Shepard, Katie. Bear With Me Now. Berkley, 2023. ISBN 9780593549292 $17.00
A mental breakdown while managing his mother’s charity lands Teagan in rehab — while not an alcoholic, his collegiate sister Sloane decides it’s the perfect opportunity to address her casual coke habit and his crippling anxiety and panic attacks with one blow. She enrolls them in a wilderness retreat center retreat in where they encounter equally terrifying bears, kale smoothies and Darcy: an ex-military jack of all trades who wants to be an interpretive ranger but can’t get through her GI bill degree due to her undiagnosed learning disabilities. Darcy’s ex-roommate and former hookup has borrowed her car, leaving her stranded in Big Sky just as she’s trying to cobble together a plan when the wellness center closes for the season. A misunderstanding leads Darcy to think Teagan is an alcoholic in denial; she takes him under her wing and provides him with his own custom, wilderness-based recovery curriculum when it’s clear making ashtrays and birdhouses and attending mindful seminars and therapy are not up his alley. When it becomes clean Teagan needs to get back to attend to his business, Darcy gets hired on as Teagan’s sober companion. She doesn’t quite fit it, but they work well as a team and as partners. She hasn’t had a lot of stability in her life and has serious reservation about being good enough and fitting in, but their chemistry is genuine and he is a wonderful foil for her warm, loving chaos.
A subplot of the foundation running art through it for profit adds drama and tension. The Montana setting is described lushly and conservation is a strong theme throughout. Shepard introduces unique characters and handles addiction and mental illness deftly.The sex scenes are a perfect blend of tender, awkward, funny and real, and sex is defined as more than just PiV – Teagan’s medication makes full arousal and penetration challenging, so they need to be creative and communicate.
I received a free advance reader’s review copy of #BearWithMeNow from #NetGalley.