Books twenty nine through thirty four of my 2019 Reading Challenge.
I was first introduced to J.R. Ward’s world of vampires when I was in high school from that dear old bookworm of a friend that I’ve mentioned before. She owns all the books and let me borrow the first one, Dark Lover, that I read in high school. I was pretty hooked just from reading that first book but unfortunately school happened and reading for fun wasn’t a priority – sad I know. I remember starting the second and not being able to finish and when she left for college I didn’t think too much of the series until later when I started college myself.
Another bookworm friend that I met in college was volunteering at a huge book resale fair that the local Friends of the Library chapter puts on every year in Eugene and insisted that I come to check it out. I didn’t exactly hesitate attending a large, convention-center sized, used book sale where books started at just $1. After weaving through rows and rows and rows of books I saw the logo of the Black Dagger brotherhood on a book. I picked it up out of curiosity and discovered the Insider’s Guide from author J.R. Ward. I leafed through and started to remember a bit of the premise and remembered how much my hometown friend loved the series. I ended up buying the book as a gift to her and then thought to look for the books themselves for myself. Remember the (softcover) books were only $1 so I had no shame in creating a very heavy stack to haul back to my small studio apartment. Unfortunately, that stack did not include any of the other BDB books.
Fast forward to a little later in the school year. That same bookworm friend from college wanted to take me to a great used bookstore in Eugene called Smith Family Bookstore that she really liked. I had a list going on my phone of books that I wanted and would look for (what book lover doesn’t have that never-ending list?). On that list was the first of the BDB series. I figured I had read the first one, but should probably start over from the beginning anyway. I found the book and one other from the first six and brought it back to my apartment in hopes of starting up and getting into the series. I managed to reread Dark Lover but didn’t get much farther than that. I kept my eyes out for the next in the series but it wasn’t until my senior year when I finally got to the wonderful Powell’s City of Books in Portland that I found several in the series, the second installation, Lover Eternal, included.
Fast forward again to this year and I finally got into reading the series again. Since that first trip to Powell’s I’ve managed to acquire quite a few of the books and had the original six so I started off with the second book, Lover Eternal. I powered through that book, and then the next, and so on until I read all five remaining in the original saga. Keep in mind these books at all 400+ pages and I managed to read five in about two months, which surprised me. I decided to take a break and read some other books to complete my 2019 Challenge before jumping back into the series with book seven: Lover Avenged. Below is a little review on each book and then more on the series as a whole.
I will begin by letting you know that this series is paranormal/fantasy romance. So, if you are not one who is interested in sexy lethal vampires, I’d stop here. If you think you’d be interested in romantic tales of love, loss, family and the occasional killing spree please continue.
Dark Lover – Even though I read this look awhile ago and not during this year, I still want to touch on it considering it is the first of the series. Each book is focused on one brother of the Black Dagger brotherhood, an elite group of vampire warriors tasked with the protection of the race. The first book is focused on Wrath, the leader of the brotherhood. Wrath is stuck in the awkward predicament of helping his late friend and brother’s half-breed daughter during her transition which not only transforms her body from human to vampire, but from normal human life to the life of a vampire. Wrath attempts to console Beth during her transition and ends up falling in love with her instead. With Beth now in his life he decides the race needs a true, dedicated leader so he hangs up his daggers and ascends to the throne as rightful King.
In addition to the lustful relationship between Wrath and Beth many other things occur in the book. You meet the entire brotherhood and other vampires in the community as well as the race’s enemy, the lessers. The lessers’ goal is to wipe out the vampire race at the command of the Omega, a powerful other-worldly being. The brotherhood’s job is to protect the race and extinguish the lessening society but of course it doesn’t come easy. The book, and series as a whole, is packed with action, romance and twists and turns that keep you reading late into the night.
Lover Eternal – Rhage, a powerful warrior plagued with the curse of a beast, is lost within the brotherhood and scared of what the beast within could unleash at any moment around anyone. The vampire race is hidden within the normal world and no human is allowed into it but that changes when Mary gets thrown head-first into the arms of Rhage (literally). Mary, whose plagued with her own inner beast that she can’t control, sees something in Rhage that she’s never seen in anyone before. As the battle against the lessers rages on, the battle to keep their new found love together becomes a challenge all its own. Rhage and Mary’s forbidden relationship is one I latched onto. Their chemistry made me root for them from the very beginning and the challenges they face together made me fall in love with the relationship even more.
With Mary’s introduction also came the introduction of her gorgeous neighbor Bella who Mary always thought was different but couldn’t put her finger on it. Bella is a vampire. (Please note that Bella is far different from Bella Swan of the Twilight series. I know it’s a girl named Bella in a vampire series, but they are very different from each other I promise.)
Lover Awakened – Lover Awakened follows “the most terrifying member” of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, Zsadist. Riddled with scars of his past, Zsadist finds little comfort with his brotherhood and even less comfort from others, possible lovers included. That is until he can’t get Bella out of his mind. His inner animal craves being with her and his vengeance to bring justice to the lessers that tortured her makes their bond even stronger. Though Zsadist at first doesn’t take in the love Bella practically throws at him, she eventually brings down his walls and he finds the love and comfort he always needed. I found this story the hardest to read because Zsadist’s past is tortured and cruel and far from loving in any shape or form. His scars, both physical and mental are only exacerbated by the presence of his twin brother Phury who grew up in quite the opposite way. Phury is tortured himself because like his brother he finds feelings for Bella which ultimately complicates their story even more. More on Phury’s story later.
Lover Revealed – Butch O’Neal is probably my favorite human character in the series. Butch fell into the vampire world and the inner circle of the brotherhood in the first installment of the series, Dark Lover, when he, as a local homicide detective, dug a little too deep into a case. Butch’s story is a long and complicated one that thankfully ends with love (and let’s be real, most of these stories end in love). Butch, who is totally immersed into the vampire world, falls head over heels for an aristocrat female vampire who is pretty much out of his league by several standards. Marissa is not only a highborn aristocrat but also the sister of the vampire race’s most prominent physician Havers. Because of their social status, Havers shelters Marissa from male vampires and especially the brotherhood. Butch being no exception.
In addition to battling his inner turmoil on whether to pursue Marissa or not, Butch also gets involved in the never-ending war between the lessers and the vampires. Butch’s story and his journey in his human life enthralled me from the first time I met him in Dark Lover. His sassy Bostonian attitude and blatant disregard for his own mortal state makes him an extremely lovable character that I was so excited to read about even more in Lover Revealed. His story evolves more throughout the book and what he brings to the brotherhood is so genuine and unique in its own way I couldn’t imagine the series without him.
Lover Unbound – Vishous’s story was one that kept me on the edge of my seat. Vishous is Butch’s best friend and is now dealing with a separation of sorts now that Butch and Marissa are together. Though he’s never shown affection towards others, Vishous suddenly finds himself craving intimacy. Now remember when I mentioned above about how humans aren’t allowed into the vampire world? Well, there’s always exceptions and so far in the series there has been two, Butch and Mary. Enter the third: Doctor Jane. Vishous finds himself in the ER of a human hospital in critical condition and Dr. Jane Whitcomb not only helps bring him back but sparks something that no one thought would exist inside him. With Jane’s life-saving measures, Vishous finds himself dealing with cravings he’s never had before, cravings for the love of a woman. Jane, like Mary, is thrown into the vampire world and has to make a very hard decision that could leave more than one person heartbroken. Each chapter in this story ended in a way that kept me starting the next chapter until I was reading late into the night or morning really. The book also ended in a way that had me picking up the next immediately.
Lover Enshrined – Lover Enshrined wraps up the main saga with the last main brother’s story. Phury, who has given his all to the brotherhood and to his twin Zsadist, finally gets a chance at love but it doesn’t come in the way he expected. In the vampire world procreation is dangerous. The time it takes to produce young is long and commonly results in the death of the mother. This therefor puts strain on the vampire population and maintaining the race’s existence. In the past there has been a male of the brotherhood that is chosen to keep the vampire line going by committing himself to the Chosen, a group of females dedicated to the preservation of the race. Phury’s dedication is well-known among the brotherhood and honorable to say the least, but when it comes to actually taking Cormia, his first Chosen, he shrugs off his responsibility and delays the process. Phury’s commitment to the mission of the brotherhood wavers and he becomes lost in a way. The journey he takes and his self discovery is a great story that I felt fit well as the final installment of the original saga.
In addition to Phury’s story, the lessening society’s story also hits a major peak in Lover Enshrined. An unexpected twist in leadership brings an entirely new threat to the vampire world and puts the brotherhood on high alert with little resources to protect the race.
The Black Dagger Brotherhood: An Insider’s Guide – The Insider’s Guide was a great book to reference throughout reading the first six books in the series. J.R. Ward writes little interviews between her and the characters of the series in addition to character profiles of each brother. I have to admit I looked ahead on one or two of the brothers to see if they ended up with the right lover – I was being impatient, the books are 400+ each after all. It’s a wonderful addition to the series and worth buying if you are getting into the series.
In addition to the brothers in the Black Dagger Brotherhood there are several other characters that are introduced and involved in the books. One of my favorite aspects of this series and of Ward’s writing style is the switch from character to character in each new chapter and sometimes even with a single chapter. This also sets up the next several books with characters that we’ve been introduced to but haven’t been able to get their own story yet.
Overall, I love love love this series and can’t wait to get reading the next book. I would like to write more and more about each book but I’d rather you take a look for yourself. Like I said before, if you’re not a romance novel person, this isn’t the series for you. If you are, please consider starting this series, you won’t regret it.
Stay tuned for my next review: Yes Please by Amy Poehler.