For readers who have not read “omegaverse” fiction before, this book is a well-crafted introduction to this intriguing subgenre. Bauer provides the reader with a brief but excellent primer on the intricacies of this world (werewolves, in this case) couched in the necessary description of Shay’s immediate circumstances. While not all takes on this type of world are the same, Bauer leans heavily into the conceit as an allegory for gender inequality in how as an unmarried omega, Shay’s entire world is in upheaval after the death of his parents. These deaths are not just tragic, but also the basis of the murder mystery that supports the external plot of this paranormal romance.

Without that tragedy, Alfie and Shay would have never met in ordinary circumstances. Fated mates, a common theme in a lot of paranormal romance, is too often taken as a shortcut through the necessary romantic arc. Here, it is the result of a biological component that provides an intense connection between two characters but does not subvert their original mindsets. I appreciated that this connection does not automatically (or even immediately) erase Alfie’s suspicion that Shay might have played a role in his parents’ murder.

Though Alfie is (nominally) a journalist, he and Shay don’t run around crime-solving in this story. The focus remains on their relationship arc and how its normal course is affected by the deaths in question, including a manufactured slow burn for plot purposes that I appreciated as another trope subversion of the typical fated mates’ story. After all, Shay has undergone a significant trauma followed immediately by a life-altering event. Bauer’s visceral depictions of Shay’s acute depression are not glamorized but portrayed in a fashion that correlates well with the paranormal aspects of this world. His bond with Alfie does not fix him but shows how external mental and emotional support can be crucial to recovery. Shay’s road to recovery does not hinge on his happily ever after with Alfie, but both paths are as satisfying as the revelations and resolution to the external plot and how both characters continue to defy stereotypes afterward.

Disclaimer: I received a digital review copy of this book from the author.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars
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