unnatural coverRating: 3.5 stars
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Length: Novel

Pelugia and Kadar have been locked in a war for decades and with the two countries sharing a planet, it makes things even more complicated. Now, the Galactic Council is insisting that the countries choose one leader to represent their planet or lose their membership in the Union of Planets. After so many years of war, the only way the leaders can conceive of creating any kind of lasting peace is a political marriage linking the two countries. So Prince Haydn of Pelugia and Senator Royce Cleghorn of Kadar are quickly married.

Hadyn isn’t thrilled about the marriage, but he is used to towing the line in order to please his father. Not that he is ever successful. However, as a Pelugian war general, Haydn knows the value of peace and he is willing to go along with the marriage. His only request is that his partner be a beta; Hadyn isn’t drawn to omegas and he knows that a partnership between two alphas rarely works, as their strong personalities almost always clash.

Royce is a successful politician and one who seems well poised to take over his country’s leadership in the next election. However, Royce is hiding a secret — he is not actually a beta, but an alpha. Royce knows this will make his marriage to Hadyn almost impossible, but he has no choice but to go along with it for fear of exposing the truth. Royce finds that his alpha urge to dominate and mark his territory is just as strong as he expected, but surprisingly, Hadyn is willing to acquiesce to Royce’s desires.

Intellectually, Hadyn knows it makes no sense that he would want to be the more subservient partner with Royce; in fact, he should be fighting him every step of the way. But Haydn finds he likes Royce’s territorial nature, and that he actually craves his new husband and wants to be around him all the time. What both men assumed would be a marriage in name only is actually turning into a real relationship. But not everyone is happy about the connection between the men, nor is everyone interested in the peace that comes with the alliance. Now that they have found an unexpected connection, Royce and Haydn have to fight to keep what they have built.

Unnatural is the first book in Alessandra Hazard’s new The Wrong Alpha series. I love an arranged marriage trope and I was drawn to the idea of two men who find themselves unexpectedly in love. I also was intrigued by the omegaverse world in a science fiction type setting, as that it not something I often see. Haydn and Royce are likable together and Hazard gives the men some good chemistry, which I could feel particularly early on as they sense a connection they are trying to resist. The men are sexy together and there is a nice heat to the story. I also liked the way that the men support one another right from the start, even before their feelings get involved. Each man faces his own struggles during the book and they are both there to have each other’s backs in a way that is very appealing. We can see clearly how their connection grows and evolves over the course of the book and how they come to depend on one another.

I found the overall set up here quite fun, with the arranged marriage and the secret double alphas, and the early parts of the story appealed to me in particular. However, I did struggle with the way things played out in places and the world building didn’t feel developed enough for the story. First, everything happens so fast and the guys agree to the wedding and are married within days. It seemed impossible to imagine that a decades-long war between the countries could turn into a lasting peace in two days just because there was a wedding. Even though we hear about some of the difficult aspects of the war on both families, it made it hard for me to really feel the impact of this long conflict because it is over almost immediately. Also, Haydn doesn’t feel at all like a former military man, let alone someone who is a war general known as the “Death Bringer.” It is not because he ends up being the more submissive partner, it is that nothing about him feels like the bearing or behavior of someone who is a lifelong soldier and feared leader. So that part of the set up with a long, terrible war and Haydn as a terrifying military general just didn’t come through as well as I would have liked.

Once the men get together, the main plot line here is that they are both alphas and that leads to conflict — or should lead to conflict. In this world, alphas almost never mate with other alphas. Their dispositions lead to the partnerships being problematic, even on the rare occasions when they are attracted to one another. However, in this case, Haydn finds himself not only willing, but ultimately eager to be the more subservient partner to Royce. Haydn questions why he would want an alpha, as he shouldn’t have this attraction to Royce, nor should he be willing to be “owned” by the other man in a way he craves. For his part, Royce finds himself acting way more dominant than he has ever felt, wanting to mark Haydn as his, which disturbs his liberal-minded side that disagrees with such a traditional role dynamic. The problem for me is that there is not much else happening for most of the book, and it felt like an endless cycle for both of these men of repeating these issues over and over. And over. Particularly with Haydn, it feels like just constant repetition of the same refrain throughout the book. There is also a lot of Royce being territorial, particularly needing to scent mark and bite Hadyn constantly, so this needs to be your thing I think, because personally I found it a lot. There are two other issues that come up for some side characters that actually were more interesting to me than what was going on with Royce and Haydn. I know at least one of them is being set up for their own book. So I enjoyed that, but I wish there was as much happening with our MCs beyond the same spiral of inner thoughts.

This story is an interesting mix of omegaverse and sci fi, which I appreciated. But I do feel the world building was somewhat limited. The omegaverse side is really nicely developed, with an unusual take on the trope in terms of the different types of alphas and omegas and how they behave. (As an aside, there is mpreg in this world, but not in this story.) I always appreciate when an author gives a new spin on a common genre, so I enjoyed Hazard’s take on the omegaverse. The science fiction end is much less developed, however. We know that Pelugia and Kadar share a planet, and that the various planets have a central governing system. We also know the two countries have been at war. Aside from that, there is virtually no information on the larger world, nor any sense of a “sci fi’ or futuristic vibe, aside from one point where they mention a more futuristic type of car. Otherwise, this story could have easily been a contemporary time period with virtually no changes. As I read this one, I realized that this series is actually a spinoff of Hazard’s Calluvia’s Royalty series (I figured it out when Ksar, a character from The Irresistable Poison, shows up here as the Council representative). This story takes place on a different planet and those books don’t appear to be omegaverse, so I think they only shared a world without plot overlaps. I had no problem following along without reading the previous series, but in hindsight, I wonder if perhaps the lack of real world building here comes from it being a spin off series.

One last note is that Hadyn describes often how he is an atypical alpha, and his response to Royce is very unusual. So it is clear right from the start there is something happening here and there is a point where something is mentioned that felt like a giant arrow leading us toward the reveal. I was kind of disappointed that the story telegraphs this in what I felt was an obvious way, rather than letting some more suspense and mystery build.

In the end, I found this an interesting set up with two characters I liked together. I found the world building and the story development didn’t always meet my exceptions from the set up, but I liked this one overall. I think if you are a fan of the Calluvia’s Royalty series, you are going to find this one particularly appealing. For other readers, this may be a good choice if you are looking for a more atypical omegaverse storyline. I am intrigued enough by the set up, as well as the two side character stories, that I am interested in going back for more.

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