Summary: In the mood to try something sweet? How about a collection of stories about bears and the special men in their lives? Guys don’t have to be in their twenties, perfectly sculpted, and hairless to be hot. Bears are realmen with real bodies—and that doesn’t always mean a perfect six-pack or an immaculately smooth chest. With bears, it can mean more man to love. The men in this anthology are chubs, cubs, grizzlies, pandas, polar bears, and more—all looking for a connection. And beneath their burly physiques are hearts of gold. Explore the bear scene and beyond with these big, hairy guys and the men who find them irresistibly sexy.
Review: Truck Stop by Christopher Hawthorne Moss
This one was an odd little story about two guys stranded in a diner in a snowstorm in the 1940’s or early 50’s. It honestly didn’t seem like a romance until the last page and it wasn’t a particularly engaging story.
Bear Chasing by Renae Kaye
A very nice story about Neil, a young geek living with his sister to help her care for her twins and infant. He spies three hot bears moving in across the street, and one of them immediately catches his eye so he increases the time he spends looking out his window, watching these bears work on their cars. When he finally meets Brett, the bear he dreams of the most, he’s everything he’s hoped for, and for some reason, Brett actually thinks Neil’s cute! After they go to a “bear” party, Neil’s eyes are opened to the desirability of bears, and he realizes he wants to keep his bear long term. It’s a pleasant surprise when he finds out the feeling is mutual. I really liked this one, and I appreciated the potential HEA for the MCs.
Life’s Tiny Surprises by Tara Spears
A cute story about Jerrod, a little twink who’s waiting tables in a restaurant when the man he’s crushed on for seven years shows up for dinner. Mac is celebrating his thirtieth birthday, alone as usual. He’s a big ol’ bear, too big to attract any hot guys so he’s given up on it. When Jarrod makes a pass at him, he can’t believe it at first, but later, shortly after they get to his apartment all his birthday wishes come true. The author leaps ahead to two weeks, two months, two years and then twenty years. It’s a great way to wrap us up in a HEA. Very well done.
The Bear King of Snowbird Mountain by Michael Rupered
What happens when you meet a bear in downtown DC? A bear who is the perfect male specimen and seems to be waiting there just for you? Well, you give in, of course. In this story, Jeremy meets Donald and enjoys his time with him but finds it strange that Donald seems to be so determined that he’s destined for him. When pressed, Donald breaks down and explains that he’s actually a bear during the full moon and that he’s descended from the Bear King. He would have been king himself, but chose to fulfill the destiny foretold by his grandmother in which he would meet Jeremy, his lifemate. This is a cute short story in which Jeremy is proved wrong in his belief that Donald is just making up the story, and comes to accept the fact that he really does need Donald in his life. There’s a lot of story here, packed in a few pages. Very well done.
Just Breathe by John Genest
This one is a sweet story about a chubby who goes for sleep apnea testing and finds out his technician is a bear who loves chubbies. Romance could be on the horizon if he lets himself believe he’s loveable enough, and if he can get over his recent lover’s death. Too short to be fulfilling, yet it was well-written and would be a great beginning to a novella.
Barefoot by Lillian Francis
I liked this short story about a guy who works in a homeless shelter but is mistaken as a homeless man by Sam, the cute guy at the local supermarket. Eventually, through a series of misunderstandings, Sam shows up to volunteer at the shelter and the two end up together, in more than just the job. There’s a lot of story in a few pages in this one too. Very well done.
Golden Bear by G.P. Keith
Norm is stranded in a blackout but invites the bear he meets that day, a power company worker, to keep him company once the two have had some time to talk and get to know each other a bit. Winston has the most beautiful smile, with his gorgeous golden-hair reflecting the sunlight, that he impresses Norm right away. And when Norm realizes he’s both chubby and golden, his only regret is that Winston is straight. At least he thinks he is— until the night he finds out that Winston is bi and the attraction between the two is mutual. These guys are HFN as the story ends with the chance of a HEA in their future. Very nice story.
Banyan Court by Samuel Scott Preston
This one is a very complex story involving Japanese folk culture and the start of a romance during a visit to Hawaii. There to celebrate his sixtieth birthday, Dan Kumagai meets Hank when he is given the gift of surfing lessons by his nephew. Hank is about thirty years old and very attractive to Dan, despite the age gap. The men explore their interests and Dan thinks Hank may be attracted to him but a misunderstanding separates them before they even have a chance to find out. Months later, Hank seeks out Dan back on the mainland and the two finally begin to allow their attraction to develop. They ultimately have a nice HEA, wrapped up in a short epilogue. This story was very detailed and complex, and I was lost trying to follow the comparisons of real time to folklore for a while, however I appreciate the depth of detail and ultimately enjoyed it very much.
The Bear at the Bar by J. Scott Coatsworth
Dex is a hot guy with a healthy ego, who shows disdain for bears, until he suddenly finds himself in a bear’s body. It seems Colin, the bear he put down at the bar last night somehow pulled a Freaky Friday switch on him, and he is now occupying Colin’s life—and his body— his fat, hairy body! Dex/Colin seeks help from his former boyfriend, a guy who still cares about him, despite his annoying ego. There’s a sweet HEA as he comes to terms with what’s important in life. One of the better stories in the book.
Amped by Zoe X. Rider
This is a very short story about two guys, Toby and Wolf, attending a heavy metal club to hear bands perform live. After a quick hand job outside behind the bar, Wolf, the object of Toby’s desire, invites him back to his house for further action. To be honest, I felt the story was too short and there was too little dialogue between them to get engaged in the characters at all. This one was disappointing.
The Bear Next Door by Jack Byrne
Rob and Bryce have neighboring ranches and Bryce, young and golden, thinks Rob, an older, big, hairy bear, is hot. When the two finally get together, it’s smooth sailing until Bryce spots Rob hugging another young man in his driveway. A series of misunderstandings ensues, and the two need some help from family to finally get their heads and hearts to match. I liked this one more than most of the others. The characters were engaging and the story had great potential for developing a full novel.
The Bear Fetish by John Amory
Louis and Robert meet when Robert arrives in Albuquerque on business. Robert’s an uptight corporate lawyer, and at first doesn’t want anything to do with Louis, but Louis’s friendly manner and free spirit eventually capture him and the two spend the night together. This short ends with a HFN and the promise of a very interesting story for these two men. I’d love to read a full novel about their journey to happiness. Very well written with engaging characters.
The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Getting Over Yourself by Robert B. McDiarmid
Bill is recovering from being dumped by the man he moved to San Francisco for and has taken the advice of friends to have a mini vacation in Palm Springs in the off-season. Hanging out at the pool, he spots a bear wearing a bathing suit with “pisspig” in big block letters across the front. Besides having fun watching everyone flirt with the guy, he’s reading a self-help book called The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Getting Over Yourself. Pisspig, aka Arthur, tells Bill how much that book helped him and invites Bill to dinner. As the two get to know each other, it’s evident that Bill may have found someone worth keeping this time. The story ends with a potential for a future for the couple. I liked this author’s style. It was an easy story to read and the characters were engaging.
Hunting Bear: A Fairytale With a Very Hairy Ending by Edmond Manning
Told in a modern fairytale style, this is the story of Tyler, a twink, and his best friend Derrick, a bear. Tyler has the hots for the guy he refers to as the Great White Bear and has found a way to meet him and ask him out. Derrick, who was once Tyler’s boyfriend and lover, at least for one night, tags along for moral support. Unfortunately, Tyler isn’t successful and is, in fact, humiliated, but Derrick remains supportive, and the next day Tyler finds out just how much Derrick cares for him. Since all good fairytales have a happy ending, Tyler does find his true love, just not where he originally looked. This one has some very nice characters, including a host of secondary characters, but the storytelling wasn’t in a style that appealed to me.
Overall, I enjoyed most of the stories, some much more than others. If the purpose of the book was to instill in readers a new appreciation for bears, the authors have done their job. I really wish there was a bear in my life right now! I recommend it to those readers who enjoy short stories and want to expand their reading horizons. There’s everything in here from angst to humor, and will be well worth the purchase.