The Black Dagger Brotherhood Series by JR Ward
Read by Natalie 2009-2012
Natalie recommends this as a fabulous adults only Vampire series!
The Black Dagger Brotherhood series is for those of us who like their vampires with a LOT more bite. While the names, spelling and gangster talk get a little too much at times and the plot borders on being soft porn, the series is nonetheless like crack, utterly addictive! When I first got into this series, I was lucky that the first 6 books had been released (the author was originally only contracted for 3). This meant I could get a good hit of these boys in one go and many a night was spent without sleep as I devoured their stories. Now however, I am forced into the yearly wait for each new instalment and while her Fallen Angels series helps, it is not even in the same league as these boys.
So who are they? Well the Black Dagger Brotherhood is the fiercest and strongest of the entire vampire race. Created by the Scribe Virgin they protect the rest of the vampire race against the evil Lessers, souless, undead humans who were created by the Omega – brother to the Scribe Virgin. The brothers we are introduced to are: Wrath, Tohrment, Darius, Rhage, Zsadist, Vishous and Phury. All of these men are strong, hot warriors who are also fabulous in the sack. But each of them is also flawed in some way and tortured by events in their past. It is the females, strong characters in their own right who save them and yes this requires substantial time in the bedroom! The books definitely follow a continuous overall story arc that becomes more complex and evolved with each new book and so should definitely be read in order. Even though each book tends to focus on a particular couple and their journey to happy-ever-after, there is still plenty of side action going on around them, which is becoming more pronounced with each instalment. For more, check out JR Ward's website which also features some deleted scenes and Slices of Life side stories – yep Wrath and that letter opener – HOT! If you are looking for a steamy vampire read (and by steamy, I actually mean smoking hot) that is very different to the normal vamp genre, then I would highly recommend picking this series up – you’ll have you own favourite brother and a serious addiction before you know it! Just keep it under lock and key and away from the Tweens, these boys are far hotter than Edward and Bella could ever be!
Dark Lover (Book 1)
The first book in this series had hooked me straight away and by the time I was halfway through it, I had ordered the next 5! This has got to be one of the most intriguing and original Vampire series I have read. This first story is of Wrath. Head of the race and the last pure-blood Vampire to walk the earth, Wrath is partially blind and mated to an aristocratic Vampire (Marissa) whom he doesn’t love. He should assume the role of King, yet his fear of being unable to live up to his father’s lineage caused by his shame at having hid as he watched his parents killed means he refuses to step into the role. When his friend Darius reaches out to him and asks him to help his secret daughter Beth through her transition (Vampires “turn” at approximately 25 years of age and to survive must feed from a Vampire of the opposite sex), Wrath initially refuses to help. However when Darius is killed, Wrath knows he must honour his friend’s last request, even if he doesn’t want anything to do with this human/Vampire cross-breed.
Beth on the other hand is a journalist who is starting to suffer from an upset stomach and an aversion to sunlight. Unaware of the true nature of her DNA or what she is about to go through, she is thrown for a loop one night when Wrath shows up at her door. Believing him to be a cop assigned to watch over her after she was assaulted she welcomes him not only into her home, but also her bed. As Wrath fights his attraction to her, he is also determined to kill the men responsible for harming her. Butch, a cop and long-time admirer of Beth is also on the job and doesn’t like the look of Wrath one little bit. As these two clash, Wrath takes Beth back to his house and finally shows her what he is and what she will become. Terrified of him, she flees, only to go into her transition alone. When she is discovered by Butch, he is enraged, believing Beth to be in a drug withdrawal courtesy of Wrath. Taking her to him, Beth goes through her transition and with the help of Wrath, survives. Butch on the other hand finally discovers the true identity of Wrath and his fellow Black Dagger Brotherhood (BDB) as well as earning a strange attraction to Wrath’s wife Marissa! Following Beth’s transition, she accepts Wrath’s proposal and takes part in the Vampire mating ceremony. Shortly after this, she is kidnapped by the Lessers, one of which is the man who previously assaulted her. When Butch helps in her rescue, he is granted a place in the BDB’s lives and as Wrath is wounded, he finally realises what he must do, step into his father’s shoes and ascend to the throne. With the help of his new queen, Wrath assembles and reforms the broken BDB and finally assumes control of the race. The book ends with Darius granted a new chance at life by the Scribe Virgin on the proviso that he lose a faculty and that he never knows his former identity.
Lover Eternal (Book 2)
Next up in the series is Rhage. Known as Hollywood, Rhage has a reputation as both the best looking and the most sexually active member of all the BDB. Rhage has a big mouth but he has also been saddled with the beast. After insulting the Scribe Virgin a hundred years ago, so inflicted this on him as punishment. Now adorned with a huge dragon tattoo on his back, the beast makes itself known when Rhage is angry, transforming Rhage into a monster that is capable of mass destruction, but leaving him in agony afterwards. This book also introduces us to John Matthew who we come to learn is the reincarnate of Darius. Born mute on account of no voice box, he has been raised by humans first in an orphanage and then alone in the world. A scrawny young boy, he was viciously raped one night and now finds solace in his friendship with social worker Mary. Mary is battling her own demons, having suffered a recurrence of the cancer she thought she had beaten. But one night when she is with John and her neighbour Bella comes over, everything changes, for all of them. Bella is a Vampire and although this is unbeknowns to both Mary and John, when Bella sees the leather wrist strap with the name Tehrror carved into it, she recognises what John is – a pre-trans Vampire, possibly a warrior. Enlisting the help of the BDB, Bella brings John and Mary to their compound and it’s there that Rhage finally meets the woman who can calm his beast.
As Rhage continues to see Mary once she is returned to the outside world, she never knows who he is, her memories of the trip to the compound having been erased. However when the Lessers show up at her doorstep and Rhage is trapped with her throughout the day, his true identity is known. It is also around this time that Rhage bonds with her and this sets that stage for him bringing her back to the compound, defying his King’s orders and being forced to endure further punishment. As Mary is faced with the news that her cancer is now terminal, Rhage goes into mourning, begging the Scribe Virgin to give her another chance. Trading an eternity of his beast for Mary’s life, his wish is granted and Mary returns immortal and finally able to be with Rhage. A final party to celebrate her survival paves the way for the next book when Bella gets another glimpse at Zsadist. Although Rhage is not my favourite of the brothers, this was still a great read and had me eagerly reaching for the next instalment!
Lover Awakened (Book 3)
Without a doubt one of my favourite books and brothers, this time it is Zsadist’s turn at a HEA. Having been introduced to Bella in book 2, we already know of Z’s attraction to her, but after she is kidnapped by the Lessening Society, it becomes apparent there is much more driving him. Spending every night out searching for her, killing any Lesser that gets in his way, Z is consumed by both fear and guilt that she may not be found. Knowing only too well what it is like to be in this situation, Z was stolen from his family by a nanny when he was just a baby before being sold into slavery. Spending 100 years at the hands of s sadistic mistress who not only used Z for blood, but also sexual favours, Z has since become a brutal, terrifying Vampire who cannot stand to be touched, refuses to connect with anyone, starves and hurts himself in self-flagellation and who only gains sustenance from the blood of whores. Believing he isn’t worthy of anyone or anything, he is determined to save Bella from a similar fate, despite the disgust he felt in response to her possible attraction to him.
When another Vampire being held with Bella escapes and her location is finally learnt, Z is quick to ensure he is the one to save her. As he brings her back to the mansion to be healed, he is shocked once again at the feelings he begins to have, feelings he has never in his life felt and doesn’t know how to deal with. Bella on the other hand only wants to get close to Z. Driven by both her attraction to him and his understanding of what she has gone through, she forces herself on Z, sleeping in his room and requesting that she be allowed to drink from him. Z is repulsed at the idea, believing he is contaminated after his years as a blood whore and so tries to offer his twin Phury (who is also attracted to Bella) instead. However Bella only wants Z and when he finally relents, she begins to see the real demons he has been hiding. As their attraction grows and Z finally starts to open up a little, things are thrown into chaos when Bella goes into her needing. Believing he is not the man for her Z tries everything he can think of to prevent her from wanting him. However, when Bella makes it clear it’s him he wants, Z relents and is there for her. Awakening a whole other side of him, Z emerges from the experience a new man. Now wanting only to care for Bella, his anger and indeed the black eyes he has sported for years have left him. However, a misunderstanding forces him to push Bella away and in doing so sets in motion a chain of events that sees his brother stepping in to save him and Bella walking away. Although this does pave the way for the healing between Phury and Z to take place, it’s not until three months later when Bella returns with some news, that we see the real changes Z has started to make. Apologising to his brother for the years of beatings he made Phury give him, Z starts to change himself, learning to read, feeding properly and taking care of himself, his soul purpose is to improve himself so that he might be able to go and get Bella back. But when Bella shows up unexpectedly and announces that she is pregnant with his child and only wants to be with him, Z finally gets everything he has wanted.
I loved this book and I really love the character of Z. I love that he is so hard and scarred, both physically and emotionally and unable to get close to anyone, yet it is Bella, one of the most beautiful and respected Vampires, that loves him. She sees through the scars he bears and doesn’t care about his past, loving him for the man he is. Z adores her and is a different man with her in his life and his reaction to her news is so very sweet. This is also the book where we learn the identity of Bella’s brother Rehv and his true nature and we have our first major death with the murder of Tohr’s wife and John’s adoptive mother Wellsie at the hands of the Lessers.
Lover Revealed (Book 4)
Although not technically a brother (yet), the 4th book is about Butch. A former Caldwell cop, he has been living with the BDB since the end of book 1 and has a close friendship with the brother V, that might be something more than it is. Having fallen for Wrath’s former wife Marissa back in book 1 also, Butch is desperate to see her again. However Marissa has been refusing to see him and to top it off, the BDB have refused to let Butch fight for them. Feeling completely useless, Butch heads out one night and happens to stumble across some Lessers. After rescuing another Vampire however, Butch is taken hostage by the Omega and tortured for information. Refusing to break however, he Omega then plants some of his evil self in Butch, hoping to use it as a means of tracking him down. Leaving him for dead, Butch is located through one of V’s visions that told him to feed Butch his blood and taken to Haver’s clinic (who happens to be the brother of Marissa). As Butch lies in Haver’s clinic spewing blackness and reeking of Lessers, the brothers bring in Marissa in the hope that she can help heal him. As V watches the two of them reconnect, it stirs mixed feelings in him and highlights to the reader the attraction V has for Butch. Marissa, a virginal aristocrat has spent her life being ostracised, first by Wrath, then the glymera and finally her brother. Falling for Butch, a man who appears completely devoted to her (yet secretly feeding from Rehv), Marrisa wonders how she can have a relationship with a human. However when the nature of Butch’s contamination becomes apparent, so does his blood tie to Wrath. Determined to use this to become a Vampire, Marissa is fearful of losing Butch in the process, forced transitions being notoriously dangerous. However Butch survives and recovers with the help of both Beth and Marissa. Not long afterwards, he is inducted into the brotherhood and becomes the warrior Dhestroyer, fulfilling a prophecy that had previously been cast.
Also in this story is the continuing saga of John Matthew. With Tohr now gone, having left in a fury at the death of his wife, John is a train wreck. However with the help of Wrath and Z, an unlikely friendship develops and the stage is being set for his transition into a Vampire. We also get to learn a bit more of the cranky and mysterious Vishous, who seems to harbour some very strong feelings for his roommate Butch. The relationship is only strengthen when it is discovered that V’s gift helps Butch recover when he fights the Lessers with his contamination. This was an interesting look into the BDB and gave us a glimpse of both transitions and inductions into the BDB. It also highlighted the fact that JR Ward is not afraid to go down the kinky or man/man storyline and with V’s book up next, that is bound to continue.
Lover Unbound (Book 5)
Vishous is ruthless and brilliant. The son of the Bloodletter, a vicious killer and leader of a warrior training camp, V is detached and unemotional, the only connection he makes being with his roommate Butch. However when he is injured in the line of duty, he somehow winds up in a human hospital being care for by Jane Whitmore. When he is rescued by his brothers, he insists the surgeon comes with him, feeling for the first time a connection with someone. Arriving back at the mansion, Wrath is livid that a human has been brought back there. Allowing only her treatment of V, he then wants her to leave with her memories erased. However Jane manages to awake new feelings in V, a man who was previously only into BDSM relationships. Flashbacks to V’s childhood in his father’s training camp highlight some of the reasons for this. Tortured and abused, V’s father made his charges fight each other constantly, with the loser submitting to a rape from the winner.
When Vishous is healed, he does take Jane back to her world, but he also continues to see her. Adding tension is the role he knows he must fulfil, as set by his mother the Scribe Virgin. Vishous must assume the role of Primale, the Vampire who is to sleep with the Chosen, thereby propagating the Vampire species. Conflicted by his attraction to Jane, his hatred for his mother and his previous life as a dominant, V doesn’t know what to do. When he admits his previous “love life” to Jane, she doesn’t run and in a complete role reversal, V agrees to be her submissive. Knowing he must erase her memories and fulfil the role his mother has told him too, V goes to Jane one last time. However when Phury agrees to take on the role of Primale, thereby freeing V to be with Jane, he rushes to her side only to watch her get killed by the Lessers. Furious with his mother, Vishous is determined to do anything to get Jane back, including risking bringing her back with the help of a Lesser heart. However at the last minute, his mother steps in with a gift, Jane, returned as a ghost who can assume corporal form with the help of Vishous and his glowing hand. I have to say, I have never been a huge fan of V and I know a lot of people were pissed at his ending. Finally we have a kickarse female who can put him in his place only to have her killed and returned to him as a ghost, and they are fine with that! It didn’t really work well and even JR Ward has hinted that she didn’t give them the proper ending they deserved. Throw in some complications with Bella’s pregnancy, John, Blay and Qhuinn waiting for their transitions and of course Phury taking on the role of Primale and the scene is definitely set for the next book. Incidently, this is the only book that JR doesn’t dedicate to the warrior it is about. Having long said she has a love/hate relationship with V herself, she instead dedicates this book to his mate Jane.
Lover Enshrined (Book 6)
Poor Phury. Having vowed a life of celibacy after his twin Zsadist was stolen from his family, he has then had to watch the destructive brother he rescued fall in love and marry Bella, a woman Phury is also attracted to. Throw in his new role of Primale, the father to the next generation of Chosen and BDB warriors, not to mention a drug habit that is about to get a lot worse and you have got to feel sorry for him. However when Phury is presented with Cormia, the first Chosen he will lay with, an unexpected feeling is ignited in him. For the first time, he sees someone other than Bella. Cormia is also attracted to Phury and despite knowing both hers and his responsibilities she doesn’t want to share him, instead keeping him also to herself. Drawn to his noble behaviour and his overwhelming sense of duty, she longs to attract the attention of him. What she doesn’t realise is that Phury feels the same, but it is his strong sense of duty that keeps him from pursuing her.
Thrown into all of this is Phury’s anger. His anger at failing his family and not being able to rescue Z in time. His anger at the life his twin now gets to lead and his anger at the fact that Zsadist never said thank you to Phury for all that he did. It is sad to watch their relationship fall apart, especially as it looked as though they had grown closer at the end of Z’s book. But things needed to be said and the ending when it finally gets repaired is truly sweet. On top of all of this we also have to remember that Phury is a 200+ year old virgin who honestly has no idea how he is going to fulfil his role as Primale, the father to his race. Using drugs to cope with all of this, Phury is on a downward spiral, and fast and it’s going to take the help of Cormia and a little good faith from the Scribe Virgin to bring him out of it. It was also great to see the friendship that developed between Bella and Cormia. Initially jealous of the love Phury has for Bella, Cormia eventually realises that Bella only wants Phury to be happy and she also wants to help Cormia be the person to give him that. It was also sweet to see John Matthew helping Cormia make her way through the world, a place so different to the Sanctuary. His defence of her was cute and it also showed both the reader and John the type of woman he was attracted to…Xhex. Their short but powerful interactions are great hints at what is to come! Also in this book was more of the John, Blay, Qhuinn friendship, which was really great and it is obvious these guys are going to become major characters in future books. Add in a touch of Rehv who provides the means for Phury’s drug addiction and there is a lot going on here! Yet another great read in this series, I can safely say I am well and truly hooked on these boys.
BDB Insider’s Guide
This is a must have for all BDB fans. Not only does it feature dossiers and interviews with the 6 brothers we have already met, but it also contains a gorgeous novella on my favourite brother Z. This story, which occupies about a quarter of the guide, looks at the aftermath of Nalla’s birth and how Z struggles to cope with being a father. Tormented by dreams of his past as a blood slave that now feature his young daughter being forced to watch, he withdraws into himself again, shutting out Bella and all but ignoring his daughter. Believing he is still tainted by his past, he desperately wants to protect his daughter and his wife from the pain he continues to suffer from. As Bella tries to reach out to him, she is also constrained, by the duties of motherhood and her own insecurities of her post-baby body. As she prepares to leave Z in an attempt to shock him into action, Z is severely wounded in battle. As his last thoughts are of Bella and Nalla, Z finally starts to realise that he needs to talk to wife and Bella finally starts to understand more of Z’s struggle. As the two of them begin to communicate (both inside and outside of the bedroom!), they slowly repair their relationship and Z forges a gorgeous bond with his daughter. The Guide is worth its purchase price for this story alone. Z has always been my favourite of the brothers, with his tough exterior hiding a very sweet and caring interior. And Bella, a gorgeous woman who loves Z no matter his scarred appearance has always been one of my favourite of the female characters too and so a chance to revisit them is always good.
The interviews and dossiers on each of the characters are also fun and it is clear that JR Ward very much loves writing this series. Throw in a couple of deleted scenes and extras, as well as an interview of the author by the brothers themselves and this is definitely a book to add to your collection!
Lover Avenged (Book 7)
This book seemed like a shot out of left field at first. Not only was it the first book to feature a non-brother as the main character, it was also the first book to introduce multiple storylines, relegating the romance between the main couple to a bit more of a back seat. This time round it is Rehvenge’s story, a half-Sympath, half-Vampire cross-breed, he not only keeps his Sympath side (a sociopathic race) a secret, but also his role as drug supplier to the city of Caldwell. The brother of Bella (Z’s wife), he has a tenuous relationship with the BDB which mainly involves them using his nightclub (staffed by Xhex and the Shadows Trez and I.Am) as a place of recreation.
When Rehv’s medical condition starts to get worse (he uses dopamine to suppress his Sympath urges), he is forced to seek medical attention. It is there that he meets Ehlena, a beautiful nurse at the clinic who seems to be the only one who is unafraid of him. Stuck caring for her ailing father, having fallen on hard times, Ehlena is struggling just to survive and when the mysterious and charming Rehv starts to pay her attention, she is both thrilled and scared. Unable to comprehend what he sees in her, Rehv is equally surprised by his body’s reaction to this woman. Never before has he responded to another Vampire in this way and it both scares him and makes him want her even more. However is his traumatised by his past, not least of all the disgusting deal he was forced into with his half-sister the Sympath Princess in a bid to rescue Xhex (a fellow cross-breed). Unwilling to risk contaminating the beautiful Ehlena with his past and present which involves monthly “meetings” with his half-sister, Rehv tries not to become attached. However when his Sympath secret is revealed to both the brothers and Ehlena, not only does she walks away from him, unable to cope with the secrets he has been keeping, but Rehv takes matters into his own hands. Faking his own death and heading up to the Sympath colony, Rehv is tortured and held by his evil half-sister who has already threatened Ehlena. However, when secret documents are finally brought to light Ehlena finally realises the truth about Rehv and the lengths he has gone to help her with her father and their finances. With the help of both Xhex and the BDB, a rescue is staged, with everyone descending on the colony to get Rehv back. When the half-sister is killed, Rehv assumes command and in doing so, provides the BDB with an inside link to this colony of sociopaths. However, not everyone escapes, as Xhex is kidnapped by the evil Lash thus setting the scene for the next instalment.
Thrown into this is a side story on Wrath and Beth, which is the first time this has really happened with these books and helps to keep the focus on the BDB as well. As Wrath has now finally ascended to the throne, he struggles with the idea of sitting behind a desk rather than being out in the field with his brothers fighting. Having almost lost him once, Beth is happy to know he is safe, unaware that Wrath has secretly being going out to fight on a regular basis. When his secret is revealed, both Beth and Wrath struggle to deal with the fall out and loss of trust in their relationship. But when the King’s eyesight finally fails him completely, it opens the door for reconciliation between the two (not to mention some hot sex) and Wrath finally realising his true position on the throne. Also in this book is a side story on Lash, a former Vampire trainee and now son of the Omega. A disgusting hybrid of Vampire and Lesser, he is out for revenge against the BDB, but most of all John Matthew, a Vampire he bullied and threatened and who he believes is responsible for him being kicked out of the training program. Knowing the person John cares about the most is Xhex, Lash uses the opportunity at the Sympath colony as a means of revenge when he takes her and sets her up in a house as his sex slave.
Lover Mine (Book 8)
John Matthew is quickly becoming one of my favourite characters in this series. The reincarnation of the fallen brother Darius, he was granted another chance at life by the Scribe Virgin on the condition that he would never realise his former identity and would also lose something in the process. Born without a voice box, John was raised as a human, abandoned by his mother and raped one night by another man. When his connection to Mary, a social worker led him to Bella (who recognised the name Terrhor that John had engraved on a leather wrist strap) back in book 3, this brought him to the attention of the BDB. Taken under Tohr’s wing, he became the son Tohr never had and the best friend he had earlier lost (Darius and Tohr were friend’s from long ago). Coupled with the BDB scar John was born with on his chest, tests reveal him to be a descendant of Darius, his son although to the reader we know he is in fact Darius reincarnated.
John has always been in love with Xhex, even before he transitioned into the powerful Vampire he is today. Xhex on the other hand, knows she is attracted to him, but tries to push him away having driven one brother crazy (Murhder) when he fell in love with her only to discover her Sympath side. However John knows about this other side of her and doesn’t care, he still wants her, so when Lash kidnaps Xhex in an attempt to get back at John, he will do anything and everything just to get her back, even if she walks away from him in the end. After he has her name tattooed on his back, as an ode to his love for her (male Vampire have the name of the woman they marry carved into their backs during the wedding ceremony), John sets out with the help of Blay, Qhuinn and the Shadows to find Xhex and bring her home.
Xhex meanwhile is being held captive and abused by the evil Lash, a Vampire/Lesser hybrid who didn’t get saddled with the impotency problem. Trying anything to escape, Xhex doesn’t realise that Lash is using some kind of spell to keep her hidden and it is only when John walks into the room she is being held captive is and is unable to see her, does she finally realise how trapped she is. However a momentary weakness allows her to escape and starving and on the brink of death Xhex finally goes home to die. John meanwhile is shocked when Rehv receives a voice message from Xhex. Desperately trying to find her, John ventures to her secret home only to find Xhex dying. Willing to do anything to save her, he feeds her before calling on Doc Jane to come and help her. Taking Xhex back to the BDB mansion, John now makes it his mission to kill Lash, thus getting revenge for Xhex. However, Xhex wants the revenge herself, one last mission before she removes herself from this world. As the two of them fight about who should get it, they also give in to their growing attraction to each other, John believing this is the only chance he will ever get and Xhex wanting a small piece of happiness before she kills Lash and then checks out herself. As the two of them continue to grow closer and John reveals not only his past but also the reason he hates Lash so much (Lash discovered the story of John’s rape and then threatened him with the same thing), they both bury their true feelings for each other, despite their obvious attraction and ability to talk to each other. This is brought to a head when Xhex finally sees the tattoo John got for her and John finally realises that he needs to grant Xhex this revenge, even though he so desperately wants it himself. When Lash is finally tracked down and John has the opportunity to kill him, he realises that it is Xhex’s right and by allowing her this act of revenge he is giving her closure on her past, something he was never given. Terribly wounded during this fight, Xhex once again faces death, but it is now that she finally realises that not only does she want to live, but that she also wants John. Recovering from her surgery, she is honest about her true feelings, knowing John feels the same way and the two of them are married. One of the great things about this book is the full circle nature of the whole Darius/John reincarnation. It is great to watch the past repeat itself as Tohr and Darius rescue a Vampire woman from an evil Sympath, which runs in parallel to Tohr and John rescuing Xhex from Lash. What makes it even better is that the Vampire they rescued in the past is Xhex’s mother who was pregnant and it was Darius that formed a bond with the baby Xhex, just as John has now done in the present. Xhex’s mother, who became closer to Tohr is also introduced when she ventures over with the injured Payne and it is clear she will be a potential new love interest for him. Also thrown into this book is the continuing torture of Qhuinn and Blay and this is definitely one of my favourite books.
Lover Unleashed (Book 9)
This is definitely the book I liked the least in this series and the weakest link by far. It tells the story of Payne, twin sister to Vishous who was introduced to us in Book 8 when Wrath needed a way to keep fighting, so would venture to The Sanctuary and spar with her. With her true identity unbeknown to both the King and the rest of BDB, Payne simply enjoyed the freedom of being able to fight, having been trapped in stasis for eons by her controlling mother. Even her brother is unaware he has a sister, only recently having learnt his mother is in fact the Scribe Virgin the ruler of their race, who in disguise as a human had a brief sexual tryst with the Bloodletter, a viscous fighter who ran a Brotherhood training camp. When Payne is accidently injured during a fight with Wrath, her mother finally grants her permission to visit the New World in the hopes that her broken back can be saved. When she is brought to Doc Jane, who instantly recognises the similarities to her own mate, she knows she is out of her depth in fixing her and requires the assistance of her former colleague, Dr Manuel Mannello. Vishous is livid at the secret his mother has kept from him and determined to do anything to protect and save his sister, so when Manny arrives and immediately feels an attraction to Payne, not only does he need to comprehend the fact that his former workmate is now a ghost, living in the mansion full of Vampires, but that he is falling in love with one of them, much to the disgust of her overbearing brother.
As Payne begins to recover from her injuries, she finds herself attracted to the human who saved her. Vishous meanwhile is struggling with the idea that he had a sister whom his mother kept hidden from him and takes it out on both his partner Jane (made worse when she agrees to help Payne commit suicide if her legs won’t heal) and his best friend Butch. As his past threatens to consume him, Butch finally recognises what he has to do and so takes V back to his former house of torture to bring his past right into the present. Realising what he has been doing to both himself and those around him, V finally makes amends with his wife and his friend as well as accepts the relationship between Payne and Manny. Thrown into the whole mix is the father that Manny shares with Butch (who is a decendant of Wrath), which introduces the possibility of Manny being turned into a Vampire. While this would certainly overcome the issue of Payne’s long life compared to Manny’s short one, neither of them want to consider it. Payne has a unique talent like her brother, and her healing capabilities (particularly whilst in the sack with Manny) have allowed her to start prolonging and in fact reversing his aging process.
The main reason this book fell so flat with me is firstly that Payne is a character we really only met in the book 8. It was hard to feel invested in her future when we had only just been introduced to her and to be honest, I didn’t much care for or believe in her relationship with Manny, it all felt a little too forced. We are however introduced to the Band of Bastards, led by Xcor (who was also trained by the Bloodletter), as well as given some insight into Payne’s role in her father’s death many years ago. A few more developments in the Qhuinn and Blay saga hint at Qhuinn’s true feelings for his best friend and the struggle he has with admitting his true nature and this is definitely a highlight in the progression of their story. Overall though, this book just didn’t feel like it added anything to the BDB world other than to introduce us to the Band of Bastards and to prolong the Qhuay agony.
Lover Reborn (Book 10)
This time round it's Tohr's story. Having lost his mate back in book 3, Tohr is a shadow of who he once was. Refusing to feed, in a constant state of mourning and spending his nights viciously killing the Lesser's who were responsible for her death, he is on a path of self-destruction. What he doesn't realise is that he is also harming his former mate and their unborn child. Now stuck in the In Between and unable to pass into the Fade, they are slowly losing their ability to hold on and risking an eternity stuck nowhere, all because Tohr won't let them go. When a woman from his past re-enter's his life, Lassiter the fallen angel sees this as a sign. With his own destiny tied to that of Tohr's mate, Lassiter now has a mission to get Tohr to move on with his life, accept that his mate and son are gone and find a new woman to love.
This book is unusual to its predecessors in that it spans almost a whole year. It is also clear that these books are now not only focused on the love story of the two main characters, but also now feature numerous side stories, which are often in as much detail as the main one. This book has several of those side stories including; the Band of Bastards, led by Xcor who is intent on over-throwing the Blind King and ruling the New World. So much so, that he orders his men to kill Wrath as he tries to get the glymera on his side. There is John and Xhex and the struggles they face as a newly mated couple, particularly Xhex's desire to fight alongside John and John's fear that he will lose her and end up like Tohr. And then there is the minor side story of the whole Qhuinn, Blay, Layla and Saxton scenario and this book has a lot going on.
I will say, it is a marked improvement over book 9 which suffered mainly because it introduced us to a new character who we hadn't really become invested in. Tohr's story on the other hand is of a Vampire we have known from the very beginning and one who we have watched slowly fall apart with the death of his mate. The side stories of John, Xhex and the boys are also a nice look at what's happening with the rest of the household and it is obvious they have close ties to Tohr's story as John is the son he never got to have and Xhex's mother is the woman from Tohr's past. The Band of Bastards are also a breath of fresh air after 9 books on the repetitive Lessening society and it will be very interesting to see how this new plot develops, particularly in light of their attempted assassination of the king and the clear attraction between the Chosen Layla and Xcor.
The big problem I had with the book however was the timeline. Yes it worked for Tohr's story, because here was a man who was grieving, badly and it wouldn't make sense for him to be able to move on and fall in love again so quickly after his wife of 200 years died. What this timeline didn't work for was John and Xhex. Yes I could understand the troubles they faced as a mated couple who both wanted to fight. What I didn't understand was how long this was dragged out for. I just couldn't believe that either one of them would let it go on so long and without ever really trying to do anything to fix it. It was actually far sadder to read this story than Tohr's. What made this whole thing even harder to understand is that Payne is allowed to fight and no one ever questioned that, yet the minute Xhex wants to, they all look to John (who is clearly bonded to and thus very protective of her) for his permission. This just didn't make sense, nor did Xhex treating him the way she did in response, I thought they had gotten over all of that crap back in book 8.
Book 10 has also polarised a lot of fans. Not only with Tohr and his actions towards the new woman in his life but also for why his wife could not be returned to him, yet this woman who committed suicide could? There was also the issues with John and Xhex and the amount of shit they had to go through so soon after their wedding, but one of the biggest reasons was the whole Qhuinn/Layla situation. For a man in a self-imposed state of celibacy who after finally admitting to himself that he is desperately in love with his best friend (Blay), who happens to be sleeping with his cousin (Sax) after Qhuinn rejected him, it didn't really gel with people the idea of Qhuinn servicing Layla just so they could have a child together and finally gain something that was theirs. Yes, yes, we all know Qhuinn and Blay will end up together and thank god their book is next, because theirs is one of the most torturous stories we have been given, but for Layla to convince Qhuinn to do that and for him to actually follow through….well I personally, like many others didn't buy it and am not sure how it can possibly all work out in the future, given Layla will get her HEA with someone else (Xcor?) and Qhuinn will get his with Blay. Be very interesting to see how that all plays out. All in all though, I really enjoyed book 10 and even though they are now vastly different to the first 5-6 books (which some would say are the best), they are an original, enjoyable and highly addictive Vampire series that I will definitely keep reading.
Lover at Last (Book 11)
The 11th BDB book and arguably the one fans have been waiting for, is the story of Qhuinn and Blay, or Qhuay as they're known devout followers. Originally destined to be only a novella, perhaps because the main couple are both males, JR took note of her fan's outrage and elected to turn it into a full length novel. And weÕve been counting down the days ever since!
So, the story; Qhuinn and Blay have known each other all their lives, both born to aristocratic families, they have however, led very different lives. While Blay grew up surrounded by unconditional love and parents who accepted him no matter what, Qhuinn has been shunned and eventually cut-off by his own parents all because of his defect, mismatched eyes. Despite this, Blay has always accepted Qhuinn, continuously standing by and being there for his friend, offering him a home and all the support he can. And the reason for this is love. Blay has been in love with Qhuinn ever since he can remember, and fans first got a glimpse of this way back in the early books, before a so-hot-the-room-almost-caught-on-fire kiss in book 5. And ever since then we have watched as Qhuinn continued to push Blay away, having sex with anything and everything who crossed his path, except the one person who wanted him more than anyone else. Blay meanwhile, has suffered in silence as he watched the one person he loved continuously push him away, even when Blay went so far as to throw himself at Qhuinn. Eventually realizing he was never going to get Qhuinn, Blay embarked on a relationship with Qhuinn's cousin Saxton.
Witnessing this first hand in the mansion caused new feelings to arise in Qhuinn, primarily jealously, and as distance and arguments between he and Blay forced Qhuinn to face the reality of his sexual orientation, he started to change his ways in a bid to become the kind of man that might be able to win Blay back. As with all JR books, the course to this HEA between the main couple never runs smoothly and with Qhuay it was no different. Arguments, miscommunications and little lies get mixed in with some hot sex until eventually something has to give. In this case it was Qhuinn finally facing up to who and what he was and Blay's regret at the way in which he forced this to happen. Cue the two of them finally opening up to each other and the HEA we have come to love with these books.
All in all, I really wanted to love this book, as I have been a huge Qhuay fan right from the start and was desperate to see them happy. And to be fair, I did love it, I loved all the scenes where these two were together and the way their relationship ultimately panned out. In particular the scenes of Qhuinn telling Blay he was sorry, the last two chapters and the epilogue almost had me in tears. My biggest problem with this book however, was how few and far between these scenes were. To me, their story felt like the original novella, padded out to a novel by excessive and drawn out side-plots. Yes, we have always had these side plots in every JR book, but in this case there was just way to many of them. Between Trez, Xcor, Assail, Sola, The Council, Lessers and even a chapter on a migraine, it was just too much. It left me feeling like Blay and Qhuinn were cheated, cheated out of their journey to a happy ever after and cheated out of their relationship. Yes I know that given the M/M nature of this story, it was probably held back a bit, but I felt it was to the detriment of the story itself, almost as though JR didnÕt really want to go there at all, and that made me sad. There were pivotal moments between them that were glossed over (bonding scents) or not even shown at all (coming out as a couple to Blay's parents) and to me, this was a negative part of both the story and the so-called recognition and acceptance of a M/M relationship.
All of that being said however, I still couldn't put it down and I will always keep reading these books. They are my crack addiction and I'll continue to pick them up as long as she keeps writing them. I just hope they go back to the old style where the focus of each story is the couple, not everything else around them. And in exciting news, JR Ward has announced that the 12th book will be a return to the start. The King, the story of Wrath and Beth trying for an heir is due to be released in 2014.