Desert Isle Keeper Review

Dark Lover

J.R. Ward
2005, Vampire Romance
Signet, $6.99, 448 pages, Amazon ASIN 0451216954
Part of a series

Grade: A-
Sensuality: Hot

The first time I picked up this book, I put it down after reading the back. It was one more vampire book, one more series, one more niftily-named secret group...and the hero's name was Wrath. The book didn't sound bad, but with other books featuring similar elements gathering dust on my shelf, I didn't know if I'd find time to read it.

Last week while waiting for an oil change, I found the book in my hand again. I decided to read a few pages - the next thing I knew, I was on page 60, they were calling me over the intercom to tell me my car was ready, and I was seriously thinking of sitting in the parking lot and reading more.

Darius, a member of the Black Dagger Brotherhood (warrior vampires created to protect "regular" vampires from the Lessening Society), is on a mission. He wants Wrath, the king of the vamps who doesn't want to be king, to help his half-human daughter with her transition. Wrath is the only purebred vampire left and since many humans don't survive the transition, it is Darius's hope Wrath's blood will help her survive. Trouble is Wrath has little use for humans, unless it involves sex or killing them. The answer isn't no, it's hell no.

Suddenly Darius is killed by a bomb and his daughter, who doesn't know she is his daughter or half vampire, is completely alone and facing some pretty ugly situations in her own life. Wrath now feels he has no choice, he must help honor his dead brother's request; he can't leave Beth alone, unaware and unprotected.

There is a huge amount of world building going on here. And quite a few characters: the five other Vampires (Rhage, Zsadist, Phury, Vishous and Tohrment) of the brotherhood; a cop at loose ends; an unwanted female vamp; her brother, the doctor vamp; and a mix of bad guys who make up the Lessening Society. If this sounds over-stuffed, it's not - J. R. Ward has a great style of writing and she shines here.

Some scenes leave off and pick up in ways that led me to believe I may have missed something, yet I never felt out of the loop. Just the right amount of information is given, and the plots and characters weave together effortlessly. A short glossary in the front of the book helps the reader understand the world created by author Ward.

You will lose yourself in this world; it is different, creative, dark, violent, and flat-out amazing. Some more alone time with Wrath and Beth would have been nice, but we really aren't short-changed. This is a romance. The hero is a man's man who finds himself in love with his perfect other, and he isn't afraid to say it. At the same time the story is violent and the language may offend some people. These are not your classic vamps of old, listening to opera and wearing puffy shirts. These are some hard-ass men who listen to hip-hop; they are tattooed and built. You would not want to meet up with them in a dark alley because not only are they scary, they want to be. But it works; there is so much Alpha in these guys, but also is glimmer of light. Maybe it's because they love each other so much and will do what it takes to protect the brotherhood. They are completely all for one and one for all, even those who come off as lone wolves. But whatever it is, I want the next book, and I want it now.

My only true complaint is that there are loose ends. Wrath and Beth's story wraps up in full, and even if I never saw them again (and I think they will return in the series), my feeling is that their story is done. But it left me wanting more, frustrating, but a strong sign of how wonderful I found these characters. This isn't a stand-alone book, so know that going in, and if you want to spend more time in their world, at least until the second book is released, you can visit the site created for the series.

Even if you are so over vamps, think there is no new way to tell a story, or need a break from the same old thing, pick this one up! If you read only one paranormal this year, make it Dark Lover. I'm not sure how many books there will be - six, maybe - but for sure Lover Eternal (Rhage's book) comes out in March of 2006 and book three is Zsadist's story, as yet untitled and no release date given. I for one can't wait until March.

-- Sybil Cook

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