Received from NetGalley
From the BLURB:
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.
‘Dead Heat’ is the fourth book in Patricia Briggs’ insanely addictive ‘Alpha & Omega’ urban fantasy series. We haven’t had a new instalment in the series since ‘Fair Game’ came out in 2012, and left fans on one hell of a cliffhanger.
At the end of ‘Fair Game’ – and after a traumatic investigation – the Fae revealed themselves to the public and declared war against humanity at the same time. It was a dramatic and fantastic place to leave Anna and Charles Cornick and the werewolf population in general … Briggs also hinted in that book, that Anna was starting to think about wanting a family with Charles, and that’s where ‘Dead Heat’ picks up.
She hid that monster from everyone because it would hurt Charles if he knew that she carried those scars still. But since she was admitting her weakness here, if only to herself, she also worried that it would interfere with his image of the person he thought she was. He thought she was brave and true and good, and she wasn't. Inside, she was dark and ferocious. If he truly understood that she had this twisted and broken part, maybe he could not love her.
Evidently some time has passed since the Fae declared cold war, enough that Anna is now openly addressing her want for children with Charles. This is a frightening concept for Charles – his mother Blue-Jay Woman was a Flathead Indian, and used magic to carry Charles to term against her own werewolf instinct to change … suppressing her wolf side killed her. When Anna starts broaching the topic of having a child with Charles, she speaks of how his brother Samuel is dabbling in medicinal ways to help women carry to term, and Charles is adamant that no magic will be used – something Anna agrees to avoid, but may still use as a last resort.
But just as quickly as Briggs dangles this deep, emotional storyline before readers, she snatches it away as Anna accepts that Charles needs time to process. Instead, the two of them travel to Arizona in the lead-up to Anna’s birthday, to find her an Arabian horse as a gift … but also so Charles can catch up with an old, dying friend who he has avoided seeing for the last 20 years (he is human, and Charles can’t bear to see him old and dying). But Charles and Anna arrive in Arizona at the house of Charles’s old friends, just as strange happenings are affecting the family … soon they find themselves embroiled in a Fae kidnapping case that could have deep ramifications for human and supernatural alike.
I was initially really excited at where this story was going. When we arrive in Arizona, readers and Anna realise that Charles’s old friend – Joseph – has known Charles since he was very young, and Joseph’s family were once the closet friends Charles had ever known. We also discover that Joseph’s wife once had a love-affair with Charles, and though Maggie is an old woman now, she still stirs Anna’s jealousy in weird ways. And this was all really good – I love any Briggs story where there’s a strong focus on the old lives of these werewolf characters, the likes of Charles and his father Bran (the Marrok) especially because they’ve been around for so long. But then the story gets bogged down in everything else – extraneous detail and a ho-hum whodunit – and it all started to lose me …
There are pages and pages of boring scenes about the Arabian horses Anna and Charles are checking out. Either Briggs is a little horse-mad or she did a hell of a lot of research – either way I commend her attention to detail, but I just didn’t care in this book. It’s the fourth in Anna and Charles’s story, and Briggs normally brings high-adrenaline in her urban fantasy tales … so all these scenes observing horses and talking about how many hands they are, how strong their backs and long their legs – I’m sorry, but *snore* – right when I had the big emotional upheaval of Anna wanting babies dangled in front of me, all these slow scenes horse-shopping just infuriated because it bought the tension that had been established way down.
I also didn’t love how involved Charles’s old friends were in the whodunit. Readers meet Joseph’s family in this book which centres around his daughter-in-law and grandchildren especially – again, we spend a lot of time learning this family’s dynamics, when all I really wanted was more time to explore Anna and Charles’s emotional struggles. The grandchildren characters also started to grate on me towards the end – Max, Michael and Mackie didn’t read very childlike to me, Mackie especially is a big focus in this book but her ‘old soul’ spiel just kind of had me eye-rolling.
There wasn’t as much Anna and Charles in this book as I would have liked – the horses and getting to know Charles’s old friends seemed to take a lot of page time away from them. And after that emotional bomb that went off in the first chapter, I was frustrated.
"You need to understand something," she said intensely. "Charles is my husband. You can't have him. Mine. Not yours. There are lots of nice, unattached men out there, I'm sure. Pick one of them and you might live longer." Then her body relaxed and her voice regained its usual cheeriness. "Thank you for your time, Ms. Newman."
As they left, Charles turned back toward the teacher and shrugged helplessly. Then he put on his meekest face and turned around to follow Anna.
"I saw that," she muttered at him.
"Saw what?" asked Charles in mock innocence.
Brother Wolf was pleased with her claiming of them. So was Charles.
But the whodunit is pretty good – it’s based around a Fae mythology that lots of people will be familiar with, so Briggs is really building on an ages-old spook story that will really captivate readers. And for all that I wanted more Anna and Charles (especially because we haven’t had a book with them since 2012 – I was starved of them and I wanted to gorge!) Briggs does mark some very important growth in their relationship that’s touching and tender, and I really look forward to where these new revelations take them in future books …