Rating: 3.5 stars
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Hedonist: King’s Mate is the second book in the Hedonist duology and the books make up one long story and must be read in order.
Jonah and Sebastian have agreed they will spend Sebastian’s heat together. It is a decadent and wonderful time for both men as they experience days of pleasure alone with one another. Their time together was originally supposed to be a pairing just for the heat, in order to for Sebastian to become pregnant. But the experience makes it clear to both men just how much they want it to turn into something more.
When the men come down from the high of the heat thrall, it’s time to face the real world, however. First off, Sebastian needs to officially decide he wants to have a mate, and not just someone to father his child. He also must deal with a council who isn’t thrilled about having a common horse trainer suddenly elevated to the role of the king’s mate. Sebastian also is drawn to the idea of officially being collared by Jonah as his omega, but again, the council is wary of their king being owned by another, even symbolically. But Sebastian and Jonah have found a happiness together that neither man expected and, as the birth of their son approaches, they are determined to find a way to a future together.
Hedonist: King’s Mate picks up the second half of Jonah and Sebastian’s story started in King’s Heat. I think this story hits on some interesting issues that are explored throughout the book. I tend to think of omegaverse stories as a way to look at real-world gender issues through a fantasy or alternate world lens. So we do see that here, as Sebastian is an omega king. Despite being a good ruler who is beloved by his citizens, he gets questioned by his advisors for things they would not consider issues from an alpha leader. First, they want him to mate because even as king, an omega needs an alpha. But when he chooses Jonah, they question him again, this time fearing that by choosing one mate, he is turning his back on his guards (with whom he also is sexually intimate) and they will no longer protect him as fiercely. Basically, it is a lot of double standards and never having anything quite be good enough from Sebastian’s advisors just because he is an omega and not an alpha. I appreciated how Jonah is quite clear he expects no role at all in the government, that he trusts Sebastian as king, and that while he may be Sebastian’s partner on a personal level, that doesn’t diminish Sebastian’s public role as king. I also liked the bit we see after their baby is born, and Sebastian is managing to run the country, while still stopping to feed his child, etc. Basically, some nice balance that shows a working dad who can take care of his newborn while still having an important job (again, a reflection on real world gender issues and working parents who have recently given birth). So I think the story deals with some nice big picture issues and I think these threads help to give some balance to the otherwise non-stop sex.
That said, most of the book is, like the first story, pretty much non-stop sex. The story opens with the men sharing Sebastian’s heat as they enjoy Sebastian’s nearly insatiable appetite. The first 20% or so of the book follows the heat and they essentially go from one sex scene to another with barely a break for air. While the men are together exclusively during heat, they do once again open their sexual relationship up again afterwards. I think there are some nice moments here as Jonah initially struggles with some jealousy and a need to claim Sebastian, but then realizes they do not need to be sexually exclusive in order for them to have a special and different relationship with each other than they do with their other lovers.
For me, this story didn’t have quite the same sense of decadent, languid sensuality as the first book. Perhaps this is because this one is more focused on Jonah and Sebastian and less on the larger alpha/omega harem-type situation Sebastian has going on, but it just didn’t have quite the same vibe. This is a highly erotic novel, which doesn’t bother me, but the sexual side of things just didn’t grab me quite as much as in the first book. As a result, things just started to slow down for me and feel somewhat repetitive as we see scene after scene of the men having sex. The format of this book probably doesn’t help that, as it originally was a series of short stories that were pieced together and then divided into two books. I find sometimes books written in this format can have a slower pacing, as the parts were originally meant to be read with space in between, so the flow can be slower or feel like it is covering the same ground, as was the case here. Also, from a personal preference standpoint, this book has a lot of sexualizing Sebastian’s milk production, both in his own thoughts about it, as well as multiple scenes of men essentially nursing from him in a sexual way. As someone who nursed two kids for over a year each, my mind just can’t find anything sexually appealing about this at all. There are also scenes of Sebastian having sex during labor, as well as orgasming from contractions, and again, as a person who has given birth, this just didn’t work for me. This is a total your mileage may vary situation, but I just didn’t find the sexual element worked quite as well overall for me here as it did in the first book.
In the end, I think this duology does just what it claims, and that is provide a highly erotic, omegaverse fantasy story. I was drawn to this particularly due to the fact that I rarely see omegaverse in fantasy style, and I feel like Horvat succeeds well in this spin on the genre. I found that this one didn’t have quite the same energy as the first book, and just not as much happening to carry the story. But if you enjoy high heat books, particularly with an omegaverse twist, this is a fun duology that may appeal.