writing was bloody brilliant.

* A free copy of this book was provided by Gay Romance Reviews

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I'm a Swedish book nerd reading mostly steamy English romance novels. And since there is so much good stuff out there, and so much shitty stuff too. I just want to give credit where it's due (and diss the rest).