Rating: 4 stars
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Length: Novel

With no family to rely on, Adrien is on his own when it comes to facing his first heat. Families often arrange an alpha partner for an omega’s first heat, but Adrien is left to work with the university’s matchmaker who will conduct an online auction for Adrien’s virgin heat. After growing up in a conservative religious household, the idea of going through heat with a stranger, let alone posting naked pictures of himself on the auction site, is totally overwhelming. Adrien has no idea what to expect from the process either, as it is considered an alpha’s job to manage it all for his omega. But Adrien needs the money to help pay for his education, so he is willing to go along with the process, even agreeing to sell breeding rights to the winning alpha to increase the price.

Heath is a wealthy alpha who is shocked when he sees Adrien’s resemblance to his former lover, Nathan. Heath was in love with Nathan, but Nathan didn’t feel that same, and when Nathan died, Heath vowed never again to get romantically involved. But when he finds out that Adrien is actually Nathan’s biological son from his first heat, Heath realizes he can have the child he always wanted and a piece of Nathan as well. So he bids upon and wins the right to both Adrien’s heat and a chance at a child. Heath figures after the process is over, the two will never see one another again, and so there is no reason to even mention Adrien’s connection to Nathan.

While the guys have a somewhat of a rocky start, it is soon clear that there is a real connection between them. And when Adrien becomes pregnant and moves in with Heath for the duration of his pregnancy and nursing period, the two grow even closer. Suddenly Heath can imagine building a real life with Adrien, and Adrien has fallen totally for Heath. But with Heath keeping this huge secret about Adrien’s past, the trust they built between them may be destroyed.

Blake Moreno is the dark romance pen name of author Leta Blake. I am a huge fan of Blake’s work, so I was excited to check out her writing as Moreno and to see what she would do with a different spin on the omegaverse world compared to her Heat of Love series. I’ll admit that this one started out rough for me. I found the basic set up distasteful; the idea of selling heats to anonymous bidders, not to mention the increase in value for virgins and “breeding rights,” is a tough sell for me and gave me kind of a squicky vibe as it was all introduced. This is particularly true as poor Adrien is a total naive innocent, so the idea of having to put himself in the hands of a stranger keen on taking his virginity is rough. Added to that is the super gross university matchmaker who is in charge of the auction, leering at Adrien, complimenting his asshole, and noting all the various attributes that will make the alphas eager to bid upon and bed him. Also, Heath is putting up big walls at first, so when they first meet, he is bossy and crude and doesn’t treat Adrien all that nicely. So like I said, first chapter or so left me kind of uncomfortable. But I think if you can get past that, it works for the overall story by providing a juxtaposition with the rest of the book. We see on one hand the transactional, cold nature of it all, but then it contrast really well with the true affection and warmth that grows between Adrien and Heath and I think that is what makes it all work.

The main conflict here is evident from the very start, as we know Nathan is Adrien’s biological father, and Heath is keeping this a secret. I think Moreno does a nice job not only developing Heath’s character to help us understand his motivations and his complex feelings toward Nathan, but also showing us how much he grows to love and care for Adrien, which makes the whole thing work better. In particular, once Heath realizes he wants to keep Adrien in his life, he really does give due consideration to when the right time is to tell Adrien and there are some real factors that get in the way. So with that dangling in the background, most of the story follows the two men through Adrien’s heat (which is pretty much sex, sex, and more sex) and his time nesting at Heath’s during his pregnancy (again, lots of sex, plus cozy times together getting to know one another). The story has kind of a dreamy quality to it, of being outside the real world as these guys hole up together and Adrien barely interacts with anyone beyond Heath. We can see why these guys complement each other so well and watch them falling for one another. When the inevitable conflict happens, it resolves well, and I felt satisfied that these guys had built something strong enough to last.

So this is somewhat darker take on the omegaverse world with the buying and selling of heats. I did wish we had more explanation in that element of the world building, as it is never really explained why this process evolves versus the more traditional omegaverse heat scenarios. But I think Moreno has given us a creative take on the omegaverse and crafted an entertaining story that blends the edgy side nicely with the mushy and romantic.