Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs
Series: Alpha and Omega #4
Also in this series: Hunting Ground, Fair Game, Cry Wolf, Shifting Shadows, Hunting Ground
Published by Penguin
Publication Date: March 3rd 2015
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy
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Praised for being “the perfect blend of action, romance, suspense, and paranormal,”* Patricia Briggs’s Alpha and Omega novels transport readers into the realm of the werewolf, where Charles Cornick and Anna Latham embody opposite sides of the shifter personality. Now a pleasure trip drops the couple into the middle of some bad supernatural business… 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 at the big Scottsdale horse show. Or at least their visit 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. *Rex Robot Reviews
I came late to the Mercy Thompson world. I didn’t read my first Briggs book until 2012 and I started with the Alpha and Omega series. While I love Mercy, Adam, and the rest of the Columbia Basin crew, Charles and Anna are my favorites.
I knew I was in for a good story before I started, simply because it’s Charles and Anna. I had no idea I’d end up loving it as much as I did. This is, hands down, my favorite Briggs novel to date. The way Charles and Anna both grew in this story was wonderful and the external plot was engaging and interesting. While I’m not one who needs to read in order, I believe this series should be read from the beginning. The development of the relationship has been a slow and intricate thing, and many subtleties will be missed if you skip the earlier books (though I do not think it’s necessary to read the Mercy Thompson series in order to enjoy this one).
In the previous book, Fair Game, the Fae declared themselves a separate nation after one of theirs didn’t receive justice from humans. They retreated to their reservations and all but disappeared. They’ve been publicly quiet, though privately they’ve been trying to enter into an agreement with the werewolves to act as allies. It seems they’ve also been allowing some of the strongest, most evil of their species out to play.
Charles receives a call that his old friend is dying, and Charles uses Anna’s birthday as an excuse to visit, since he’d like to buy her a horse and his friend is a breeder. Charles hasn’t seen Joseph in many years, so the trip is meant to be about new beginnings and old goodbyes. Of course, nothing is easy when it comes to them, and right off they’re faced with a situation.
Joseph’s father ,Hosteen, is the local alpha. When Hosteen’s son, Kage, receives increasingly disturbing messages from his wife, Chelsea, indicating she’s in distress Anna, Charles, Hosteen and his son rush to their home to find she’s just barely stopped herself from attacking – and killing – her own children. It started with a headache that came on while on the way home from picking the kids up at daycare, and turned into her having thoughts about harming her children.
These beginning chapters are what initially drew me in. Chelsea’s struggle to overcome the compulsion to hurt her children coupled with her frantic messages to her husband had my heart racing. I was crying by chapter two. I was extremely impatient when the chapters switched to Charles and Anna, which rarely happens. Slowly the two storylines (Ann and Charles and Chelsea and her children) merged and that’s when the story really picked up.
Anna and Charles come to realize the compulsion Chelsea was under is a result of Fae magic. While investigating the source, they discover many missing children, or ones who are acting in a very strange way. A powerful Fae is stealing the children and replacing them with simulacrums. Though it’s too late for many, they’re soon racing against the clock to save one in particular.
On the personal front, Anna has been considering a way to get Charles to agree to give her a child. Werewolves can’t have children – the change is too hard on them and they always miscarry – but Charles is a born werewolf. Anna is convinced his magic, combined with her Omega status, will allow her to carry to term. But Charles’ mother went mad from not changing and died shortly after giving birth to him. He refuses to lose Anna, and can’t even consider letting her try to become pregnant. They don’t really talk about the issue, but they’ve both been thinking about it. The resolution to this thread (which has been woven throughout the other books as well) was the most satisfying for me. In the end we saw growth and acceptance from both Charles and Anna, which gave a polished, well-rounded shine to their relationship.
There’s also the familial connection with Charles’ old friend, an old flame of his and a horse show to put together. Briggs works these threads seamlessly into the tapestry of the story. While it could have been clunky or too busy, instead it felt as if we were immersed in their daily lives.
Charles has always been something of an enigma. Though I feel like we have a good sense of the person he is, based on his thoughts and Anna’s perception of him, we don’t know a lot about his past. Seeing his old friend opened up a whole new side to him. He became more relatable, more human even. His humor is more evident in this book, which I loved. Most importantly, though, I felt like he finally saw himself through Anna’s eyes. Not that he’ll necessarily feel any different about himself, but seeing her perception of him was enough for now. He’s always seen himself as a hired killer and nothing more, but Anna sees him as a protector of those unable to protect themselves, herself included.
Charles put his lips against Anna’s ear. “He’s very dead.”
She nodded jerkily. “Sorry.”
“No,” he said, his breath warm against her neck. “Don’t be sorry. Just know if anyone ever tries to hurt you again— they will be dead, too.”
And some people had tried, hadn’t they. And yes, she realized, they were all dead. Charles was a big warm presence at her back, better than a solid wall or bars.
She picked up her fork and took a bite of brisket. “Okay,” she told Charles. “Deal.”
One of the best things about Charles and Anna is how they work as a partners, both in a romantic sense and out. Charles wants – needs – to protect Anna, but he realizes he can’t smother her or treat her like a child. In fact, teaching her to protect herself is one of the best gifts he has given her. Similarly, Anna brings out a lighter side to Charles.
He felt Brother Wolf’s joy in his mate and shared it. He would never take the gift of her presence in his life for granted. He’d been alone so long, so certain that there would be no one for him. He scared even other werewolves. And a part of him— of Charles, not Brother Wolf— hadn’t wanted to find anyone. He’d understood that caring for another person the way he cared for Anna would leave him vulnerable. His father’s hatchet man could not afford any weaknesses. And one day, there she was, his Anna: strong and funny despite the harm that had been done to her. She had tamed Brother Wolf first, but before he’d been in her presence ten minutes, he’d known that she would be his. That he needed her to be his.
“You’re growling,” she said, a smile in her voice. “What are you thinking?”
“That I love you,” he said. “That I am grateful every day that you decided to let me keep you.”
I’ve been wondering when Anna’s past would come up again. She was mistreated by her former pack – before Charles mated with her – and she carries some trauma from the abuse. I never felt like it was swept under the rug or not dealt with, but we didn’t see a lot of side effects in the previous two books. A few small things here and there, but mostly she was growing as a werewolf and becoming stronger as a human. Here she was confronted with her past in a way that left her vulnerable and scared, and really showed her trauma. Yet she triumphed. Not because she miraculously overcame her past, but because she embraced her weakness and rose above it.
Prior to the end of the last book, the Fae have been rather docile creatures. Their power is alluded to, we saw hints of it here and there, but they were more like fairytales used to keep children in line; Scary, but easy to brush aside. That changes here. It’s clear that the Fae have been holding back, and now the gloves are off. It will be interesting to see what other creatures they release from Underhill to terrorize the humans.
I haven’t read a book by Briggs I didn’t like (though I like some more than others), but I’ve yet to read one that grabbed me like this one did. I was smiling so wide as I closed the book my cheeks actually ached. I loved everything about it. Briggs really knocked this one out of the park.
5 out of 5