I have many favorite authors, but Patricia Briggs is certainly in my top five. Her newest novel in the Alpha & Omega series, Dead Heat, solidifies that status. This series is spin-off of her popular Mercy Thompson series and focuses on Charles, the Marrok’s son and enforcer of sorts, and his mate Anna. In spite of significant differences in age and temperament, the couple manages to not only survive but thrive. In Dead Heat, Charles relies heavily on the support of his loving mate as he faces the reality of an aging friend. Of course, there wouldn’t be a story without some craziness – which comes in the form of a nefarious and mysterious Fae. The slow build of the story reeled me in and the explosive, emotional ending had me searching for more pages.
For once, mated werewolves Charles and Anna are not traveling because of Charles’s role as his father’s enforcer. This time, their trip to Arizona is purely personal, as Charles plans to buy Anna a horse for her birthday. Or at least it starts out that way…
Charles and Anna soon discover that a dangerous Fae being is on the loose, replacing human children with simulacrums. The Fae’s cold war with humanity is about to heat up—and Charles and Anna are in the cross fire.
Charles and Anna are perfect opposites. His gruff, unforgiving nature is balanced by her sweet, social nature. In Dead Heat, we really get an interesting look at part of Charles’ history. His friendship with a human man (Joseph) is a large part of the story and details the issues between a seemingly immortal and a decidedly mortal. Even though there were some lighter scenes, the emotionally heavy scenes were poignant and moving. I felt like I understood Charles so much more after observing his interactions with Joseph. His job as an enforcer weighs heavy on his soul. As his other half, Anna’s gentler nature and ability to calm even the strongest of alphas is helpful in diffusing the tension with Joseph’s father, also a werewolf. It appears that Charles chooses people in his life to keep him grounded. Joseph fulfilled that role for a time, but his aging complicated the relationship.
There was some humor, but most of the story was dark and emotional. Children placed in peril, a dark Fae on the loose (coincidentally or not, the reason that the children are in peril), and some human jealousy round out the action. What begins as Charles visiting his old, dying friend, turns into Charles and Anna working to solve the mystery of the murderous geas placed on Joseph’s daughter-in-law. I expected the first two, but the third (the jealousy) made for an interesting dynamic. I didn’t want to like the awkward situation; however, it was honest and fitting. Anna may be an omega, but she isn’t a wilting flower. She held her own and claimed her man (though, I never doubted her). For me, this book was all about the personal relationships and understanding more about Charles.
Ultimately, Dead Heat served to make Charles a much more sympathetic character. He’s faced (and continues to face) trials that most would never dream of surviving. Anna keeps him from going crazy and/or completely withdrawing from life. Joseph’s failing health further highlights the impermanence of humans but doesn’t diminish the influence that can be achieved during a lifetime. Days, even weeks, later and I’m still trying to wrap my head around the characters and the story (in a good way). These characters are more real, and more likeable. I may understand more about Charles and why he is the way he is, but he is still holding back. For Anna’s sake, I’m hopeful that he can continue to open himself up to her. I couldn’t stop reading this series even if I tried (which I won’t!).