Historically, alphas and omegas could shift into wolves and omegas could get pregnant. But it has been generations since anyone had that ability, and while today’s hybrids may retain some of their wolfish traits, they are definitely more like humans. Despite this, some old traditions continue and that includes the annual heat race where alphas hunt and track down eligible omegas to be their mate. While some alphas and omegas have arrangements to partner up, Jack Henry is unsure which alpha he wants to claim him. Part of him seeks the friendship and comfort of his best friend, Elias. But he is also drawn to the strength and sweetness of his friend, Saul. And when a new alpha, Jasper, shows up at the race, his bad boy attitude gets Jack Henry’s attention right away. So rather than choose, Jack Henry is going to let fate decide.
When the race begins, all three of Jack Henry’s potential alphas set off after him. But along with them is a brutal alpha, Lon, who has long sought to claim Jack Henry as well. Saul, Elias, and Jasper are now not just determined to claim Jack Henry for themselves, but they realize they may also need to protect the omega from Lon. As it turns out, it takes all three of the men working together to keep Jack Henry safe. And to their surprise, when the dust settles and Jack Henry is faced with the chance to mate with any one of his three potential alphas, he still wants all of them. The men decide that they are best together — three alphas and one omega living together as their own pack.
Succumbing to their attraction is the easy part. Now the four men must figure out how to live as a pack and a family. Jack Henry has a strong bond with all three alphas, but navigating the complicated relationship dynamics among all four is not easy. As the pack leader, Jasper feels responsible for taking care of everyone and worries about every perceived failure. Saul has faced lifelong abuse from his father, and even when he moves away with his new pack, the man still causes trouble. And Elias worries he is the odd man out among the group, the only one who is not interested in a sexual relationship with anyone other than Jack Henry. Not to mention that the men are trying to build a home for themselves, dealing with folks in town who are unhappy about them settling nearby, and the shocking realization that Jack Henry may actually be able to become pregnant. Now it is going to take the strengths of all three alphas, along with the omega they all love, for the four men to build their lives together.
Tanya Chris takes an interesting approach to the omegaverse trope in Heat Race. I found the world building here to be unique and engaging, with a shifter population that has evolved over time to be very human. There are still some residual wolfish traits and traditions, like the heat race, but most of that side of things is in the past. Yet at the same time, we learn that Jasper has some unique qualities that make him a once in a generation wolf. Not to mention that Jack Henry turns out to be a able to get pregnant, and even Saul and Elias are more than they think. So there is a bit of a clash here between tradition and expectation and the unique side of the four MCs that creates some interesting dynamics for them as a pack and a family. It also leads to some trouble, as some outsiders are not so sure about this new pack that has come into town with power and abilities that feel threatening.
While the heat race itself kicks off the book, it is not the main focus of the story, despite what the title or blurb may suggest. In fact, it is really only a small portion of the book, setting up the connection among the four men and the decision to join together as a foursome. Most of the book is really focused on how the men manage to create a pack and a family after the initial rush of heat and mating and sex is over. I actually think this works quite well, as it gives a lot more depth to the story than just seeing the men act on their attraction. That’s not to say that there isn’t a lot of sex here, as there is plenty of steam for sure. But we also see how these men navigate the complicated dynamics of a four-person relationship, trying to account for different personalities, as well as making everyone feel an equal part of the group. It isn’t always easy, as each man has issues that they face. But we can also see how much better the four of them are together than any two could be. As a group, they have brains, strength, and sweetness, and all those things are needed at various points.
Just to make a few things clear here, I’ll note that while the set up involves a race for alphas to claim their omega mates, all three men are careful to ensure that Jack Henry is always making the decisions. This is both when they are initially “capturing” him during the race, as well as throughout their relationship. So the story is clear that Jack Henry is consenting to everything, as well as that pretty much the whole relationship revolves around him. In addition, while this is a harem story of sorts, with Jack Henry at the center with three alpha mates, there is a little more interconnectedness than that would suggest. There are individual bonds among the alphas as well, and at times they have sex that doesn’t involve Jack Henry. I actually liked that quite a lot, as Chris takes the time to really develop the dynamics among all the men and we get to know Jasper, Elias, and Saul as more than just “Jack Henry’s alphas,” but as interesting and unique characters in their own right. I would say my only minor criticism here is that the story is fairly long and at times things dragged a bit for me in the middle. There are so many dynamics to explore, but it didn’t always feel like we were getting enough forward movement.
Overall, I found this a fun omegaverse story with some unique world building. Tanya Chris does a nice job creating four interesting and distinct characters and taking their story beyond the initial rush of mating to some thing more developed. I enjoyed this a lot and can definitely recommend it to omegaverse fans.