“Slow Heat” by Leta Blake
Title: Slow Heat
Author: Leta Blake
Genre: MM Paranormal Romance
A lustful young alpha meets his match in an older omega with a past.
Professor Vale Aman has crafted a good life for himself. An unbonded omega in his mid-thirties, he’s long since given up hope that he’ll meet a compatible alpha, let alone his destined mate. He’s fulfilled by his career, his poetry, his cat, and his friends.
When Jason Sabel, a much younger alpha, imprints on Vale in a shocking and public way, longings are ignited that can’t be ignored. Fighting their strong sexual urges, Jason and Vale must agree to contract with each other before they can consummate their passion.
But for Vale, being with Jason means giving up his independence and placing his future in the hands of an untested alpha–as well as facing the scars of his own tumultuous past. He isn’t sure it’s worth it. But Jason isn’t giving up his destined mate without a fight.
Not going to lie, I sat down to write this review and I got hot and bothered all over again. As with most Leta Blake books, this story is hot-hot-hot! And it’s mpreg!
The worldbuilding is intense, so there’s a lot to unpack. In this society there are three sexes: alpha males, beta males, and omega males. There are no cis females. There was some crazy turn in their evolution, where wolf genes merged with humanoid genes, and it pushed females out of humanoid form and created three sexes for males.
Along with that painfully slow physical evolution, an intricate class system developed, which is admittedly pretty sexist. Because alphas and omegas are the only two sexes that can breed, and alpha genes are seen as more dominant and therefore more valuable, omegas are pretty much third-class citizens, so they can be controlled easily by the hierarchy. The icky familiarity of this society made me slightly sick, but it became clear this wasn’t your standard mpreg. These aspects of the worldbuilding were an important social statement.
In the standard life of an alpha in this society, he is born to an alpha and an omega. He goes to school, learns about omegas (who have a different school), and then when he’s deemed educated and financially established, he’s introduced to omegas until there’s a pheromonic match, which increases viability of the offspring, and he’s married and mated and the cycle continues.
Vale, an omega, hasn’t had that magical pheromone bonding experience in his thirty-something years and he doesn’t want it. He’s an artist and intellectual, and works as a professor at one of the schools. He doesn’t have time for all that breeding nonsense and has his life pretty much all figured out. In less than a year he’ll be officially off the breeding roster and he’ll be his own man for the first time in his life.
Jason is literally a kid of nineteen and hasn’t even undergone alpha sexuality training, when he stumbles upon Vale at school and has a full-on hormonal meltdown. He’s just a kid and isn’t at all prepared for what happens to him.
And neither is Vale.
Unlike most shifter paranormal romances with one true pairings or life mates, this isn’t an insta-love scenario. Vale and Jason don’t love each other. They were just matched pheromonally, it was out of their control. Vale is too old and Jason is too young, and throughout the novel they are fighting to make do with their predicament, when everything their bodies are saying is, “Breed!” and everyone else is saying, “This is a bad idea!”
Jason, of course, has hearts in his eyes and can’t understand why his family is so reticent to approve their mating. On the other hand, Vale has to withstand some rather vicious sexism and class struggles throughout this ordeal. Because of this silly piece of biology and the culture he lives in, his entire life crumbles.
Besides some of the heavier themes listed, there were some pretty graphic and traumatizing scenes around Jason witnessing a miscarriage. I think, if anything else, these scenes really highlight how terrible it is for omegas in their society, and add to the social activism inherent in this piece.
On a lighter note, some of my favorite kinks explored were: heats (or the biological urge to breed), May-December romance, and some medical and school-boy fetishes. Though I’m not always a fan of alpha and omega dominance and submission, I think the author handled it very well, and I could see how the social structure was a commentary on sexism and how that made the entire story work.
A pleasure to read–I can’t wait for the next!
Review originally posted to Queer Sci Fi. Link at top.