Rating: 4 stars
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Xan Heelies is an alpha wolf who dreams of a happily ever after with another alpha. Unfortunately, that is strictly forbidden and if anyone learned about Xan’s feelings, or how much he wishes he was actually an omega, he could face jail or worse. While he has found a strong bond with his own omega, Caleb, the two are not in love. Caleb is asexual and aromantic and the men share a special connection where they each accept the other for who they are. But Xan still yearns for something he can’t have, and in a combination of self punishment and an attempt at satisfying his needs, he engages in a violent relationship with another alpha that puts his safety at risk.
Urho Chase has always felt a bit uneasy around Xan, but didn’t quite know why. Despite sharing close mutual friends, there has always been some awkwardness between them. But when Urho learns about how Xan is being abused, he can’t help but want to step in and help Xan. When he learns what Xan has been doing with the violent alpha, Urho is at first horrified. But he also offers to help Xan have his needs met in safe way, rather than letting him continue to be harmed.
As the men spend time together, it is clear that their awkwardness was actually masking their attraction. The men are drawn together, and with Caleb’s support, begin a relationship that satisfies them both. Xan and Urho can imagine a life together, one where they share a love and make a life with Caleb at their side. But rumors about Xan’s proclivities swirl around, affecting his relationship with his father who refuses to accept Xan as he is. On top of that, a dangerous flu epidemic is sweeping the city, their friend Vale is facing a risky pregnancy, and Caleb’s heat is imminent. With so many crises at once, the men will have to work together to find their way through the problems and to a happy ending together.
I loved Leta Blake’s Slow Heat and was so excited to see that Xan and Urho were getting their story. Both men had been prominent side characters in that first book and we got hints of a connection between them that I was dying to see explored. I think Blake creates a really interesting story for these guys and continues with some creative world building. While the book follows many of the typical omegaverse conventions, the story goes in some really interesting places and I found it quite engaging. I particularly enjoyed the way Blake plays with different dynamics of sexuality and gender here. What I often find interesting about omegaverse books is the way they can explore gender/sexuality in a way that references our society, but can approach things from a step removed due to the fantasy/paranormal world building. So first off, I really appreciated how Caleb is both asexual and aromantic, and the way that we see such a loving bond in his relationship with both Urho and Xan. I also liked the way Blake explores elements of gender dynamics with Xan. He is born an alpha, but identifies as an omega. His feelings are totally taboo and he not only faces the dissonance he feels in his own body, but also the shame society puts upon him. It is explored in really interesting ways, particularly given the strict gender structure so inherent in this type of story.
I will admit, however, I had kind of hard time really connecting fully with Xan and Urho. This surprised me considering I loved them in the first book and was so eager to see their story here. This may be in part due to the fact that a lot of their emotional connection seems to happen during a time they are separated, so we don’t really get to see them falling for one another, just the before and after. I also struggled with Urho’s initial attitude toward Xan when he learns about his gender identity issues. Urho’s first response is very negative. There is a level of disgust and horror that he first experiences that I found very off putting. Now this doesn’t last long, and ultimately he is incredibly supportive of Xan. But in the beginning, Urho’s acceptance feels a little like it is because he is so hot for Xan rather than because he truly accepts Xan for who he is. I guess I needed to see some contrition on Urho’s part, some acknowledgement, either verbally to Xan or even internally in his own mind, about how wrong he was and how and why his mind was changed. So I did struggle a little really feeling the bond between the two guys as much as I had hoped.
What I actually found to be the most appealing dynamic in the story is the relationship between Xan, Urho, and Caleb. I loved the three of them together and how they made their relationship work. While this is technically a romance between Xan and Urho, the happily ever after involves all three men. I loved the way Xan and Caleb accept each other’s differences so completely, how they have formed this deep, intense bond of love that is neither romantic nor sexual. The connection between them is so lovely, and it is then enhanced as Xan and Urho’s relationship begins to develop. I loved the dynamics between them all, the way they made a nontraditional relationship that works for all three of them, and seeing how the three men find a way to make all of their needs met among them.
This is a pretty long book, and at times I felt it dragged down a bit through the middle. But the ending really comes together with some intensity and I loved the way the story all pulls together. So if you are a fan of Slow Heat or omegaverse stories, I can definitely recommend Alpha Heat. I think you are best served having read the first story given that the side characters cross over in both books, but in a pinch you could read this in a standalone. Either way, it is an engaging story.
This does seem like an intriguing series. Thanks for the review, Jay.
Thank you, Jay, for your honest-as-always review. While I’m certainly enjoying Xan and Urho’s story, I set it down a couple of days ago (at about the 50% mark) and haven’t picked it up again. I was a little perplexed (spoiler!) why Blake had to move Xan and Caleb out of town. That definitely slowed things down for me. Like you, I also noticed how strongly Urho reacted to Xan being an “omega-shaped alpha,” but I think I modified that in my mind to mean that because Urho had been taught it was disgusting, that was his knee-jerk reaction, and when he had time to process and consider Xan’s humanity, then his reaction changed accordingly. One more thing — this book is hot-n-heavy from the get-go, whereas Slow Heat was slow burn. Give me a choice between the two and I’ll pick slow burn every time.
Thanks Eliza! Glad you liked the review. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!