Title: The Bear
Author: PA Brown
Length: 9k words
Publisher: Amber Allure
Genre: m/m Paranormal Romance
Blurb: Scott Thompson discovers a dead bear, killed by poachers in the parkland he calls home. He is charged with investigating this tragedy and trying to bring the poachers to justice. Then a second bear shows up. Or so he thinks. But when Scott calls in his boss and mentor, a sturdy dark mountain man named Luke Stadler, to assist him, the “bear” turns out to be a naked man, seeking shelter in Scott’s barn, shot in the leg and seriously injured.
Luke and Scott tend the wounded man during a raging blizzard that traps all three of them in Scott’s isolated cabin in the mountain forest. During their forced confinement, Scott and Luke succumb to their mutual attraction and unleash a passion that burns hot and bright.
But what is the secret of the mysterious man who ended up in Scott’s barn? Where did he disappear to and where did he come from? Scott and Luke discover the answer to the riddle and stumble across a secret that hides in the isolated forests of the Rocky Mountains.
Review: Scotty works as a ranger for the forest service. Lately, they’ve been dealing with a large poaching problem and routinely find dead bears on their patrols. One evening, Scotty investigates a strange noise from his stables (where his horses are spooked) and is shocked to find an injured bear. Unsure of what to do, Scotty calls Luke, another ranger and best friend to Max (and hopefully more). Luke hurries over just before the start of a heavy blizzard. They are both puzzled when they go to check on the bear and find a man in his place. He’s been shot and needs medical help, but the three of them are stranded. Hopefully the mysterious man will give Scotty some answers as to how there was a bear in his stables one minute and himself the next.
This is quite a short story, but more than that, it seems short because there is little that is revealed. While the “secret” is revealed, along with another related surprise, I still felt like I knew very little about the characters. The character of the “mysterious stranger” means more in theory, while the focus is really mostly on Scotty and Luke. There’s too little time for me to get a feel of their relationship which moves swiftly from an encounter between friends to more without much in between but sex.
I worked for me was the tone of the story. The cabin in the woods, an oasis of the forest gives the story a mood of restraint, like Scotty is holding back the forest from swallowing him. That juxtaposition between the wild and civilization (and Scotty’s voluntary separation from it) echo the problems with the poachers that is the catalyst for the story and therefore the relationship between Scotty and Luke to progress. I certainly liked that mood combined with the pacing and use of narration for much of the story, but I also wanted more; not necessarily in length, but in the romance and characters. While I found the writing artful, I didn’t really feel the connection between the two men. Also, the reveal at the end of the story only made me more curious about the things we weren’t told.
This seems to me like the prequel to a longer story, so I would have enjoyed reading more if that were the case. While there were aspects of the story I liked, as a whole it fell short for me. This is the first thing I’ve read by this author, though I’ve been curious to read some of her work for quite a while now. I’ll happily pick up more of it in the future, but I’ll probably steer clear of short stories and read a novel instead.