I'm a fan of leather pants wearing vampires who drive Escalades and fight bad guys that smell like baby powder.
There's just no coming back from that is there?
With the long-awaited release of Lover At Last, it's hard not to get all caught up in the BDB talk. The Black Dagger Brotherhood is a funny sort of obsession, but it's one I can't shake. Some series you dive into with the gusto of a fangirl, but you find yourself looking around after awhile and trying to walk out of the room without anyone noticing you were even there.
But with BDB, I'm still in there, still reading the next books, still skimming the parts about the Lessers. Still hanging out with vampires who use unnecessary H's in their names and wear boots they obsessively refer to as shit kickers, and always seem to end their sentences with either yup or true.
Listen, I don't have explanations or a diagnosis for why I'm still waving my BDB flag. What I do have is a run through for where we've been with this brotherhood of vampires with poor grammar, kinky bedroom secrets and sometimes dragon tattoos.
The OG Vampires.
Dark Lover by J.R. Ward
And so it begins. The intro to the Black Dagger Brotherhood offers a story that manages to be a bit gritty and sweet, violent and romantic, and kinda dark and sexy. It's a surreal, blurry setting that is kind of grounded in reality. Caldwell is filled with dirty streets and twisted people, but this is very much a romance that delivers on all the points one would expect, but does so without sparing action or cue-the-rap-song Alpha dude swagger.
Wrath is dangerous and angry and Beth is his switch. He's going blind, and say what. But there he is shaking down the whole barn with his rage and damn, that was pretty hot. So was Beth's first time seeing him. And above all, Thor's line, "Nice. Fucking. Suit."
......Yeah, their names aren't Joe and Steve, they fight in leathers, and there's a bit of a Gothic element to it. The villains known as "lessers" are quite different. They smell like baby powder and seem easy enough to take out? I'm not really sure why we have such an intense gang of vampires to take out these people.
None of this should work, but it absolutely does.
I loved everything about this one. Rhage's story is everything I wanted it to be. We get to see exactly how tortured he is by the beast and the anonymous sex, and the way he is completely unhinged by Mary. Her inner monologue was pitch perfect, and her struggle was heartbreaking and realistic. She's dying and watching Rhage step up to the plate to be with her whatever the cost was amazing and lovely and ridiculously romantic and heavier than I'd expected. Also, we meet John Matthew who can't talk and I am so fascinated. His story is gutting. But now he's here, in this world, and he's our eyes and ears into this world. The Brotherhood is together in their new digs and it's a new era of cohesiveness with Wrath as king, and it's just a lot of unexpectedly sweet moments and cracktastic fun.
I wonder if I can get posters of them for my room.
Z is my favorite.
This book...I'm trying to think of the words...but I just can't.
One usually expects a paranormal romance to entertain, be a quick read or escape, and then to disappear on the shelf for the next time you need a fun read. It's one of the things I love about the genre. It's pure escapism.
This isn't that book.
From the very first sentence where Phury is shouting at Z to not jump as he flies out of a speeding car to attack a couple of Lessers in his focused, homicidal need to find or avenge Bella, you know the momentum for this one is going to be nuts. Some of the most heartbreaking but lovely scenes I have ever read in any book are in this one. The shower scene before Bella feeds destroyed me. It was there that I knew that Z would always be it for me.
This was the book that I realized that I was fully committed to these characters and their stories. I can't say enough about Bella and her unflinching dedication to Z. He is such an alpha male, and to read the scenes of his past, and how afraid and used he was at the hands of the Mistress, how he didn't understand why it was happening to him, and how unloved and untouched he was and how that translated to this huge and terrifying male not being able to handle touch or process emotions?
I just...I can't.
And then there's Tohr.
The Brothers at the door.
Oh, God. I can't go there either.
The things that happened to my heart in this book. MY HEART. THE FEELS. DEAD.
Lover Revealed by J.R. Ward
Butch is a Red Sox-lovin', Escalade-drivin', Southie-speakin', gravel-voiced heartbreaker. I don't know what it is about him, but he had my attention from the first book, and he wasn't even one of the vampires.
I didn't expect to like this book as much as I did. I thought I'd race through it to hurry up and get to V. I wasn't in love with Marissa but I did enjoy her evolution. I get it. I understand her and Butch together oddly enough. And his struggles about not being able to be on the outside of anything anymore?
Who the hell is this guy?
He is the ringmaster for a circus of drugs and sex and does it with panache, and I kind of want to get into a back room at his club even though it's totally not my scene. I need to know what's going on. A bathroom? I don't know.
Also, Butch is a dirty talker.
I really loved the scene with him and Beth when the vampire comes out of Wrath. This series is turning me into someone I don't understand.
I need to watch You've Got Mail or something.
Lover Unbound by J.R. Ward
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
V is complicated and antagonistic and brilliant.
Oh, and a total freak with a glow stick for a hand.
Jane is smart, scientific and a doctor, so duh they match up, but she's a healer so she's warm where V is kind of a dick. She's a lot like Butch in the way she stands up to V and calls him on his obnoxious side. Her past shapes her quite a bit, and we understand her through her memories and one of my favorite scenes is her and V side by side on his bed sharing scar stories. Fastest way to get a twisted guy like V to fall in love with you is tell him about your crazy.
One question though: where are the ladies? The deeper you get into the series the more characters are scrambling for page space, and so the romance may not feel as straightforward as let's say Wrath's or Rhage's, and shellans are just disappearing. And this HEA? It was out there.
This is the book where we know things are gonna get weird. Weirder than villains who smell like baby powder. I might need a rule book at this point to know if this is okay.
It's just...I dealt with things in Z's book that were not just given a get out of Death card.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I mean. I guess it was kind of interesting to see him at the bottom and Z be the one to have to watch out for him.
The love story here was...different. Boring? The pacing wasn't intense and it had a subdued softness to it. It's Phury...with a Chosen.
Not the ingredients for fireworks.
All this Primale and Chosen business is my least favorite aspect of the BDB world, except for the Lessers so no, this wasn't one of my favorites.
Here we also see the growth of the "boys": John Matthew, Blay and Qhuinn. They're growing up, taking up more of the page wanting to bone everything in sight and shit is going to hit the fan with them and their war with Lash. I hate him more than a bucket of Malfoys.
The best part of the book was the final scene. It was emotional and all of them were together and I don't give one single fuck for any tears I cried. NOT ONE. This book feels like a transitional one taking us beyond the mansion to the other vamps in this world. Hopefully it drops us off in a good place and remembers to pick us back up at the end of the day.
Branching Out of the Mansion.
I'll be honest, I didn't know how much I'd like this one with Rehv not being a Brother.
What am I even saying? It's weird to review these books. Moving on.
Somehow, despite being away from the mansion, after Phury, Rehv is a breath of Finally.
Ehlena and Rehv worked from the very beginning. Chemistry! Finally!
When we first see them interact and Rehv is sitting there waiting and the door opens and here comes Nurse Ehlena and he looks up with that small smile and thinks, "My Ehlena."
And whoa now! We get to step back into the mind of Wrath. I want to see this. I want to know that the lives of the others aren't static and don't stop happening just because their book is done. This makes it feel like an ensemble. It's been too long since we've seen things from Wrath's perspective, and his ordeal twists the heart.
His disparity made me realize how far as readers we've come with these characters. The sunny side? Lassiter. The snarky, black and blonde, pierced angel dude who brought him back to us in all his emaciated, hate the world glory.
The sympath's are a new element and an extra layer of WTF. They're like reptile vampires. Sneaky, emotional lizards. Hm. They have a princess and her and Rehv have a creepy as shit relationship, but everything keeps getting creepier with every book, so whatever. Xhex is a key player, and I adore Xhex.
And then the sympath colony happens.
The Next Generation.
This book was highly-anticipated because a) the last one left us with a cliffhanger for what happened to Xhex and b) it's John Matthew's.
John is a character readers have watched evolve since the second book in the series. He's been our eyes and ears as he learned all about the world of vampires right along with us. And we've been through the gamut of emotions with him. From the darkest, weakest, most heartbreaking moments to the lethal warrior he's become now. And the boy always holds on to his heart. That's why his story mattered so much.
Xhex is a total badass. She's had such a developed story going on for the past couple of books, which sets her, in my opinion, in a different camp than the other love interests, and was capable of holding the spotlight with stronger hands. With this book we're entering what feels like the next generation's story with Blay and Qhuinn added into the mix. I do miss the constant presence of the original vamps. And their ladies. It feels like a Boyz 2 Men song about letting go and I'm not ready.
My heart breaks for Blay and Qhuinn. The longing and the anger simmering there. This may be the most angsty relationship in the BDB world.
Thor is coming back into the fray. Seeing his health return, standing back while he tries to make peace with everything he lost, and stepping into shoes of the man he once was to be there for John. Class act, that Thor.
But couples like JM and Xhex? These are the kind of couples I want in every single paranormal I read.
Lover Unleashed by J.R. Ward
However many books we are into the series now, and if I'm learning anything other than the fact that Lessers are the stupidest of villains is that every last one of these vampires has way too many issues for one book.
And I love that.
We're getting revisited by "solved" couples, and we're dealing with what comes after an HEA. The world gets bigger, but to not lose touch with the heart and guts of why we care about these stories in the first place is the absolute best thing to do as you move deeper into a series about so many relationships. (Seriously. So many.)
These boys don't die. They're not forever and ever saved by the end of their book and left to wither away on the happily ever after shelf with their lady and all their overwhelming love.
Come to find out, they're still pretty messed up even after their The End.
But no matter. This was about V. He's still tortured and messed in the head and still needs some very intense TLC to come out of it. I can't imagine coming into one of these books without already being inoculated by the earlier stories and understanding just how deep and WTF we're gonna get sometimes.
Lover Reborn by J.R. Ward
I had no idea how this book could happen. How could someone get over their Shellan? Wasn't that like an unbreakable bond? Especially for Tohr and Wellsie? Like, they were IT. And when she was killed way back when in...Z's? book it felt like this was something with no resolution. No coming back for Tohrment, the most level of all the brothers. He was stable and sure in those first two books, where all the other brothers were ticking time bombs with demons and dragons and too many scars to count. They were all on the precipice of losing it, where Tohr was the only one with a soft place to land.
And here we are so many books later and it's the complete opposite. Every one else is happily mated, while Tohr is fighting his heart out night after night, refusing to feed, knowing only the desperate need for vengeance. Getting to this book felt like we've been to hell and back with this vampire above all the others.
The one who really surprised me was No'One. The whole Chosen bit isn't my favorite. It drags.
I enjoyed Beth, Mary and Bella, and lost my way with Cormia, and I thought that's what I'd be facing in this one. The traditional roles, stilted language, the awe over the female of worth and tendency to treat them with gloves.
...But No'One made sense to me.
She was like leaning closer because someone is whispering and you want to hear what they have to say. She was direct, made no excuses for her lot in life and the awful decisions she'd made. The relationship between her and Xhex was great to see, but it was her and Tohr that made me believe in their year. It was this slow peeling of layers, moments of admission, letting the body say things the brain couldn't get on board with yet. No'One (who becomes Autumn in a very touching scene) is patience, and understanding. She and Tohr's history gives a foundation to this circle they're in together. And Tohr almost throws it all away. And the end? I almost dropped the book for how hard I had to shout things.
The resolution lost me. The momentum had peaked and then it just was all, "Oh, okay," and we're back to just handing out get out jail free cards like it's their birthday. Sure, they ended it on a sweet, back to the beginning sort of way, but no.
There's a lot of John and Xhex, which I loved. Pages melt when it comes to those two. I'm glad to be back in the mansion and surrounded by the main brotherhood again. I loved John's book, but it became so much about the younger vamps that I missed the originals. Again.
Although, where is Rhage and Mary? And Z and Bella? Rehv and Ehlena? I love that couples have been getting side stories in other people's books, like John and Xhex here, and Wrath and Beth in Rehv's book and V and Jane in Payne's book, but my two favorite vamps have disappeared with their shellans.
Was their a vacation to somewhere else that I didn't know about?
There's changes happening with Xcor and his Band of Bastards, which just further shows how much the world building in these books confuses me. I don't understand why the Lessers are such formidable foes, making it necessary for these badass, deadly vampires to be out in rotation every night dealing with them. It's like arming yourself to the teeth to deal with mosquitoes.
Annoying, yes? But suspenseful? No.
I guess that's why Xcor will become necessary now that Lash is gone. And also, the glymera? I know Wrath is king over vampires, but where are these other vampires? Not just that they all left during the raid, and went...well, I'm not sure where, but that this whole society of vampires feels...weak. These glymera are like more mosquitoes to contend with. Sometimes I don't see this world the Brotherhood are reigning over. I'd like to be more exposed to the subjects to really understand Wrath's place as king. Because otherwise everyone is talking and worrying over a lot of invisible nonsense.
And so now we're ready for Blay and Qhuinn and ALL THE ANGST. And probably 800 more side stories.
I wonder if Z or Rhage are back from their vacation.