Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs
Dead Heat is the fifth story in Patricia Briggs' Urban Fantasy series, Alpha & Omega. I discovered the the Alpha & Omega series a couple of years ago when I ran out of her excellent yet heart-wrenching Mercy Thompson books to borrow from my library's audio-book collection. Set in the same universe, the series follows Anna and Charles a mated wolf pair, who track and destroy supernatural threats to shifter and human communities.
Charles is one of the son's of the Marrok, the leader of all the werewolves in North America. He is his father's problem solver and enforcer. Anna is an Omega wolf, a very rare kind of wolf that exists outside the strict hierarchical werewolf pack power structure. She can not be forced to submit to the will of even the strongest Alpha, and has the power to pacify and neutralize the most dominant of wolves.
In Dead Heat, Charles and Anna travel to Arizona to purchase a new horse for Anna. Instead of a relaxing visit with one of Charles's oldest non-werewolf friends, Joseph and his horse-raising family Charles and Anna arrive just in time to intervene when some of Joseph's extended family are attacked . The attack heightens inter-family tensions that threaten to derail their search for the powerful Fae responsible for trying to harm Joseph’s grand-children and the abduction of a preschooler. I really loved this book but I almost didn't make it past the first 20% because children were the targets of the attack. If you are a person who is triggered or other has a hard time with children in peril stories, this might not be the book for you. Through the book there are multiple references to children being abducted and harmed. There is HEA and the good and righteous prevail but there was a lot of suspense, terror and tension before everything is resolved.
One of the things I love about the Alpha and Omega series is that while the stories are full of great crime solving/detective/action adventure elements, the stories in the end are really about Anna and Charles’s relationship. Briggs does not flinch as she has portrays the many hurdles and difficulties pair have to overcome to be happy together. Briggs strength in these books is that she has balanced the portrayals of conflict, pain, with those of growth and joy. One of the major themes in this book is family, what it means, who belongs, and what kind of responsibilities they have to one another. I loved how complicated family was in this book, as we have pack, tribal, legal and emotional bonds inter-crossing and complicating everyone's lives. I was very satisfied with how Anna and Charles come to resolve their tensions over Anna's desire to have children and the roots of Charles' hesitance.
One thing I didn't like was the amount of horse lore packed into this book. Joseph's family raises Arabians and I felt there was a lot of info dumping about horses in general and Arabian's particular. Some of it paid off in the end, but it was overwhelming. But it didn't ruin the book for me. It continues to be incredibly satisfying to read about Anna and Charles falling and growing into love while defeating yet another dangerous supernatural threat.
But I what I would really love is for Ms. Briggs to spin-off Bran and Moira into their own monster-fighting series. I would love to read about the Marrok, rolling up his sleeves and calling in my favorite blind-wolf-mated Witch to hunt down monsters that really need killing. Their odd couple team-up in this book delighted me.