The Mane Squeeze
by Shelly Laurenston†
(Brava, $14.00, R) †ISBN 978-0-7582-3166-6†
***
There are not many funny and loopy paranormal books that will have you laughing out loud and rolling your eyes at the same time. The Mane Squeeze by Shelly Laurenston is definitely one of them.

Lachlan ďLockĒ MacRyrie is not really that interested in social events. But, since this seven foot tall grizzly bear shape-shifter from Long Island, New York has no choice and must to attend his good friendís wedding, heíll suck it up and pretend to enjoy himself. Lock enjoys the simple things in life, such as catching salmon in the river and foraging for honey. He feels uncomfortable in most public situations because everyone around him runs the other way when he enters the room. It all comes down to Lock being able to shift into a ten-foot, fifteen-hundred pound, silver-tipped grizzly bear whenever he feels like it. (Silver-tipped because of his hair color.) This latest wedding has all types of guests from shifters that include lions to wolves and other breeds. And when alcohol is consumed, things do tend to get out of hand. Lock is expecting some brawls and is not surprised when he notices a hybrid ready to pounce on some lions who turn their nose up at her. Lock is intrigued by this gold-eyed beauty with a real dirty mouth.

Gwen OíNeill is a tigon, a half tiger, half lion hybrid from Philadelphia who is ready to fight anyone who makes fun of her. She puts up with enough from her brothers, who treat her as if she canít take care of herself, and a mother who is always criticizing her job and life in general. When Gwen first meets Lock, she finds him annoying. Heís from Jersey, after all, and seems to be a big pushover. Thereís no way he can keep up with a girl like her.††

Lock is very interested in Gwen even though bears and other furry animals usually donít mix. He comes to her rescue when she and her best friend Blayne, a happy-go-lucky wolf bitch, are attacked by a group of she-wolves on neutral territory. Gwen is hurt protecting Blayne and Lock takes her to the hospital.†Gwen has a deep-rooted fear that the doctors will steal her organs. Lock finds Gwen to be too much of a handful, but there is something so sexy and endearing about her that he canít get enough of. And when Gwen and Blayne move to New Jersey to start up their plumbing business, Lock will have even more drama to deal with, such as trying to figure out who wants to harm Gwen and keeping her brothers from attacking him. Gwen adores this big grizzly and would love nothing more than to call him her own. She just has to keep her brothers and mother in the dark because they are just too noisy for their own good.

I have never met a bunch of insane-acting characters who curse like truck drivers and will drop everything to fight just because someone canít keep their insults to themselves. Ms. Laurenston makes sure to combine humor and snark in some outlandish ways, such as Blayne joining a roller derby team and getting beat up because of her new hobby. And the funny thing is, Blayne goes back for more while her friends, who are a bloodthirsty bunch, watch from the stands.

The main reason to read The Mane Squeeze is because of Lock. He is the ultimate beta hero and will have you sighing from the very first page. Heís a great partner and love interest for Gwen, and their interactions and banter are witty and too funny for words. And when these two hit the sheets, itís passionate and fun. Ms. Laurenston has given Lock a great skill with his mouth that youíll not want to miss and one Gwen almost faints in pleasure over.

There is a bit of a mystery concerning Gwenís mother, Roxy, and a nemesis of hers who wants revenge for something Roxy did in the past. Because of that, Gwen becomes a victim but wonít go down without putting up a fight. And because there are so many insults and craziness being thrown from all sides, it made my head spin more than once. At some points I felt the characters were a bit too immature in the way they handled things and I would have preferred fewer secondary characters and more of an emphasis on Gwen and Lock.

Even with some wacky and some eye-rolling antics from the characters, I found The Mane Squeeze to be a fun, sexy story where the grizzly bear and his tigon can find happiness in one anotherís arms.†

--Catherine Anne


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