Muscle Cub, Bear Camp #2 by Slade James

Muscle Cub is the second full length book in the Bear Camp universe by Slade James and it seems Austin's self proclaimed Summer of Lust may be ending sooner than he thought. 

From the blurb:

He’s a little too young and way too hot for me.

Austin Fox is a twentysomething beefcake living his best life working at a clothing-optional campground. He’s the reigning Best Cub of Bear Mountain Lodge. With a twinkle in his eye and a mischievous smile, he radiates body positivity and self-esteem.

He could have anyone he wants.

I’m a forty-two-year-old, once-celebrated author with a bad case of writer’s block, a dad bod, and “performance anxiety” in bed.

He picks me.

On paper, he’s offering me exactly what I came here for — a weekend of no-strings fun to reboot, “get my groove back,” and find my muse before summer ends.

But there’s more to Austin’s story than his title and appearance. He’s empathetic, wise beyond his years, and he challenges me to see myself in a new light. Despite our age difference, we’re in the same place, hoping to find a renewed sense of purpose.

If we choose to let go of the stories that no longer serve us, we can write our next chapter together.

Muscle Cub is an age gap, surly/sunshine gay romance that starts with a one-night stand and turns into a deeper reflection on identity and self-image. It’s the second full-length book in the Bear Camp series, featuring cringe-inducing karaoke, a makeover, and a man-pageant. It can be read as a standalone.

Jacqueleen the Reading Queen's Review:

OMG it was so much fun being back at Bear Camp! I read book 1, Grumpy Bear, back when it released in 2021. I confess I had to go back and read my review to refresh my "memory" so to speak and low and behold I had already gushed there about how much I wanted Austin's book. After starting, it didn't take me long to get back into the Bear Camp headspace. I forgot how much I loved the entire community the campground has going on. It truly is a place of acceptance and love. It also appears to be quite the matchmaking place since many a camper starts off their visit single, yet they don't seem to leave that way. The magic of Bear Camp I guess?

I adored Austin. The man had a smile for everyone, even the surly professor Paul. Well, more like especially the surly professor Paul. It was cute how Paul was so oblivious to his appeal. Even though the man got a standing ovation of applause while setting up his campsite shirtless, Paul has a very skewed vision of himself. This was something left over from a toxic past relationship and it made me smile to see how much being with Austin really helped him come into his own. It wasn't only a one way street either. Austin has had some set backs in his young life and having Paul there to cheer him on was exactly what he needed to get his groove back. These two were so cute together and I honestly didn't want their story to end. I hope there's more to come from the Bear Camp series soon!

Rating: 5 Stars

Heather's Review:

Bear Camp is an amazing place to visit and going back through the eyes of Paul, a first time visitor with low self-image and self-esteem was a great way to see the place with fresh eyes.  Written from Paul's POV exclusively, we see him learn to accept himself and embrace letting go and trying new things!  His interest is peaked by Austin, a man nearly 20 years his junior whose energy and joy is seemingly endless and it takes time for Paul to believe that Austin even wants to look at him.

I appreciate just how much real life Slade James brings to the characters - from dealing with ED to having a difficult work history, James doesn't shy away from bringing details and research to the story.  

It took a little bit for me to get into the story, especially because it was single POV, but I enjoyed my trip back to Bear Camp and I look forward to seeing who finds love there next!

Rating: 4 Stars

Muscle Cub is available to buy as an ebook, paperback, or to read with Kindle Unlimited subscription.