ARC Reviews

ARC REVIEW: Bearly A Lady by Cassandra Khaw


35463834Publisher: Book Smugglers Publishing
Release Date: July 18, 2017
Received From: Review copy from the author

Zelda McCartney (almost) has it all: a badass superhero name, an awesome vampire roommate, and her dream job at a glossy fashion magazine (plus the clothes to prove it).

The only issue in Zelda’s almost-perfect life? The uncontrollable need to transform into a werebear once a month.

Just when Zelda thinks things are finally turning around and she lands a hot date with Jake, her high school crush and alpha werewolf of Kensington, life gets complicated. Zelda receives an unusual work assignment from her fashionable boss: play bodyguard for devilishly charming fae nobleman Benedict (incidentally, her boss’s nephew) for two weeks. Will Zelda be able to resist his charms long enough to get together with Jake?

And will she want to?

Because true love might have been waiting around the corner the whole time in the form of Janine, Zelda’s long-time crush and colleague.

What’s a werebear to do?


GENDER: cisgender
SEXUALITY: bisexual


TROPES: gay for you, friends to lovers
TAGS: contemporary, adult, paranormal, queer romance, POC character, fat character
WARNINGS: ableism, mind control, fatphobia, rape culture, biphobia


I really wanted to love this book because so many of my friends do. I can say that, overall, I liked it; it was a quick fun read, but I personally had a few issues that made the read a bit less enjoyable to me.

Early on in the book, Zelda’s bisexuality is introduced organically, in conversation with her best friend, and it felt so good to see it just talked about as a thing that existed as part of her identity. But, later in the book, she describes herself as “mostly heterosexual but open to opportunities,” which was…disappointing, to say the least. The word bisexual is used in reference to other people, so Zelda clearly knows the term and that it’s a thing that exists, so I was confused as to why she wouldn’t use it for herself. She’s really open about her attraction to people, including Janine, so it was strange and uncomfortable to read it described this way, and made it feel like it was “gay for you,” which is really hurtful.

Unfortunately, I also had issues with the fat rep. I have a difficult time appreciating the rep when the character is constantly described as “waddling” and “lumbering” around because she’s just so huge and describing herself as “colossal” (which only served to make me think of Colossus once I moved past my annoyance). Not to mention, multiple people pulling the “oh you’re not fat!!!!!” nonsense–she is fat and there’s nothing wrong with it. And finally, the text makes a spectacle of her weight through the way it’s pretty much only mentioned in reference to how it’s an inconvenience to other people, or when the creepy mind controlling fae character is fetishizing her. That doesn’t really scream positive fat rep to me.

Also, a character saying “If you need to accost a woman, do it somewhere private” was really disturbing, especially as it wasn’t called out.

Otherwise, I felt the novel would’ve simply benefited from being longer. Paranormal society was pretty much brushed over, and you don’t really get a sense of how the different species really interact and what kind of systems they have in place, outside of the human ones. I would’ve enjoyed more exploration of that. I also would’ve enjoyed more insight into Zelda’s life. What is her downtime like? What is her family like? What is a typical day at her job like? Nearly every aspect of her life, with the exception of her love life, is neglected due to the lack of length.

Like I said, though, this story was generally fun. I enjoyed the relationship between Zelda and Zora, her best friend and roommate, and their banter back and forth. It was cute to see the bits of Zelda and Janine together, and the scene where Zelda asks Jake on the date was embarrassingly funny. The story was quirky, with several one liners that made me laugh.





I’m a London-based writer with roots buried deep in Southeast Asia, a place where there are sometimes more ghosts than people. My work tends to revolve around intersectional cultures, mythological mash-ups, and bizarre urban architecture.

When not embroiled in fiction, I write about technology and video games for a variety of places including Eurogamer and Ars Technica UK. I really like Coca Cola-flavored gummy bottles. And plushies! I love fuzzy animals. My best friend is a woodland bunny named Judy.

I am repped by Michael Curry of Donald Maass Literary Agency.




3 thoughts on “ARC REVIEW: Bearly A Lady by Cassandra Khaw

  1. I really did enjoy this one but I was so creeped out by the fae dude and the mind control thing. It was basically sexual assault and it felt brushed off idk. I really liked the romance with Janine though! Friends to lovers is my jam *grins*


    1. Yeah, I was really bothered by the fact that the fae guy barely even gets scolded for mind controlling Zelda AND Janine. And that sorta fell into my confusion on the paranormal world they’re living in too, you know? Like, is this normal? Do all fae do this? Is this guy just extra creepy and entitled because he’s a prince? We just don’t really know.

      I did like Janine and the romance there! Friends to lovers is my FAVORITE, so I was really psyched about it, and my favorite scene was probably when they were at Janine’s apartment playing board games. I just kinda felt like it wasn’t developed enough. For most of the book, she’s so focused on the dudes, with only a few thoughts about Janine here or there, that it felt weird for the book to finish where it did.


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