Rating: 3 stars out of 5
“Two shifters walk into a bar…”
Panthera Agency Operative Johnny Walking Bear is in San Francisco for a case. A head cold is making him miserable but with the job not starting until Monday, Johnny wants to take advantage of the city and a free weekend to enjoy eating out, drinking and having lots of sex. Especially the sex now that he is away from his family home and siblings. Johnny wants a mate but while he’s looking some honey and mead would make this bear shifter very happy.
Cat shifter David Kern is very unhappy at the moment. Another confrontation with his ex has David depressed and looking for a diversion. When his friends call to invite him for a night out at the bars, not even his nasty cold can deter David from a night of clubbing and the chance for a hookup.
So two shifters walk into a bar, in this case David and Johnny. Their attraction to each other is immediate and intense. No wonder that they end up in bed together at the end of the night. Their night together is memorable and sexy. Neither wants the night to be over but Johnny has a job to do. He leaves David’s house without leaving his name or contact information. What neither shifter is aware of is that they are mates. Between David’s cold blocking his senses and Johnny’s drunken state and cold, neither could sniff out the truth before they parted.
What is a shifter to do when a chance encounter brings him the very mate he has always wanted but he doesn’t realize it at the time? Through a series of mishaps, miscommunications and wrong assumptions, David and Johnny have a rocky road to love and HEA, one that also comes with a secret organization with evil plans who might just be the biggest obstacle of them all.
Rae Brewer’s David’s Dilemma has some terrific elements to it. One of my favorites is the premise. Two shifters unable to use their senses, one because of a head cold, the other because he’s drunk, meet, connect, have great sex and then part. What they miss is that they are a mated pair because neither could smell out the truth at the moment. That’s funny, a great use of natural history and kind of poignant. I only wish Brewer has used this element to its fullest promise, instead it gets a temporary treatment and then its gone.
Another great aspect of this story is the bear shifter clan that Johnny belongs to. Here bear natural history and behavior comes across beautifully. Large, lumbering, that Johnny is a bear shifter is evident from his actions to his physiology. Throw in a terrific family unit of healers and other gifts, and the package is complete. Again, this book could have focused on the Walking Bear clan alone and made me a happy reader. That was a fully realized group of characters and their household was one I could have spent much more time in.
But most of this story deals with other elements. There is the David/Johnny hookup and mishaps to follow. That was kind of charming even though I never felt that Brewer made her panther/bear pairing believable. Also this is the fourth story in the Panthera Agency series and the only one that I have read. They seem to be a lesser part of this story until the ending. I couldn’t get a real feel for what they do other than they are run by a group of shifters who help locate and return missing shifters to their families.
That agency and Johnny’s job felt less solid and less an integral part of this story than perhaps Brewer had planned. It needed more background into the agency and its operatives to make sense of the events that followed and to understand who all the characters mentioned fit into the story and series. Brewer also throws in a twist that comes off as more contrived than believable. Someone realizes they have been drugged and their reaction is almost nonchalant? This part of the story alone called for a suspension of belief that it was never going to get, as did all the events that stemmed from that act that followed.
I wish Brewer has almost made this into a shifter romcom. That premise just begged for a lighter treatment and narrative. That is was bogged down in a less than stellar sort of espionage plot towards the end made little sense while making those elements of the story that were well done stand out starkly in contrast. Which is did by bringing in the Walking Bear family to reintroduce a semblance of a well achieved characterizations to that chaotic ending.
So David’s Dilemma is a bit of a mixed bag here. Some elements were wonderful, others did not achieve the same level of believability and completeness. The decision is yours.
Cover art: Jess Buffetf. Loved this cover. Great job.
Published August 26th 2014 by Smashwords Edition, JK Publishing