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Monday, May 3, 2010

'Lover Mine' Black Dagger Brotherhood #8 by J.R. WARD


From the BLURB:

In the darkest corners of the night in Caldwell, New York, a conflict like no other rages. Long divided as a terrifying battleground for the vampires and their enemies, the city is home to a band of brothers born to defend their race: the warrior vampires of the Black Dagger Brotherhood.

John Matthew has come a long way since he was found living among humans, his vampire nature unknown to himself and to those around him. After he was taken in by the Brotherhood, no one could guess what his true history was- or his true identity. Indeed, the fallen Brother Darius has returned, but with a different face and a very different destiny. As a vicious personal vendetta takes John into the heart of the war, he will need to call up on both who he is now and who he once was in order to face off against evil incarnate.

Xhex, a symphath assassin, has long steeled herself against the attraction between her and John Matthew. Having already lost one lover to madness, she will not allow the male of worth to fall prey to the darkness of her twisted life. When fate intervenes, however, the two discover that love, like destiny, is inevitable between soul mates.


So, try as I might, I could not compress this review down – I just had so much to say about this kick-ass book! So I conveniently broke down my review with subheadings, to aid your reading and my mental haywire while writing this review. Enjoy!


Subplots

It is a slow start. I’ve read reviews that warned about this, but there was a cynical part of me that wondered if things would ever pick up.

The storyline cuts back and forth to tell quite a few subplots, and at first they seem random and haphazard – but by book’s end they all coalesce.

John Matthew reads Darius’s diary and learns about his friendship with Tohrment. The diary segues into extended flashbacks to the 1600’s, in what reminded me of ‘In the Name of the Rose’ (1986 Christian Slater, Sean Connery film) as Darius takes Tohrment on his first Brotherhood assignment, tracking down a kidnapped glymera female.

There’s also a story about a reality TV show called ‘Paranormal Investigations’ that’s filming in South Carolina. This storyline really frustrated me – because it was so out of left field, and told from the POV of a human. It was doubly frustrating when this story came on the heels of pivotal Xhex/JM scenes.

There are also scenes set in the Chosen’s paradise. It is here that the Scribe Virgin’s daughter, Payne, spars with Wrath and laments her ‘imprisonment’. Payne’s story is next up in the BDB series, and even though I was skeptical at Payne’s book following Xhex’s (because both females are warriors, and a little bit similar?) this future storyline is actually very intriguing and beautifully set up.

It’s not as though these side-stories aren’t adding to the build-up of tension or new layers of characterization (or quite pivotal to future plotlines) but when the stakes are so high there is a certain amount of frustration that the story doesn’t have more ‘get up and go’, so to speak.

Lash = villain we love to hate

There were two subplots that really worked for me, however.
The first is the Warden’s traditional ‘bad guy’ POV. In previous books, the Warden has told the story of various lessening society villains. I’m not a big fan of such side-stories and I normally skim-read all the lesser POV stuff. It’s not a reflection on the Warden’s writing; I just don’t have much attention span when the Brother’s stories are so much more compelling. That wasn’t the case in ‘Lover Mine’. Because Lash is the lessening ‘baddie’ in this book and readers have seen his transformation from jerk-off Brother-in-training to son of the all-evil Omega - I think as readers we have more invested in this particular bad-guy subplot. And then there’s the fact that Lash is such a *good* villain. He’s really truly awful – dripping in evil, a true head-case masochist. Getting in Lash’s head is both fascinating, and creepy… sort of like reading a car wreck, you want to look away but you can’t help but be fascinated.

He enjoyed feeling like a god.
As whimpering breached the kid’s chapped lips, Lash relented, easing back. With a quick lick, he cleaned off the blade and flicked the weapon shut. “You’re going to like where you end up. I promise you.”

Team Qhuay

The second sub-plot is Qhuinn and Blay’s romance. In ‘Lover Enshrined’ there was a big reveal – that Blay is gay and in love with his best friend, Qhuinn. They shared an oh-so-steamy kiss and since then things have been… awkward, at best.

Qhuinn is a glymera son, but he is all but disowned by his family because of a genetic ‘defect’ that gave him one blue eye, one green (heterochromia). Qhuinn has never felt worthy or wanted – and that defect has led Qhuinn to do some questionable things. Mainly, his desire to screw anything with a hole – male, female, multiple partners or one-on-one. Qhuinn is, by his own account, a man-whore. His one exception to the ‘screw anything with legs’ rule is Blay. Because Blay actually means something to him – whereas his random sexual exploits are nothing but scratching an itch, Blay is his best friend and of worth to him.

I loved the evolution of Qhuinn and Blay’s story.
I know that in the past the Warden has ‘ummed and ahhed’ about writing an M/M romance in what has previously been a hetero series. But with ‘Lover Mine’ she takes the plunge and beautifully sets up Qhuinn and Blay’s future plot (whether that is ‘HEA’ remains to be read).
I know there’s a big divide amongst BDB fans about this M/M romance – especially because the Warden previously said that Qhuinn would have a shellan. But I am completely in lust with ‘Qhuay’. I am a fan of M/M romances anyway, but I think it’s more to do with the fact that their story has been a real journey for readers, and Ward is handling their relationship beautifully and sensitively.
Even those who are firmly against an M/M plot have to admit that their romance makes for captivating reading. Even more so with the introduction of Qhuinn’s cousin, Saxton, who proves to be a viable love interest for Blay. I was all prepared to resent Saxton and his intruding on the Qhuay romance – but I actually found myself begrudgingly liking the guy, and rooting for his his little romance with Blay.

“I lied. I’ve never been on a date before.” This got him a cocked brow and he had to laugh. “Yup, I’m a real player.”
Saxton’s suave air slipped and behind his eyes, true warmth glowed. “Well, I’m glad I was your first.”
Blay met the guy’s stare. “How did you know I was gay?”
“I didn’t. I merely hoped.”

There’s lots of angst with Qhuay, and you definitely get the impression that their story won’t be wrapped up any time soon. I am crossing my fingers that the Warden gives Qhuay their own book – but at the same time if theirs continues to be a secondary plot then she could really stretch it out… admittedly that could mean a lot of prolonged heartache, but it could also mean they remain a focus for a few books more.
Either way – I’m ecstatic with the Warden’s decision to pair these two up, and at this point I’ll take their story whatever way it comes.

John Matthew + Xhex… OMIGOD!

Xhex and Jon Matthew have an amazing story – and it’s pretty impressive that with all the subplots and side stories in ‘Lover Mine’, they hold their own as the stars of the book. Their pairing has been a while in the making – and I think all that back-story and pent-up sexual frustration helped make ‘Lover Mine’ a truly explosive and smoking hot HEA for these two.

Besides, the story of the two of them was written in the language of collision; they were ever crashing into each other and ricocheting away – only to find themselves pulled back into another impact. She was his pyrocant and there was nothing he could do to change that. But he could sure as shit cut the bungee cord that was torturing him.

There was a lot of pressure for the Warden to tell John Matthew’s story. He is definitely a fan favorite – both because he’s a male of worth, but also because he’s the only brother whose back story has been completely open to readers… to the point where we know more about his background than any of the characters. I think readers feel closest to JM, and therefore quite protective. So it makes sense (in a weird, fan-girl way) that we want the best for our boy. We’ve seen Xhex put him through the emotional ringer in ‘Lover Avenged’, and now we want her to step-up and be worthy of JM’s love. And the Warden does an absolutely fabulous job of getting readers on Xhex’s side in a feat of characterization.

I was always sort of indifferent about Xhex. But in ‘Lover Mine’ she becomes a firm favorite. I liked the fact that she stands out from the other shellan’s and female characters – she is a tomboy to their nurturing mother hens. All of Ward’s previous female characters have been of the similar ‘woman savior’ archetype – whose love and tenderness have melted the hearts of their manly Hellren warriors. Xhex is a prickly character, in contrast. She has demons in her past and some deep-seated personal problems... she's also a ball-busting ass-kicker.

Xhex and the other Shellan’s

There are no scenes with the other Shellan’s in ‘Lover Mine’. Doc Jane makes brief appearances, as does Ehlena – but those scenes are more about logistics since those two are the doctor/nurse for the compound.

On the one hand I was a little disappointed by the lack of the other Shellan’s. Not only do I love revisiting their characters and marking their relationship progress, but I really think if they had been written in it could have been a nice contrast to Xhex. It might have been nice to see how she interacted with those ‘traditional’ females who are so very different from her tough-as-nails assassin persona. I especially would have liked to read Xhex and Marissa interacting (smackdown!)

On the other hand, Xhex constantly being surrounded by the Brother’s illustrated how well she fit in with the warriors. She really goes toe-to-toe with them, and holds her own in battle. But still, I would have liked more interaction between Xhex and the other Shellan’s… if only because some Shellan’s (like Mary!) really haven’t made cameos in quite a while, this is despite the Warden telling fans that she still has subplots in mind for them.

Future books

‘Lover Mine’ I think is quite a transitional book in the ‘Blackdagger Brotherhood’ series. New characters are introduced. Secondary characters once relegated to the sidelines are bought to the foreground. And several future plots are set-up. JR Ward has said that her series is currently open-ended, thanks to her ever-increasing success and popularity. Thanks to that open-endedness a whole new crop of characters have been invented and tangled plots woven in ‘Lover Mine’. I, for one, am *dying* for Tohr’s story. And Lassiter’s. And Trez & iAm’s. But there are a few introductions and characterization’s that I’m not thrilled about…

I hate Layla

I don’t like Layla. I’ll just put that out there. I haven’t liked her since she first stepped into the series in Rhage’s book, ‘Lover Eternal’, and I still don’t like her in ‘Lover Mine’. I think it was just a case of the Warden writing Layla as a very naïve, sugary-sweet ‘Mary Sue’ type character. She just rubs me the wrong way. I can’t really put my finger on the precise reason for my dislike… maybe it’s because she’s described as a ‘Lolita’ type woman, all virginal innocence but with the body of a siren. I don’t know how many female readers can really relate or empathize with her plight when she’s described thusly.

I actually really hope she isn’t down to become a Shellan. And if she is I really, really hope she isn’t going to be Tohr’s shellan.

Tohr is one of my favorite brothers (after Zsadist, Qhuinn and Blay) and I really hope his book is next after Payne’s…. but I *really* hope and pray that Layla isn’t his HEA. I also hope she isn’t Trez’s. Or iAm’s. Okay, so I really don’t like that Chosen!

Wrap-up

‘Lover Mine’ has a few pitfalls – mainly the crisscrossing, confusing subplots that don’t always make immediate sense and detract from the more interesting Xhex/JM and Qhuinn/Blay stories. But that’s only one drawback in a book that packs quite a punch.

‘Lover Mine’ isn’t my favorite BDB installment (‘Lover Awakened’ still holds that placement) but it is certainly a wonderful addition to a much-loved series.

4/5

6 comments:

  1. Awesome review!!

    Qhuay blew me away. JM and Xhex were super hot.

    I hate Layla too!!! Totally whiny, blah blah blah.

    I'm curious to see where she goes from here....

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  2. Great review - nice set up. I hate Layla too - if she ends up with Qhuinn I'm turning in my BDB fangirl card.

    I have some mixed emotions about this book and am not sure if I'll review it or not...I kind of feel like really it was Xhex's story (which is not a bad thing).

    I liked the friction between Qhuay, and I liked Saxton.

    And yes, many openings for future stories in this book!

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  3. I haven't read anything from Ward yet. Might give it a try if I run across it.

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  4. LOved your review!!!

    I felt the same way about Saxton LOL

    I HATE Layla! I HOPe she gets kileed of something LOL seriously, she better not end up NOBODY"S shellan.... she is freaking annoying!

    I cant wait for Payne's story! How cool was her and V?? awwwwww

    and No'one???

    I loved this book! =)

    Team Qhuay all the way!!!

    xxoo

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  5. Phew. I thought I was the only one who hated Layla... turns out there's a whole movement on the fanboards against this chosen. I think part of why I liked Payne so much was that she's the 'anti-Layla'.

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  6. "I especially would have liked to read Xhex and Marissa interacting (smackdown!)"
    <- I would loved that too. Agree about Layla. She is soo nice. *ick* I really like Payne I think. ANd I have to say I don't like Saxton but more out of complete adoration for TEam Qhuay. Me don't wants anything else.
    Great review hon!

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