Book Review

Big Bad Beast by Shelly Laurenston


Title: Big Bad Beast
Author: Shelly Laurenston
Publication Info: Kensington 2011
ISBN: 9780758231703
Genre: Paranormal

Book Cover I have a serious weakness for Laurenston’s books. They’re not the most succinct things, and this book had a few flaws that drove me batshit, but there were times I laughed out loud, and a few spare moments where I had to put the book down and guffaw. Laurenston writes some funny shit.

Ahoy, ye summary, the hardest part of writing a review. Dee Ann Smith is a, by her own admission, redneck she-wolf assassin, trained by her father to be among the most lethal and frightening of the shifter killers. Ric Van Holtz is a member of the very regal Van Holtz family (hence the name, y’know) and has loved Dee Ann since they were kids. They met while her daddy was negotiating a place in the shifter corps of badassery, known as The Group or something bland like that (these shifters are not much for inventive names, random capitalization, or cutesy acronyms—thank the Baby Shifter Jesus). Now Dee Ann is a former Marine, Ric is her boss, and she’s trying not to notice him while being paired up with another shifter she hates and a human cop to find out who is kidnapping hybrid shifters and forcing them to fight in cage matches for profit and death.

First, the things that drove me batty.

Holy hell. There’s an endless Rockette line of characters to introduce, of past stories to sum up, of partnered lions and wolves and wildebeasts (maybe not that last one) living in furry bliss, and they all have to be mentioned and their many-paged books summed up in a few paragraphs of infodumpy. Ugh. Hate that. I also hate that I can’t keep them straight in my mind, because so many of them have similar names. Eventually the most important players distinguished themselves and the rest could fade into Greek chorus background noise punctuated with the occasional funny-funny punchline.

There are also! Many exclamation points! Like valley girls! On Red Bull and that five! Hour energy drink! At the gas station!!

Laurenston saves the books from the JR Ward style heroine round up where they all float into the foyer wearing Disney princess dresses to hold the arms of their respective mates in silent glowing harmonious bliss. The past heroines are as feisty as Dee Ann. No ballgowns and floating do be done here, unless they’re floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee carrying a concealed howitzer.

But even with my occasional bouts of ‘Who the hell is that person again?’ I enjoyed the crap out of this book. There’s wooden dialogue, there’s plotting that is probably much more logical if one has read the whole series, and there’s some seriously campy silly goofy fun, and I finished the book chortling. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, and that was exactly what I needed. The death and dismemberment and asskickingness is all real – but the characters are sanguine and at times hilarious about it so there’s no doubt that it’s not at all super serious about itself.

Because really, only a book that doesn’t take itself too seriously can contain scenes like this:

She was stupidly fallen for a Van Holtz. The enemy wolf of her Pack….

He’d pushed her onto the bed and had buried his face into her pussy, licking and sucking his way into her heart.

YES. THAT IS WHAT IT SAYS. I only wish Love Handel had recorded that song, too.

Moving on, same scene.

Turning her inside out, making her come again.

It just wasn’t fair. How was she supposed to fight this? And…she wasn’t real sure anymore she wanted to fight this.

Because, in the end, the man did make a hell of a waffle.

Awwwwww yeah. It’s all about the waffle lovin’, y’all. (Actually, considering that he’s a chef, those waffles are a pretty good reason, epic earth shaking head aside).

And now, the good stuff I loved:

The hero is a beta male, but oh hot mother of glock, he’s hot. Ric (Ulrich) is a chef, and master of his kitchen domain, but he’s been in love with Dee Ann for a long, long time. Pretty much since they were kids. Their families hate each other, their lives don’t intersect in the least, but he wants to take care of her, feed her when she isn’t eating enough (which is pretty much most of the time), and bang her senseless.

He doesn’t want to be alpha. He doesn’t have to pound his chest and prove his manliness. He knows in the kitchen he’s the man, and that by the key, important members of his family he is loved. That’s plenty for him. He knows one day he’ll get her to notice him, and he’ll get her to fall for him. He’s a confident, happy, hot smoking beta male.

The heroine, for her part, is a loner Alpha. She’s lethal, sneaky, clever and fast, and hates most people. The fact that she can tolerate, and maybe has a soft spot for Ric, is a complete mystery to her, but so long as he keeps cooking, she’s ok with him. She doesn’t like false friendships, she has limited tolerance for idiots, and she prefers to be alone. And she can kill you with her eyelashes.

There isn’t a whole lot of conflict between them aside , but their differences make for enough to keep the story moving while Other Plots Are Solved And Stuff, and watching her snarl and him saute until they end up in the same place is adorable.

And did I mention the funny? The funny funny? Seriously, there were some scenes that made me laugh so hard. I can’t even excerpt them because out of context they’re not nearly as snort worthy. I can see how the dialogue and the characters’ behaviors and habits wouldn’t be to everyone’s taste, but the humor, the dry sardonic tone of the heroine, the dialogue between different women, and the way in which the characters don’t take themselves too seriously in the least hits my funny senses in just the right place.

Laurenston’s strength is in her humor, her wit in her writing, and in the fact that her women are unapologetically fierce. Fierce. Like outrageously killing fierce. Laurenston’s writing is a giggly treat to myself, like sugary confections that are surprisingly flavorful. Now I want to go back and re-read her dragon series, which is like ultra violent fairy tales with campy sauce on top.

Come to think of it, most of her books have extra campy sauce on top. That’s probably why I like them. It’s not rich and meaty and thought-provoking, but it’s funny and lighthearted with a hidden thread of seriousness, and campy.

That and the fierce bloodthirsty women.

Big Bad Beast is available at Amazon | Kindle | BN | Nook | Book Depository | Powells

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Merrian says:

    I read this on the weekend and had the same reactions as you did. There are too many people and paiars now to keep straight and there are so many shifters everywhere I don’t think it is a great secret anymore. . It is not my favourite book by SL but that doesn’t matter. The people are kind and funny and fierce and loyal and at one point I was laughing and wheezing and thought this is why I read romance, to be made happy by the experience. I really like the pride each partner takes in the other in SL’s books too.

  2. 2
    Black Velvet says:

    I’ve read this book three times in the past two weeks and I agree with most of your review…I loved all the characters, but that probably has more to do with the fact that I’ve memorized both this and her GA Aiken series so I know each character by heart.  Seeing old favorites (even from her first trilogy, gotta love Angelina and Sara’s cameos) and new ones appear was a plus for me. 

    Any book by SL/GAA is always a win for me and I’m glad to see that the mass of reviewers agree with that…mostly. ;)

  3. 3
    tea says:

    I will read anything this woman writes. The Boy knows when I’m reading Laurenston; there is loud laughter. Silly, campy, and perfect for re-reading when in a bad mood.

  4. 4
    joanne says:

    Count me in as a member of the Aiken/Laurenston Church.
    I love this crazy lady like chocolate & shoe sales and just ordering her books makes me laugh.

    One of the things I love best about connecting books is being brought up to date with past characters, so even though I don’t need their background, I’m happy to see that they remain true to their original psychotic personalities.

    Her heroines are multi-racial, physically strong and always nuts.  Her heroes are um… accommodating… and the author doesn’t yack on and on about the rights of women… her heroines take what they want, do what needs to be done and kick ass to get their HEA.

    The cover: Dee Ann is watching for predators and isn’t just gently holding his arm, she’s grabbed on and dug in. Love That!

  5. 5
    Eve Langlais says:

    I love Shelly and was actually worried about the Dee Ann story, ‘cause I honestly didn’t like her much in the previous books. But if the humor Shelley’s known for is there, then I will have to grab a copy.
    PS loved the quotes lol

  6. 6
    Joykenn says:

    Yet another vote for Yeah fo Laurenston/Aiken!  This isn’t the strongest book in the series with a little too much summing up but the main characters are hot and any guy who can make great waffles is worth a second read.  I must say of the shifters I kind of fell in love with the bears.  Not the cute cuddly Teddy bear types.  And the wild dogs are crazy ass running around with too much energy.  What I liked is the multiple kinds of shifters—and why aren’t there bunny shifters?  Anyway, this series is way too much fun to miss.  The Aiken dragons are not your usual dragons and, lord, this woman is funny.  I would bump this up to an A-.

  7. 7
    Beth says:

    I was worried about Dee Ann’s story as well, but I loved the fact that I could get involved in her story and root for her and Ric and she was still as bad ass and cantankerous as ever at the end of the story. There was no effort to make her softer and there was no tragic reason as to why she was the way she was like a lot of brooding, rude heros in other romance novels. (which I fully enjoy in their own way)

    I love this author! I even ended up going to a roller derby match earlier this year because I was so curious what it would be like after reading the previous couple of books in this series.

  8. 8
    CK says:

    Yay for team Laurenston/Aiken. I always know that even if a book is not one of my favorites, I will still laugh and be entertained by it. I agree that it’s a bit hard to keep track of everyone and their cousin in this book but as a fan of the series it was so cool to see them all together. It felt like a sweet indulgence. I agree with Beth, this earned an A from me just because Laurenston didn’t go into Tropeville and create some tragedy for Dee Ann or change her bad-assery in order to make Ric more alpha.

  9. 9
    Tae says:

    This is an author that I’ve given up on because I found her heroines a bit annoying and all the same.  I felt like every book I read was the same heroine.  Same attitude, same badassery and I figured I’d already read it.

  10. 10
    Lovecow2000 says:

    I just finished this book last night. I started it over my lunch break and powered through after putting the girls to bed. I loved seeing Blayne and Bo again as well as seeing how the romance between Ric and Dee Ann would play out.  It was very sweet, and while he’s a “beta”—there is nothing servile about Ric. :) 

    The conflict with his father was a bit pat and wasn’t developed in such a way for me to find it compelling (I kept waiting for it to escalate beyond what happened in the book).

    What a fun book.

  11. 11
    Donna says:

    I always describe her books as bawdy good fun. “Here Kitty Kitty” is on the out of my cold dead hand shelf. And really… bear shifters? Snerf!!! Now THAT’s a good time.

  12. 12
    Patrice says:

    Yep, I have to get this book soon! Lurv Shelly Laurenston! I stopped trying to keep everyone straight and just trust as I read a new SL story that the “info dump” will jog my memory. But whether that happens or it’s a new set of shifters I always enjoy the characters, the world and the humor! African wild dog shifters? Loved. Them. Seriously. Fierce hyena villains whose kids are scarier than the adults? And tigers knocking out the heroine and then kidnapping her because they got scared and knew their brother liked her? She wakes up, is pissed, and takes one out with a toilet? Uh yah. Maybe you had to be in the mood, but I guffawed a lot during “Here Kitty, Kitty” Just a few of my imperfect memories highlights and if you just how bad my memory can be, the fact I recall Shelly’s books is high praise! TY for the reminder to go buy this book! lol

  13. 13
    Kerry Allen says:

    Damn. I’ve been told a thousand times I need to read Laurentson, but as much as I love campy lolz, every negative mentioned is a wallbanger offense for me.

  14. 14
    Brandy says:

    I LOVE Shelly Laurenston’s books. They’re on my keeper shelves and each have been reread at least a handful of times. They’re the perfect read when you’ve had a bad day, or a good day. While I’m not that into her Dragon Kin books, they, too have that unapologetic campy humor. I will admit her Beast Behaving Badly is my favorite.

  15. 15
    orangehands says:

    Okay, this is going near the top of my TBR list because I could use some fun with badass heroines and she seems to fit the bill. Thanks for the review.

  16. 16
    Katie L says:

    I’m just finishing up The Mane Squeeze and I have say I don’t like Dee Ann from what I’ve seen of her so far, but any writer who can create a character who’s (nearly) seven foot, built like a brick shit house and loves playing with his toes may be able to win me over. Shelly Laurenston just cracks me up though, so it’s straight on the TBR list.

  17. 17
    LG says:

    I think I’ve only read one book (really, two novellas) by this author, and I wasn’t thrilled by it. The book was The Mane Event. I thought the humor was a bit too over-the-top to really be funny (although I do remember thinking Brendon when he was delirious with fever was pretty funny), and the relationship in the first novella seemed so much more about sex than anything else that I nearly quit reading before I even got to the second novella.

    Sometimes I like an author’s full-length books more than their novellas, and sometimes the reverse is true. I liked that second novella just enough that I might be willing to try something else by Laurenston. I doubt it’ll happen though, because I have lots of other books in my TBR pile that appeal to me more than the thought of giving Laurenston another chance does.

  18. 18
    Quillotine says:

    I have only one thing to say to this review…

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  19. 19
    Charlotte says:

    I love her books. I am thoroughly entertained while reading them, even if the quality upon reflection isn’t stellar.
    I LOVE the fact that her heroines do not necessarily become friends just because they are written by the same author. Gwen and Ronnie will never be BFFs.
    I LOVE that the heroines are completely psychotic. It is such a relief sometimes not to read sugary sweet earth mother martyr heroines.
    I LOVE that the characters do not become transformed by love -in this book Bo is still an anti-social ahole with time management issues and Ric and Loch barely tolerate him.
    I just plain love these books. I eagerly count down release dates and read them the instant I get them and then i’m in a funk because I squandered months of anticipation in a few hours and then it is back to waiting. Sigh. Write faster, SL!

  20. 20
    Emily says:

    I might try this author, simply because it reminds me of Lauren Dane’s Cascadia Wolves which I just finished reading.  Funny, shifters who don’t take themselves too seriously? Sounds like a plan.

  21. 21
    roserita says:

    In a year Shelly Laurenston went from “who’s she?” to buy-everything-she’s-ever-written to when’s the next book coming out?  I enjoy her the way I used to enjoy Evanovich.  And if was still working, “Time to start the killin’” would totally be my mantra.
      My captcha word is anyone43: as in, anyone who’s tired of Janet Evanovich’s 43 book should try Laurenston.

  22. 22
    sjcottrell says:

    This sounds like a lot of fun, but I’ve never really read a “shifter” series before.  Is this a good one to start with, or should I go back?  What’s a good on-ramp book?

  23. 23

    I have read these books over and over again.  I particularly love the bears and the wild dogs.  I also had my doubts about this book because Dee is really not all that likeable.  That’s okay.  Shelly Laurenston made it work.

    I love how Lock and Ric torture Bo AND I adore how Blaine is still torturing Dee Ann.

    It felt like old home week with everyone from the past books showing up.  I have read the series so often, I had no problem keeping the characters straight.

    Okay, when’s the next book coming out and who is going to be about?

  24. 24
    kathleen says:

    The BEST part of these books is that the group dynamics feel real.  Like, not all the women love each other and are TOTALLY SISTERS AT HEART, OMG.  And not all the guys get along.  They interact based on who their spouse gets along with, and they band together in times of need, but mostly they tease and harass each other, just like you would in real life with someone you’re forced to hang out with.

  25. 25
    Janet Eckford says:

    I heart Shelly Laurenston with such a deep passion that I could barely speak to her at the RT Convention, but that wasn’t much of a surprise considering I basically became a teenage girl giggling and pointing at all the authors there (Sarah included) until my friend dragged me to their tables.

    I actually loved to dislike Dee Ann that I couldn’t wait for her book. I think hands down the funniest scene was with the rat. I’m tearing up trying not to laugh as I type this. I know what I’m going to get with a SL book and she is an automatic buy for me because of that. Sometimes you just gotta laugh…and ogle hot male shifters…sigh

  26. 26
    Anna Persson says:


    For a first time SL reader I would recommend The Beast in Him or Pack Challenge both very good “opening” books.

  27. 27
    lonamh says:

    I love, love love Laurenston/Aiken.  I started with one of the dragon books and when I got to Here Kitty Kitty I was hooked but good. I have to say I love the lion shifters.  There is something about those lazy, me-first cats that makes me shiver. I have her on auto-buy! Any author that can surprise loud laughter out me is worth every cent. The scene where DeeAnn tells Ronnie that they aren’t really friends?  Laughed till I cried.

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