Tangling with the Bears by Lisa Oliver (review)

Tagline: Horny wolf has a doubly unbearable time after a bathroom hook-up

Tangling with Bears Book Cover

Title: Tangling with the Bears
Author: Lisa Oliver

Genre:  Parannormal M/M Shifter Romance
Format:  Novel  (89k words)
Series: Cloverleah Pack #8

Sites: Author |  Goodreads

Publisher: Self-Published (March 2016)
ISBN: 9781311551863

Retail: $4.99

Rating:   star  star  star  star   (I really liked it!)


Synopsis:  Tobias, a wolf shifter enforcer with the Cloverleah Pack, is looking for a quick, no strings-attached, hookup, but finds himself scarred by a toothy chomp on his neck from a restroom. After biting the anonymous wolf during the bathroom quickie, Luke a sometimes awkward bear shifter, immediately leaves to call his mate Kurt.  Both bear shifters are rather surprised that their third mate is not the human female they expected but a male wolf shifter.

Kurt must protect his mate while trying to track down their new mate, dealing with a pack Alpha prejudiced against bear-shifters while convincing himself, as well as the wayward wolf, to trust the fates that brought the triad together.  The bears will discover their immunity to magic might come in handy when dealing with the powerful Cloverleah Pack, which has plenty of shifter power and magical might running within the group as well as in their deadly enemies.

Review: Fans of the Cloverleah series will likely enjoy this latest installment, although I found parts of it to be not quite as compelling as some of the previous titles. Strengths of this paranormal m/m erotic romance series include extremely powerful alpha males, an increasingly complicated supernatural and political plotline, and, of course, plenty of heated male/male encounters.

The relationship at the center of Tangling with Bears focuses on a menage (m/m/m), and the exploration of the somewhat problematic start of this “instant mate” triad is a bit weaker than other parts of the book or series. On the positive side, the author is attempting to examine what can go wrong in a trope establishing an immediate and permanent intimate connection among the mates, giving the reader some “serious” relationship issues wrapped into the broader paranormal/pack plotline.

Luke and Kurt were interesting characters, sometimes just a little stereotypical but overall they served as nice foils for one another. The fears and hopes of Kurt and Tobias contrasted with Luke’s steady trust, and thereby creating the core relationship drama of the book. This trip through the “instant mate” trope, in this case for three mates, was nicely fresh if not always overly compelling to me.

As typical for this series, the author also explored problematic shifter and paranormal dynamics, deepening the pack’s story with, of course, plenty of explicit intimate encounters. Fans of the series will see the overarching plotline continue to develop with a new set of interesting (and nicely different) mates.  It can be read as a standalone, although surrounding characters and the deeper pack/political plotline will be most appreciated by those who have read the entire series.

Recommended for fans of: Cloveleah pack series; Bear shifters; MMM Menage; a lumbering Bear shifter who is sweet and stumbling and fearsome all at the same time.

Sizzle:
Explicit Heat: fire fire fire fire – A fair amount of explicit heat, an important focus of the book, but interspersed into plenty of story.
Passion: heart heart heart – The three-way chemistry was not quite as strong as I would have liked, but the book’s plot centered on the strain between two of the mates which slowly rose and fell, although not always as convincingly as I would have liked.
Genre:  Adult Romance


Other Comments:
As always, this does a great job of portraying fully reciprocal male intimacy.

Omega to the Ranchers by Stephen Hoppa

Omega to the Ranchers Book Cover

Title: Omega to the Ranchers
Author: Stephen Hoppa
Genre:  M/M Paranormal Erotica
Format:  Novella (115 p.)
SitesGoodreads | Amazon
Series: Becoming Omega #1
Publisher: Amazon (Oct. 2015)
AISN: B017EKHM9K

2.5 stars (out of 5)

Tagline: Abused human omega rescued and respected by Alpha and Beta werewolves (Alpha/omega ménage erotic story)

I received a free, epub copy of this story in exchange for an honest review.

A brief, novella-length story of an abused, straight, and human omega taken in by two hunky werewolves, including the pack Alpha and his caring but tough Beta mate.  The plot follows their somewhat careful move towards a “triad” ménage relationship navigating through the vicissitudes of pack politics, personal histories of abuse, and fears of the omega simply being used.  Includes explicit scenes of first-time with men, voyeurism, lightish Domination/submission, and fully threeway ménage.

I read this twice, and the first go through was somewhat enjoyable, while a second, closer reading was less compelling.  This came across a simplistic, easy to read, but occasionally eye-rolling quick jaunt through erotic and/or romantic themes I enjoy, including werewolf pack dynamics (especially involving omegas),  fully “triad” ménage relationships, and a rescue from abuse theme.  While I did not find the story to be particularly compelling, it worked o.k. as a diversionary, escapist read with a little Alpha/Beta/Omega werewolf sizzle.

I agree with other reviewers who have indicated this fits nicely into the “Stormy Glenn” category of m/m erotic romance, where explicit stories have enough plot to be separated from pure erotica/smut, but with writing that has plenty of cheesy, simplistic, and sometimes eye-rolling passages.  In other words, this works for a basic, somewhat heated werewolf ménage read rather than a compelling romantic/erotic story.

Positive moments included a chuckle for the phrase “werewolf-sexual” (as opposed to bisexual or homosexual) to explain the (human) omega’s sudden attraction to two strong (werewolf) males, highlighting a subdued form of the “instant mate” trope.   Also, there were repeated, decent character actions regarding the slightly contrasting roles the Alpha and Beta played for the Omega.

While Eric’s touch said, “I own you,” Tyler’s said, “I’m going to take care of you.”

Overall rating:  It was o.k. for a short, explicit werewolf ménage escape – 2.5 stars.   Therefore, following the general “star” meaning indicators,  rounded down to  2 stars (“o.k.”) in Goodreads, and up to 3 stars (“o.k.”) in Amazon.

 

Examples of problematic moments:

Unconcerned alpha: The pack alpha, Eric, doesn’t have an omega to ground him, so members of his pack are turning “feral” (which seems like a fate close to death, if not worse), three alone within that last few weeks.  Instead of discussing this issue at a pack meeting, Eric dismisses it and starts talking about the improvement in pack finances (much to the dismay of the pack members).

Missing poster: Apparently an abusive, cop father distributed a large number of MISSING posters after he severely beat his 19 year-old kid (almost to death?) and left him to probably die.  It just didn’t make sense – perhaps he was trying to cover-up his abuse, in case people asked what happened to his (adult) son and/or if the victim’s body suddenly turned up?

Feel of the ranch: At one time, the omega exclaims “The entire property with the ranch probably cost millions. Or fuck, I dunno, billions?”  During the rest of the story, the pack’s ranch came across as more of a struggling concern (or at least all of the pack members were very hard working and the finances/margins didn’t seem particularly great).  So either the “millions/billions” statement was supposed to indicate the new, human omega was clueless when it came to real-world finances (billions?), or the feel the author was trying to convey was inconsistent.  (In the rest of the book, it came across a semi-struggling concern where the Alpha had to put in plenty of hard work, versus a more comfortable, CEO type of role.)  This is just an example of how the writing did not come across as particularly compelling, detailed or believable.  (And yes, I realize if one is focused on the erotic aspects, those details don’t matter much, but overall this type of writing undermined any greater pull beyond the erotic heat from the broader story.)

Sudden, rough-ish, rather Dominant/submissive sex: 

On the one hand, the Alpha and Beta were extraordinarily and repeatedly concerned about the Omega making a choice to be with them out of his own free will and not feel forced, even though continued delay in their formal claiming was endangering the lives of individual pack members.  On the other, the pair has no problems quickly leading the virginal, abused omega into rough-ish (“fuck my face”) submissive sex, and basically using him in a tit-for-tat sex game.  Again, while this is not necessarily out of place in an erotic story meant to be enjoyed for semi-kinky heat, but gives the surrounding story an unbelievable (or at least inconsistent) feel.

“He jerked my head back and forced it back down, using me so hard and rough, I could hardly take it, but I wanted it so fucking bad that I was moaning around his delicious skin.”

“Then he grabbed me by the hair, jerked me to my feet, and thrust me up against a fence post. His hand came down hard against my ass cheek. The ringing smack sent trembles of need through my body.

“You’re going to get it hard for that.”

“Please, please fuck my face.”

 

“But I want you to get this. It wasn’t that you dominated me that made me feel weird. It was that I felt like I was being used in a game. I felt like, like I was on the outside of your relationship”

 

“Or no, maybe they just wanted to see me on my knees, choking on their cocks as the dominated me. That thought alone was so hot, I could almost cum all over again.”

“Oh yeah, take it like an omega.”

Wettened:  A quote from the book: “Tyler’s wettened hands…”  Technically, this is a grammatically correct usage of the past participle of the word wetten as an adjective, but it’s an extraordinarily uncommon usage (and, to my mind, rather awkward construction) in current English.  I don’t know whether to be impressed by such a surprise, or bothered by how it awkward it sounded to me.  I wondered if it were a regional usage (the author used the word centre, so I thought he might be British or Australian).  The extraordinarily little usage of this word I could find was scattered across only a three dozen articles in British, Australian, Canadian and American newspapers. (Only thirty eight uses of the word found in five billion documents in LexisNexis, and similar results in other news, business, and academic databases.)