The Bear's Chosen Mate
Vivian Arend is a prolific Canadian romance writer. I first discovered her books with her Adrenaline Search and Rescue series (which I love!) set in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, and then I dove into her multiple contemporary series set in and around Rocky Mountain House, Alberta. But she’s also well known for her paranormal romances, and having not yet read any of those, I decided to pick up the first in her new Borealis Bears series. The Bear’s Chosen Mate is a fun, sexy, friends-to-lovers romance with great touches of Canadiana in the setting and animal shifters featured, proving to be just the ticket for an escapist read.
The series concept is pretty basic. Grandpa runs Borealis Gems, the family company set in the Northwest Territories (northern Canada). He wants to see his three grandsons – James, Alex and Cooper – married within the next nine months, before his New Year’s Eve birthday, or he’ll sell off his shares of the company (ergo, no inheritance). He doesn’t buy their excuses about being too busy, or not wanting to go through the effort of finding a mate so he’s forcing their hands… errr… paws. All polar bears go through a week of mating fever, wherein if they are in the vicinity of a like-minded female, it generally leads to settling down into a relationship. Like any sane male, the Borealis brothers have learned to hide out and avoid all females during the fever week. But this year, they all agree to see what fate decides. And in truth, only bears who are with their ‘forever loves’ during mating week actually end up tied down, so to speak.
For youngest brother James, the only woman he can imagine even wanting to spend mating fever week with is his best friend Kaylee Banks, a bobcat shifter and photographer. Little does he know that Kaylee has had a crush on him for years, but never acted on it for fear of losing their friendship. And James may have had some inappropriate thoughts about Kaylee in return. When Grandpa gets his little matchmaking hat on and sends Kaylee to James’ apartment just as the fever hits him, it’s too hard for Kaylee to resist his befuddled amorous advances. With an understanding between them that they’ll indulge in their mutual attraction while James is struck with his lustful mating fever they make the most of their week together. But will it be so easy to go back to being just friends?
I love shifter stories that have a lot of humour, and the author provides this quite handily with the two characters and the conversations they have with their shifter personas. For James, it’s exactly what you would expect; a lumbering burly bear who is interested in the simple things in life – food, sleep, and sex. While James is trying to keep thoughts of Kaylee to a PG level, his bear is envisioning her naked in their shower and their bed. In contrast, Kaylee’s bobcat is sharp witted, good at internal eye rolling, and definitely not shy. This provides plenty of laugh out loud moments as Kaylee and James have to contend not only with their ‘human’ attraction to each other, but also their animals egging them on. The love scenes are fun and sexy, as the author brings those character traits and her usual steamy heat to the story.
Kaylee and James might be best friends but they are definitely opposites. As a scion of the Borealis family and a company executive, James is often involved in social and business events. Kaylee, on the other hand, would rather avoid the limelight, thinking of having a relationship with a man who is so comfortable in the public eye gives her hives. She definitely doesn’t think she’s the right woman for James, despite their newfound compatibility in bed. She has other issues too, emotional baggage from her upbringing that have left her with abandonment fears, and losing her best friend would be devastating. And then there’s the whole problem of whether their newfound feelings for each other are real. When the mating fever subsides, James knows that Kaylee is his mate, the woman with whom he wants to spend his life, but Kaylee’s insecurities make her question the veracity of those feelings.
The path to their happy ending involves a bit of over the top drama that leads to grand gestures on both their parts, and the sealing of their mating bond. But the somewhat contrived ending didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment of the story. The epilogue gives a hint of the enemies-to-lovers plot of the next in the series, The Bear’s Fated Mate and James’ brother Alex’s story. Low angst, high heat, lots of laughs – The Bear’s Chosen Mate is a recommended read for paranormal romance fans!