Though he may live in utter luxury as a son of a powerful Grandmaster Mage, Luca Derwent never feels like he belongs. His mother tried to kill him when he was just born and the rest of his family openly despises him. The day Luca’s father arranges a marriage to the vampire lord, Skaldi, is the day Luca finally hopes he will be free. Being the bed warmer for a vampire must surely be better than the open scorn, hate, and beatings he has suffered at home. For a brief moment, things are looking up for Luca. His slim physique, long dark hair, and vibrant green eyes seem to please his new master. But now matter how patient Skaldi is with Luca, it seems Luca’s libido refuses to rise to the occasion. That’s when Luca’s worst fears materialize. Skaldi, likely enraged by his new husband/sex toy that can’t perform, has arranged to sell Luca to a pack of werewolves. Luca himself might be half were, but he’s heard enough to know that werewolves hate nothing more than half breeds like himself. With a quick exchange of cash, Luca finds himself in the clutches of an alpha wolf named Erik.
Erik is the alpha of a small, tight knit pack and when they hear of a vampire keeping another were captive, they jump into action. Erik doesn’t know quite what to expect, but a captivating omega shifter named Luca with a positively intoxicating scent isn’t it. And the poor guy is ripe with fear–surely caused by his ruthless vampiric captor. Except Luca doesn’t seem to calm down when they finally get away from the vampires. If anything, Luca grows more withdrawn and scared. So much so that he triggers Erik’s alpha instinct to protect and claim, which in turn triggers Luca’s omega heat. Only later does Erik find out that Luca isn’t quite the wanton sex toy of another paranormal. But Erik is committed to Luca and will do anything and everything in his power to convince the enticing omega that he is safe with Erik. Little by little, he draws Luca out of his shell and the two form an incredibly close bond–not to mention a fiery hot physical connection. Just when things seem to have finally taken a turn for the better, Luca’s powerful father comes calling and threatens to destroy everything.
Omega Alone is a new offering from author S. Rodman in the Man Love collection of books. It takes place in the present day and features a pretty big cast of paranormal figures. Of course, our two werewolf MCs are always front and center, but Skaldi the vampire and Luca’s mage father also have significant roles to play. The story is mainly told in first person from Luca’s perspective, but there are little chunks thrown in from Erik’s point of view. Luca’s voice is most often one of a young man traumatized. He is wary of the intentions of anyone in his family; his father has openly abused and punished him to the point of scarring. His siblings openly mock him. His reactions to the comparatively safe environment Skaldi offers and the stark change Erik’s pack (and Luca’s own misunderstanding that werewolves will immediately kill anyone with mixed blood) comes across very clearly in how Luca responds to his ever changing environment.
The book isn’t exclusively from Luca’s perspective. It was almost like a break to shift into Erik’s point of view, but I quickly learned that Erik also has a lot of baggage in the way he feels like a wholly unworthy alpha. On the one hand, I liked getting a little extra depth on Erik’s inner thoughts and turmoil. On the other hand, he sometimes comes off as a hot mess. He can be hot headed and react without considering how his outbursts might affect Luca. As a result, there’s a lot of “looping” where Luca’s feeling insecure about his living situation or his worthiness as a person, Erik flies off the handle about something and scares Luca into emotional retreat, then Erik berates himself as a terrible alpha and unworthy of love because he can’t control his reactions. This was a juicy, angsty dynamic the first few times, but it doesn’t seem to build up to anything or culminate in anything, leaving me feeling like they’re doomed to repeat the same unsatisfactory drama cycle.
One aspect of Luca that I really enjoyed is how he comes from money and slowly realizes that despite the abuse, there were aspects of privilege while living under his father’s roof. When Luca goes to live with Erik’s pack, he realizes how different it is to have zero servants and how few practical life skills he has (like cooking). He also learns that he can take pride in learning how to contribute to the pack. Even better was when he gets called back to his father’s home after learning some independence with the pack. Suddenly, Luca realizes he wasn’t necessarily as isolated before he was given to Skaldi then to Erik; some of the staff in the elder Derwent household actually took (tiny) measures to try to protect Luca from the worst of the abuse.
The ending of the book was a bit of a surprise for me. It’s a happily-ever-after, but it delightfully reintroduces Skaldi to the mix, providing some tension between Erik (Luca’s one-true-love) and Skaldi (to whom Luca was literally sold as a plaything). I liked these different personalities sometimes clashing, sometimes cooperating. What was a bit of a surprise was how much detail we get in the heat of the moment about what it means that Luca’s father is a mage. It felt like a big info/world-building dump in the eleventh hour. It was just blindsiding to see how this aspect of Luca’s life–one I thought was going to be completely left by the wayside since Luca and Erik paired up–came to dominate their lives at the end.
Overall, Omega Alone was a fun read. This is a great read for fans of shifter stories. Vampire and mage fans won’t be completely left in the cold, but Skaldi truly is a supporting character and mage elements only really get fleshed out at the very end. The love story between Luca and Erik is a mix of enemies to lovers (at first, Luca truly does fear that Erik’s pack only wants him so they can kill him) and mated pairs (eventually, they figure things out and experience a questionably dubcon sort of mating bond). I think anyone who likes steamy books about shifters, highly emotional MCs, and fated mates will enjoy this story.