The dragon, and the war that followed, broke the world apart. Humans live in their cities, afraid of the dark, while shifters and witches, revenants and psionics lurk in the Between. There’s no electricity, no cars, no television, just hard men and women and harder work. In order to keep the Black Dogs fed, Bram’s pack has goats and chickens, fields to grow food, a forest to hunt, and in winter, a greenhouse filled with vegetables. That morning, he expects to look over plants. Instead, he’s looking down at a human dragged in by his enforcers.
It isn’t until he’s up close and personal that Bram realizes this is no random human. Not only did he manage to get past their wards in the dead of winter — he’s Bram’s mate. Bram’s human mate. Bram doesn’t know what to make of this, but he can’t deny what’s in front of his nose. The Black Dogs look to him to be their alpha, to make the hard decisions, and he’s now being asked to make the hardest one yet: Claim his mate, or banish him into the snow of the border lands where he will surely die.
Matthew was held prisoner in a lab where he was given injections that made him woozy, nauseous, sleepy, and any number of things. His room had no windows and his captors gave him no answers. What they did do was cut off his arm and replace it with one made of metal. When he took ill after the traumatic event, his captors thought he was dying and threw him away. Their mistake gave Matthew the chance he needed to stagger out in the snow and try to find his way to freedom. What he found, instead, was Bram.
Metal Heart is the first book in the Metal and Magic series, though there is a free prequel book. Even having not read the prequel, I was able to follow the plot threads pretty easily and found the story and the world building easy to understand. Matthew is human. Just a plain, ordinary human. Or, at least he was. Now he’s a … cyborg? But he’s also a fighter, unwilling to just lie down and accept his fate. If he’s going to go down, he’ll go down swinging, and when offered the chance at happiness with Bram, as his mate, Matthew is quick to reach for the rope with both hands. Having someone to love him, someone to lean on, hide behind, someone to feed him? Yes, to all the above.
Bram is fairly laid back. Ever since the loss of the woman he wanted to take as a mate, he’s been lonely. And now, with his son venturing out on his own, looking for his mother’s family, the loneliness has gotten a bit deeper. He has his pack and his purpose, but having someone waiting for him when he comes home, someone to sit with him next to the fire, eat dinner with him, chat about small things, to laugh with him and at him, is a strong one. He loved Adelaine, but she wasn’t his mate. Matthew is, and now he has the chance at the fairy tale ending, to have it all — the friend, the lover, the mate — Bram isn’t willing to let it go.
This book is an expanded version of a free short story that was offered in 2019, and you can feel it. A lot of story gets told very succinctly, with a sketched out world at the edges. The pacing is good, the writing is solid, and the characters are pleasant. However, I find myself more curious to see where this world goes as opposed to wanting to see more of the characters. As I said, they’re pleasant, but they feel a bit vague and shallow. Still, for all that, I do recommend this story. It’s a solid entry into the paranormal romance genre.