Sebastian is an omega king following a long line of alphas. His advisors want him to take a mate, but Sebastian has no desire for a partner. He loves his life with his omega attendants and alpha guards, all sharing in pleasure with one another. Sebastian is a powerful omega and he doesn’t need to tie himself to an alpha. But as Sebastian’s heat approaches, he knows he must choose an alpha to father his child. He could have his pick of any of the nobles or guards, but Sebastian knows that would give those men a hold over him. His child’s father needs to be a good man, strong and smart, but one who will be happy to allow Sebastian to raise their child alone.
When Sebastian sees his alpha stable master having sex with an omega in the woods, he can’t stop from thinking about the huge and powerful man. Sebastian begins to fantasize about the idea of taking Jonah as his lover during his heat. However, the idea of Sebastian fathering a child with a commoner rather than a noble or one of his guards isn’t going to sit well with his advisors. Yet no matter what he does, Sebastian can’t get the alluring Jonah out of his mind.
When Sebastian calls Jonah before him, he can’t even begin to imagine what the king might want from him. To say Jonah is surprised to be asked to serve the king during his heat and father his child is an understatement. Jonah finds the king beautiful and alluring; it would be impossible not to. But Jonah doesn’t know if he wants to give up the chance to raise his child. Yet while Jonah’s first instinct is to refuse, his attraction to Sebastian is too strong to ignore. Now the men find themselves sharing Sebastian’s heat and it is a sexual experience like neither one could have imagined. But neither Sebastian nor Jonah are sure quite where that leaves them for their future.
King’s Heat is the first book in Roe Horvat’s Hedonist duology and tells the first part of Sebastian and Jonah’s story. It was first published as a series of short stories that have now been expanded into a novel (and then split to release in two parts). I have never read an omegaverse story in a fantasy setting like this, so I was really intrigued by the set up and I found myself really enjoying this one.
If ever a title were to convey what you can expect from a book, this is it, as this story depicts pure hedonist pleasure. Sebastian is an omega king and he has surrounded himself by fellow omegas whom he protects and cares for until they find a mate or make other life decisions. While omegas are not second class citizens, they are often married young without much choice in partners, so Sebastian offers somewhat of a refuge for these young men as they start off their lives. These omegas serve Sebastian as attendants, as well as have lots (and lots) of sex with him and each other. Along with the omegas are a group of 27 alphas who make up Sebastian’s guard, who also serve both the king and the omegas by seeing to their heats and sexual needs. So there is a lot of sex happening here, in a lot of combinations, with a lot of different people (including multiple partners for both MCs). And when I say a lot, I’d be willing to say well more than half of the book is spent depicting various sex scenes, so be aware this is a highly erotic story.
What I particularly enjoyed here is that Horvat leans all in to this hedonism. There is this sultry, lush, languid tone to the story, particularly at the beginning when we are mostly focused on Sebastian and what is going on with his various guards and attendants. Sex between all these men is about loving and cherishing; it is done without reservation, without modesty (expect lots of public sex and group sex), and just a general sense that everyone is indulging in these rich, wonderful experiences with one another. Horvat also shows how protective Sebastian is over his people, how he ensures that his omegas are cherished by the alphas, that the alphas serve and care for the omegas’ sexual needs. Sebastian clearly cares about those under his protection, even the alpha guards. For example, we see a nice moment where he helps two alpha guards who are in love with one another but unable to publicly be together find a place to be alone secretly. So there is a nice set up here where we really see this sex-positive environment of people just enjoying and reveling in one another.
It sets up a nice juxtaposition when Sebastian meets Jonah, as Jonah is not delicate and doting and careful like the guards and omegas are with one another. He is a strong, rough man used to a workingman’s life and he fascinates Sebastian. Jonah isn’t brutish, but he offers Sebastian something all these gentle, worshipful omegas and alphas do not, and it gets Sebastian’s blood racing. He loves that bit of rough treatment, being taken hard by someone who isn’t so deferential. So it sets up a nice contrast and gives Jonah the sense of being more of an equal with more balance between them, despite his officially lower status.
I did feel like the pacing was a little off here, likely due the fact that this is a duology, so halfway through this book is really only a quarter through the overall story. But there is a long set up here where we are with Sebastian in his rooms with his alphas and omegas watching them essentially have sex over and over (and over). It takes a while to even get a POV chapter for Jonah and even longer before the two of them have any real on-page interaction. The early portion of the book does serve to set up the environment Sebastian has created for his people and let us get to know more about him, but it got repetitive for me after a while to see so many sex scenes with side characters who felt mostly interchangeable and insignificant to the larger story. There were a few men we get to know better, like a guard and an omega who fall for one another, where I felt more invested in their experience. But a lot of it was just one encounter after another that started to feel a bit similar after a while — though still quite steamy.
There is also not a lot here in the way of world building. We do get a sense of Sebastian and the internal world he has built for himself and his omegas and alphas. But there is really nothing about the larger world outside his rooms (in fact, I’d be willing to venture 80% of the book takes place in his rooms/baths). We are occasionally told Sebastian is going to a meeting with his advisors, but we never see him ruling or doing much kingly. We learn nothing about the country that he reins, the politics, or much of anything other than these sexual encounters and the relationship between Sebastian and Jonah. So I feel like some more development here would have given the story some more richness.
That said, I think this book does exactly what the blurb suggests, and that is provide a high heat, super sexy omegaverse story between a king and a commoner. It is a story that celebrates sexuality without shame and has a decadent, hedonistic quality that I enjoyed. The second half of the story is releasing in May and I am very much looking forward to the conclusion.