Received from the Publisher
Qhuinn, son of no one, is used to being on his own. Disavowed from his bloodline, shunned by the aristocracy, he has finally found an identity as one of the most brutal fighters in the war against the Lessening Society. But his life is not complete. Even as the prospect of having a family of his own seems to be within reach, he is empty on the inside, his heart given to another....
Blay, after years of unrequited love, has moved on from his feelings for Qhuinn. And it’s about time: The male has found his perfect match in a Chosen female, and they are going to have a young—just as Qhuinn has always wanted for himself. It’s hard to see the new couple together, but building your life around a pipe dream is just a heartbreak waiting to happen. As he’s learned firsthand.
Fate seems to have taken these vampire soldiers in different directions... but as the battle over the race’s throne intensifies, and new players on the scene in Caldwell create mortal danger for the Brotherhood, Qhuinn finally learns the true definition of courage, and two hearts who are meant to be together... finally become one.
There has been a romance brewing in the Brotherhood mansion for many years now . . . it started as friendship, progressed to unrequited love, fitful lust and finally, brutal rejection. Now the bonds that tie these two are all but irrevocably broken.
Qhuinn is the young star of the Black Dagger Brotherhood – a dedicated bodyguard to his best friend, John Matthew, and one fighter who isn’t afraid to risk his life for the cause. He’s rapidly on his way to becoming an indispensable warrior, even if he isn’t officially part of the Brotherhood, and could never be, because of the heterochromia that marks him as inferior. Qhuinn has been shunned his entire life for his physical defect, and has never known a family’s love – so he’s making one of his own. The Chosen Layla is pregnant with Qhuinn’s child, a daughter he saw in a near-death vision. And while this child was not conceived in love, or even lust, both Qhuinn and Layla are excited to meet their young.
The warrior Blaylock, meanwhile, is still coming to terms with the knowledge that the man he professed to love is moving on and starting a family, with a woman . . . It wasn’t that long ago that Blay was admitting his true feelings to his best friend and fighting partner, and having Qhuinn twist a dagger in his heart when he replied that he could only envision life with a female. Now Blay has moved on with Saxton, Qhuinn’s savvy and sophisticated cousin, and he’s trying to love the man who is his first true lover . . . but Qhuinn still comes between them, even if Blay struggles to admit that the feelings he so wishes were buried are anything but.
While Qhuinn and Blay dance around one another, both desperately trying to come to terms with their true feelings and loving limitations, a coup is brewing. . . Xcor, leader of the Band of Bastards is working to overthrow King Wrath. And while one revolution brews, a royal wedding is being postponed by the Shadow Brothers, Trez & iAm, who are both going on the run so that Trez doesn’t have to enter into an arranged marriage that would make him King’s consort.
‘Lover At Last’ is the much-anticipated 11th book of J.R. Ward’s tremendously popular ‘Black Dagger Brotherhood’ series.
This is the one we’ve all been waiting (and hoping) for – ever since Blay & Qhuinn’s true feelings were made manifest, fans have been eagerly crossing their fingers for the Warden to dismiss mainstream paranormal romance conventions and write the M/M (male/male) romance we’ve all known has to brew between these two . . . and now she’s done it! Qhuinn and Blay’s romance is glorious – a heartwrenching, arcing story that takes them both to their lowest lows and triumphant highs – and leaves fans utterly replete. Less successful in this 11th instalment is the many overcrowded secondary character stories; but I’ll get to that.
First – the good . . . and Qhuinn & Blay are *so* good! These two have been on a romantic rollercoaster for many books now. Between Qhuinn’s rakish thirst for sexual connection with anyone and everyone (except his best friend, Blay) and Blay’s painful love from afar, and consequent rejection – these two have had a monumental love story brewing that’s had fans gushing and fuming in equal measure. There’s a lot riding on ‘Lover At Last’, because while the majority of fans have known for a while now that only a full-fledged book would appease the Qhuay romantics, some small-minded fans have been adamantly put-off by the thought of a homosexual Brotherhood coupling. To them I say – nothing – because I won’t waste my time. But to those who have been eagerly anticipating Qhuay I will say that the Warden holds nothing back – this is an M/M worthy of Josh Lanyon, and it’s among the most romantic of all the Brotherhood mating stories.
“I have loved you for years. I have been in love with you for years and years and years ... throughout school and training ... before transitions and afterward ... when you approached me and yes, even now that you're with Saxton and you hate me. And that ... shit ... in my fucking head locked me down, locked everything down ... and it cost me you.”
But, fair warning, the Warden drags these two through the emotional pits before she can even begin to start building them up – she has to examine why Qhuinn has never admitted his true feelings for Blay, and why Blay could never let Qhuinn go even while he’s been in a loving relationship with Saxton. And, to that end, I hope we haven’t seen the last M/M Brotherhood pairing with Qhuinn and Blay – because Saxton proves himself to be a rather enigmatic and worthy male in this book, and I'd love to see him get a happily ever after.
Now on to the not-so-good . . . and, actually, these are complaints that have been brewing for the last three books or so. Number one is that the Warden no longer seems to touch-base with past characters quite so much. This has been a common complaint for a few books now – fans have often pointed to the lack of Rhage & Mary updates, these two seeming to have fallen by the wayside pretty much since their book ‘Lover Eternal’ (despite being one of the fan-favourite couplings). But more recently fans were disappointed to not have a touch-base on John Matthew and Xhex’s relationship. And it happens again in ‘Lover At Last’ –we don’t get any scenes between the latest coupling of Tohr and No’One, which is especially disappointing since it felt like their coupling at the end of ‘Lover Reborn’ was still a work-in-progress, and something the Warden would monitor with updates in subsequent books.
It used to be that the Warden was quite good at keeping readers in-touch with past couples of the BDB world. Zsadist and Bella were frequently revisited in side-stories, as are Beth and Wrath (who, consequently, are set-up to be the focus of 12th book ‘The King’ in 2014). But now instead of feeding fans’ curiosity about the goings-on of mated Brothers and their Shellans, the Warden has been introducing new characters and side-stories . . . like that of Assail and Sola in ‘Lover At Last’. Sola being a human sent to spy on lone-wolf Assail, who gets more than she bargained for when her spying is detected – and Assail’s animal instincts piqued by this curious human female.
Now, in theory I like Assail/Sola – especially because it’s a human/vampire pairing that we haven’t had since Butch and Marissa (or, more technically, Rhage and Mary!). But I found myself frustrated whenever the Warden cut to their story, because I wasn’t as invested in them as I was more established characters – like Trez, iAm, Xcor, Qhuinn, Blay, Wrath, Beth etc, etc, etc. Especially when Wrath and Beth’s ongoing story was set-up in this book, as was Trez’s, not to mention Xcor and Layla . . . adding Assail and Sola to the pile was one too many.
The more successful side-stories were that of Trez & iAm – Shadow twins who have apparently been hiding quite a bit from the Brotherhood and fans alike. I’m not thrilled that another Chosen is set-up as Trez’s potential love interest . . . but I am thrilled that it seems a done-deal that Trez and iAm will both be getting books.
And then there’s Xcor – the ugly, scarred leader of the Band of Bastards, and possibly the only thing saving Layla from being universally despised by BDB readers. Perfect, verily beautiful Layla being paired with the scarred and despised Xcor is actually sort of genius – and while I’m still not invested or enamoured of her, I appreciate that her previously sickeningly Mary-Sue life is becoming layered, messy and complex . . . and I’m liking that, a lot.
All in all; ‘Lover At Last’ is a most satisfying book for those who have been Team Qhuay and had their fingers-crossed for a book that does them justice. ‘Lover At Last’ is that book – a perfect love story for two of the most popular BDB characters in the series. And while I wish previous characters would get more love from the Warden (while newer secondary characters could be hustled away) stories like Xcor and Layla’s, Trez and iAm’s would suggest that this is a series that still has a lot to offer . . .