Petite, kind, brilliant, and young, Stevie is nothing like the usual women bodyguard Shen Li is interested in. Even more surprising, the youngest of the lethal, ball-busting, and beautiful MacKilligan sisters is terrified of bears. But she’s not terrified of pandas. She loves pandas.
Which means that whether Shen wants her to or not, she simply won’t stop cuddling him. He isn’t some stuffed Giant Panda, ya know! He is a Giant Panda shifter. He deserves respect and personal space. Something that little hybrid is completely ignoring.
But Stevie has a way of finding trouble. Like going undercover to take down a scientist experimenting on other shifters. For what, Shen doesn’t want to know, but they’d better find out. And fast. Stevie might be the least violent of the honey badger sisters, but she’s the most dangerous to Shen’s peace of mind. Because she has absolutely no idea how much trouble they’re in . . . or just how damn adorable she is.
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About the Book
In a Badger Way
by Shelly Laurenston
The Honey Badger Chronicles Book Two
March 26, 2019
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This book was hugely funny, well written and featured pop-in appearances of countless previously featured characters from Shelly Laurenston’s other books. If possible, readers should be familiar with at least the previous Honey Badger Chronicles to read In a Badger Way with an appropriate amount of context. The book does have a clear arc of its own and could work as a standalone, but a lot of jokes, backstory and references would be missed if this was the first of Shelly Laurenston’s books that they had read.
One of the most impressive things about this book was the way it covered serious issues without making light of them, while remaining an entertaining read. It takes skill to write a book with lines like—
“Medication should never be given without therapy.” She suddenly looked at him. “And if you ever go to a doctor who tries to tell you otherwise… get another doctor.”
“All three of you ladies are half-sisters because your father is, to use your words, Ms. MacKilligan, ‘a wh*re that can’t stop f*ucking anything that moves.’”.
Stevie is a smart woman living with a number of mental health issues. Despite this, she is a multi-dimensional characte, with relationships with a wide cast of characters. Although she lives with anxiety and a panic disorder, her role in the book is never reduced to ‘person with anxiety’. It was great to see a character with mental illness seek treatment, use medication in a healthy way, and surround herself with supportive people that didn’t infantilize her. Stevie’s sisters are protective of her, but they are nothing but encouraging when she makes her own decisions and mistakes.
Shen is a good match for Stevie, their relationship develops slowly throughout the book (after being hinted at in previous ones). As with Shelly Laurenston’s previous novels, however, things play out in an ever-entertaining, thoroughly unexpected fashion. Shen’s sisters were great, and the sheer potential for sequels in the world Shelly Laurenston has created is outstanding. There are at least ten characters that appear in In a Badger Way that could take centre-stage in future books, and presumably will eventually appear in a future novel.
A strength of Shelly Laurenston’s writing is the distinct voices and manner of interacting that she gives to each character, without typecasting them. It gives a true lifelike quality when Stevie’s ‘voice’ alters when she’s speaking to Charlie as opposed to Shen, or Irene instead of Kyle. This lifelike variation gives a sense of the relationships Stevie has with other characters, and is especially impressive when the number of other characters and novels is considered—because it’s not just Stevie that gets this treatment.
The Jean-Louise Parker children feature somewhat heavily in In a Badger Way, and the depth brought to both Kyle and Oriana by their interactions with Stevie was entertaining and impressive. Kyle’s interactions with Oriana were a highlight of this book, with moments of sweetness contrasted by a scorn that will be familiar to anyone with siblings of their own.
Anyone who has read Shelly Laurenston’s work before knows that she doesn’t skimp when it comes to writing family for her main characters—In a Badger Way is no exception. Stevie’s family play a big role in her life and the novel—not just her sisters, either. The intricacies of honey badger meet-ups and business dealings (ie. crime) are showcased in this novel, leaving several interesting threads to be explored in the next book (presumably involving Max).
In A Badger Way is a hilarious read, with witty dialogue, sympathetic characters and non-stop action. The world Shelly Laurenston created with her varying breeds of shifters, hybrids and underground science, sports and society continues to entertain, and fans of the previous books in the series will thoroughly enjoy this book. The sense of humour in Shelly Laurenston’s work is similar to Ilona Andrew’s The Edge and Hidden Legacy novels, though admittedly with a less intensively developed magic and political system. For those who haven’t read the previous books—you should—but this book will probably be to your taste if you like urban fantasy/paranormal romance with badass heroines and a healthy dose of comedy.
The review copy of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. All titles reviewed on this blog are a fair and honest assessment of the book. No monetary compensation was received in exchange for this review. For more information regarding our review process, please visit our Review Policy & Review Request Submission page.
“I want my sisters! ”
The general stared down at the eleven-year-old child screaming at him and his soldiers.
He didn’t know what had happened. She’d started off as such an amiable asset. Quiet. Unassuming. She hadn’t put up a fight when they’d come for her. Her sisters had. The weird pack of people living in a small group of houses in the middle of Wisconsin had barely managed to hold the two older girls back.
Of course, they hadn’t really looked like sisters. One was black and tall, the other Asian and petite with massive shoulders—he’d assumed she was a gymnast. His sister’s daughter had the same kind of shoulders and she was going to the Summer Olympics.
In all honesty, he’d wanted to give those two girls the number of a recruiter. Anyone who fought that hard should consider life in the military.
But their little sister hadn’t put up a fight. She’d just put her head down, grabbed a backpack filled with notebooks, and followed his men out to the car. And she’d kept quiet for the first two weeks.
Then, something had changed. She had changed. Drastically. One of the psychiatrists they hired to monitor the child’s emotions said she was suffering from a “bout of depression” and that she needed medication.
At first, the general had not wanted to hear about medication. Medicating an eleven-year-old girl seemed the height of inappropriateness in his estimation, and no one wanted to affect the way the prodigy’s brain worked. He’d assumed she just needed discipline. She needed to see him as the father figure she’d never had. So he’d gone to see her, trying to engage her in dialogue.
That hadn’t helped. She had simply stared at him with a sour expression until, after about a week of visits, she’d suddenly launched a heavy metal lab instrument at him. Nearly got him in the head, too, but he’d ducked in time. Then she’d started screaming, “I want my sisters!” and she hadn’t really stopped since.
No matter what they said to her, or tried to bribe her with, she didn’t want to hear it. She wanted her sisters and she wanted them now apparently.
Despite his best intentions, he’d finally given in to the psychiatrist and he’d gotten approval from his superiors to medicate the girl.
At this moment, medical personnel were waiting outside the lab with a needle filled with whatever drug they’d chosen because Little Miss kept spitting her pills back out when they forced them on her.
The general tried again, “Now, Miss Stasiuk—”
She slammed her hand against the granite countertop. “It’s MacKilligan. I’m a MacKilligan!” she screamed. “And I want my sisters! ”
“I tried,” he told her before stepping back. “Nurse?”
The psychiatrist’s personal nurse walked in with a stainless steel tray, a filled syringe on top.
As soon as the child saw it, she actually became frightened. Her eyes widened and she scrambled back until she hit the lab table behind her.
“Stay away from me,” she begged. “Stay away from me.”
“It’s all right, Miss Sta . . . uh . . . MacKilligan,” he soothed. “We just want to make you feel better. Isn’t that right, Nurse?”
The nurse nodded as she moved forward. “That’s it.”
The child stared at the nurse for a long moment before she suddenly accused, “You’re trying to kill me.”
That statement was said so calmly but so definitively that everyone in the room froze and stared at her.
“What?” the general asked.
“You’re trying to kill me,” she accused again.
The general blinked, shocked. “Of course we’re not. Miss MacKilligan—”
“You want me dead! You’re working for the other side!”
“What other side? What are you talking about? No one is trying to kill you. We’re trying to help you!”
Her face red, fingers curled into tight little fists, her entire body one taut line of tense muscles, the little viper screeched, “You’re trying to kill meeeeee!”
Her voice was so loud, the general actually felt she’d made the lab windows shake, but he was sure that was simply his imagination run amok under such strange circumstances.
“No one is trying to kill you!” he yelled over the child’s screams. “We built this entire base for you. So calm down and take your medicine!”
The nurse stood beside him now and, with a sigh, she called for two orderlies. The men came in and went to the girl, attempting to grab her arms and hold her still. But the fight the general hadn’t seen when they’d first brought her in—he saw it now.
Like a whirling dervish of panic, the child swung her arms and legs, spinning away from the men, screaming wildly before she took off running.
“Grab her!” the nurse ordered while the orderlies chased the child around the large lab. But every time they got close to her, she’d duck under their legs, jump over their grasping hands, or throw something at them so she could make her mad escape.
Rolling his eyes, the general nodded at one of his men. That soldier closed the door, cutting off the child’s exit route. The general motioned to two others.
With precise movements, those soldiers went for the girl, one sweeping the child up into his arms and holding her with her back against his chest.
“If you will,” the general said to the nurse.
She placed the tray down on a lab table and uncapped the syringe. She moved toward the child.
Struggling and screaming, the girl tried her best to fight off the man holding her body while another soldier held her arm out, but these trained men held her easily without harming her.
Grateful this disaster was almost over, the general exhaled and let his gaze roam the room. That’s when a metal grate in the ceiling was kicked away by a sneakered foot, slamming into an orderly’s head and dropping him to the ground with a serious head wound.
The Asian half-sister of the prodigy jumped from the duct and down to the floor; the older sister followed. When her feet hit the ground, she grabbed the second orderly and tossed him across the room with amazing ease while the other girl charged the soldier holding her sister. As she moved toward him, she suddenly brought up one foot, placing it against the lab drawers. She pushed off toward the other lab station, slammed her other foot against the granite, and launched herself toward the soldier.
She wrapped her entire body around his head, but the soldier continued to hold on to his captive. The second soldier went for the oldest sister, but she grabbed his outstretched arm and swung him into the lab table. Then she grabbed him by the back of his neck, pinning him facedown to the table. She raised her leg and slammed it down on the back of the soldier’s calf, breaking his knee. His scream echoed out across the room.
The general sighed in aggravation. He would deserve a medal after this assignment was over. Because this was goddamn ridiculous!
The soldier at the front of the room yanked the door open and yelled out, “I need help in here!” to the ones who stood guard in the hallway. They rushed in. They had their firearms pulled, but they stopped as soon as they entered and immediately lowered their weapons.
The general didn’t know why until he felt the cold barrel of a gun pressed against his temple.
“Let my sister go,” the eldest calmly stated, loud enough for them to hear but without the panic of her baby sister, “or I’ll blow the motherfucker’s brains out.”
It was a sad day when trained military couldn’t handle three little girls, the eldest not even eighteen yet.
With the middle sister still wrapped around his head, the soldier released the little girl. Stevie MacKilligan stepped away from him, brushing blond hair off her face and out of her eyes.
When she was done, she focused on the nurse, who was still holding the syringe.
“You were so ready to give that to me,” she said.
“It’s just something to help you,” the nurse asserted softly, rationally. “To keep you calm.”
“Really?” The child snatched the syringe away from the nurse. “Then you try it.”
The psychotic little bitch went up on her toes and slammed the syringe into the nurse’s neck, pressing the plunger once the needle had entered flesh.
Screeching, the nurse fell back against the lab table. The general understood, though. That had to hurt.
But then the nurse kept screeching, falling to the floor, rolling to her back, and suddenly foaming at the mouth, her entire body spasming wildly.
Until she stopped. Everything.
Moving, breathing . . . living.
The general slowly looked from the nurse’s corpse back to the girl.
Her expression smug, she said, “Told you she was trying to kill me.”
* * *
Charles Taylor ignored the complaints from the She-wolves in his Pack. They wanted him to call the cops. The FBI. Call the White House. Call anybody! “Do something!” they’d demanded in order to get little Stevie back.
But Charles knew better.
Some things you just had to let play out in their own time. And this was one of those times.
His granddaughter and her half-sister had disappeared exactly two-and-a-half weeks after the US government had shown up on Pack territory.
And Charles knew where they’d gone. To get their baby sister back.
His granddaughter and her half-sisters were not like the other kids. They weren’t even like the Pack pups. And so instead of intervening, he’d let them handle it themselves.
While the Pack females were busy on the phone, making calls, trying to get information, his granddaughter and half-sister had been holed up in their rooms. Quiet. They’d gone real quiet.
Something so disturbing that Charles had ordered his Pack to stand down. To stop whatever they were doing. They’d thought he’d given up on the little one because she wasn’t his granddaughter by blood, but that was far from the truth. He’d simply learned that sometimes a wolf had to stay hidden in the trees until everything blew over.
That was how one survived.
A limo with two military vehicles in front and two behind pulled onto his street.
He sat on the porch whittling a small unicorn from a hunk of wood he’d found in the backyard and didn’t move until the limo stopped in front of his house.
He stood, dusting the wood shavings off his jeans and Jimi Hendrix T-shirt.
The limo door opened and his granddaughter came out. She looked so much like her mother it made his heart hurt, but he didn’t tell her that. She had enough to worry about.
The middle girl followed. She had a bloody nose and a black eye. She might have gotten it scrapping with some military types, but something told Charles that it had come from her older sister.
That little honey badger was nothing but trouble and very hard to control.
And, finally, the youngest. She had her big backpack strapped to her shoulders, and she ran awkwardly to keep up with her bigger sisters.
“Pop,” his granddaughter said as she walked by.
“Pop-Pop,” said the little Asian one.
“Hello, Grandfather,” said the youngest.
She stopped to smile up at him and he smiled back. She’d cried once when he hadn’t returned her smile, so he always smiled back. Always.
He placed the unicorn in her hand and she grinned. “Lovely artistry,” she murmured, studying it before disappearing into the house.
Before he turned around again, he knew that there was a wolf standing within ten feet of him.
Taking his time, Charles looked over his shoulder until he locked eyes with what had to be a Van Holtz. An old Van Holtz, but still, at any age, Charles’s Pack had always avoided Van Holtz wolves.
“What?” Charles asked.
“Edgar Van Holtz.”
“I don’t care.”
He smirked. “You should. I’m the reason your granddaughter and her sisters are back with your Pack and not in maximum detention at some army base. They did do some damage. There are many who think that at least the oldest should be charged.”
Now Charles smirked. “Please. Like you could hold onto any of them.”
Van Holtz nodded, grinned. “Good point.” He looked at the door the three girls had disappeared behind. “My suggestion—”
“Which I didn’t ask for.”
“But you’ll get it anyway. Put the little one out there. Like when she was into music. But now do it for science.” He handed Charles a folder. “Give this to the oldest. Get Stevie signed up for these science competitions and special grants. It will get her name out there.”
“And do what? Make her a bigger target?”
“Our government won’t be able to just take her without every news source in the universe going after them, wondering what happened to Stevie MacKilligan. And other governments will have to deal with the US if they try to take her. Again.”
“Some foreign interests, when they found out she was too tightly watched at the base, sent in agents to put her down.”
Charles’s angry frown was so vicious that Van Holtz raised his hands. “Calm down. It was handled.”
“By you? Or my girls?”
That smirk. “Good luck, backwoods wolf,” Van Holtz said, returning to his limo. “You’ll need it with those three.”
Charles sneered at what he was sure was a tailored suit hanging off that man. Nothing he hated more than snobby wolves.
His eldest granddaughter came out of the house and stood beside him, watching all the vehicles head off.
“Everyone okay?” he asked.
He handed her the file of information the wolf had given her.
“What’s this?” she asked.
“Competitions, grants, all that stuff. You need to get your sister involved.”
“For the money?”
“For safety. Get her name out there. Get her known. We don’t want anyone doing this to her again.”
His granddaughter nodded. “I’ll take care of it.”
He knew that. She took care of everything. Weight of the world sat on those shoulders.
“Look,” he said, turning toward her so they faced each other. “Do whatever you’ve gotta do to protect your sisters. I’ve got your back.”
“I know you do. I just—”
The screams of sibling hostility exploded from inside the house, and his eldest granddaughter closed her eyes, letting out a huge sigh. She hated when her sisters fought, but Charles didn’t mind it so much. It was the only normal thing about the three of them.
She turned to go into the house but stopped long enough to go up on her toes and kiss his cheek.
Without a word, she moved away from him and he faced the yard again, staring straight ahead. He heard the front screen door open, and his eldest granddaughter barked, “Max! Untwist Stevie’s tongue right this second! I don’t care what she said to—hey! That does not mean grab her throat! Release Stevie’s throat right this second. This very second or I swear by all that is holy—”
Charles smiled. Although he knew he shouldn’t. He shouldn’t condone their behavior, but how could he not find that just so cute?
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