Story Rating: 4.25 stars
Audio Rating: 4 stars
Narrator: Darcy Stark
Length: 10 hours, 24 minutes
Gray Collins grew up in the Harris Shoals Pack, but he left for the military at his father’s urging to get away from the pack alpha. Alpha Leon wasn’t interested in any potential competition, and so he ran off or killed anyone who could get in his way. But when Gray learned of his father’s death at Leon’s hands and realized how much the pack needed him, he returned home to challenge the alpha. It is a contest Gray should have easily won, with his superior strength and military-honed skills — this is, if it had been a fair fight. But when the alpha played dirty, Gray found himself saved by a brave young omega, Logan Richardson.
Now, it is eight years later and Gray is the pack alpha, with Logan as his second-in-command in all but official title. Omegas are not allowed to hold positions of power in the pack. While Gray has done much to bring his pack into the modern era, making Harris Shoals thrive, the old pack hierarchy is not something he has been able to break. But Logan is the one by Gray’s side, acting as his assistant, serving as pack host since Gray is without a mate, and unofficially keeping things running smoothly. Gray adores Logan, but he is supposed to mate with an alpha and he knows the pack will never accept him choosing an omega. Plus, with the age and power difference between them, Gray worries about putting undue pressure on Logan if he were to make a move. Little does Gray know that Logan is pining for him in return. Everyone else seems to see their connection, but as much as Gray wants Logan, he doesn’t see how it can happen. The pack will never accept an omega as an alpha mate.
However, when Logan is ripped away from Gray, it is a chance to show everyone that he is not a man who is weak or in need of coddling. Logan manages to take his situation and turn it around, showing not only his bravery and kindness, but his amazing skills at organization and management. Gray knows Logan is all he wants, and Logan has proven he is the perfect mate for Gray. But not everyone is so happy with the match — or with either of the men — and it will take all they have to protect themselves and the pack so that they can end up with one another.
Never Underestimate an Omega is a fun shifter omegaverse story with some interesting world building and a great friends-to-lovers connection between Gray and Logan. Winters’ world is sort of a cross between the traditional paranormal shifter story, with wolves and packs, with an omegaverse element that focuses on the rigidity of the pack hierarchy. There is a nice “old world versus new world” vibe here as Gray has brought his pack into the modern era, helping them to eliminate many of the old rules and to thrive, both financially and emotionally. On the other hand, many of the other packs are still mired in antiquated rules and lives with few modern amenities. Yet despite all Gray has done to modernize Harris Shoals, the pack still clings to the idea that Gray must take an alpha mate, leaving him wanting Logan, but seeing no way for them to be together.
As much as Gray knows that Logan keeps it all running behind the scenes, many in the pack still see him as weak and helpless because Logan is an omega. Yet things take a turn where Logan has a chance to really shine. He ends up in some serious trouble, but manages to turn things around to not only ensure his own safety, but to help others as well. Logan is strong, confident, and knows how to get shit done. The problem is too many people refuse to see it, but over the course of the book, Logan proves them wrong.
From a romance end, Gray and Logan are so clearly meant for one another, it is clear as day. But they have real and perceived roadblocks that keep them apart until they are willing and able to fight for things between them. Winters does a great job showing their connection and chemistry here. My only downside is that it takes so long for these guys to find their way together and they spend most of the book apart (for much of it not even living in the same place). I think it works great for the story, particularly as a chance to see Logan come into his own. But it means that while the romance is always simmering and the connection is clearly there, it is really not the primary focus for so much of the story and it all comes together for these guys very late in the book.
One of my favorite parts of this story was meeting the various side characters and getting to know the different packs. This book is listed as a standalone, but this story is ripe for a series, as there are so many interesting elements to explore (and oh please do I want a story for Anthony!). I’m crossing fingers that Winters decides to give us more here as she has created a great world and some fun characters.
I listened to this one in audio with narrator Darcy Stark. Stark narrates Winters’ Diversion series, so I have listened to a lot of his audiobooks and I find him to do great work. Stark excels at the slow, easy Southern accents featured in the story. He also does a great job with the pacing and the tone. The characters often have inner dialogs with their wolves and Stark makes those internal conversations work clearly. My only issue is that Logan and Gray sound so much alike I often had trouble differentiating them. They each have POV chapters, and they aren’t together for large parts of the book, which helps. But when they are in conversation with each other or part of a group, I often had to orient myself to figure out who was speaking. However, I really enjoyed this one in audio and found this to be an overall really engaging story. I’d recommend it in either format and am hoping that Winters gives us more in this world.