Lover Eternal

J.R. Ward
2006, Vampire Romance
Signet, $6.99, 464 pages, Amazon ASIN 0451218043
Part of a series

Grade: C
Sensuality: Warm

I’ve been on an Urban Fantasy/paranormal kick lately so I was happy to read the new one by Ms. Ward for review. I read her first in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series when it came out, and though it wasn’t a DIK, I did enjoy it enough to be looking forward to the second - in spite of a few quirks. Now that I’ve read the second, I doubt I’ll be looking for the third.

The Black Dagger Brotherhood is a group of warrior vampires who are charged with protecting other “normal” vampires from the lessers who are soulless vampire hunters. Described as having “immense physical and mental strength”, the Brotherhood work together and have in effect created their own family. The scariest of the brothers is Rhage. He’s gorgeous but cursed with an uncontrollable beast (literally) within. He must use sex or violence to release tension so that his inner monster doesn’t emerge. When he meets a human woman, Mary Luce, who draws him like no other, Rhage is terrified that he will hurt her if he acts on his feelings.

Mary has been through a lot in her life, and at her lowest point even considered ending it all. In an effort to help others, she volunteers for a suicide hotline. When one of her callers follows her home, Mary is drawn into a world she didn’t know existed. Her efforts to help the mute young man bring her to the attention of the Brotherhood and once she meets Rhage, there’s no going back for either of them.

As I read this one I worked hard to figure out why this one was more of a chore to read than other urban fantasies. Things I’d noticed in the first book came to mind. I could get past the over-the-top names for these guys but I did get a little tired of “my brother.” When heard every other sentence, it palled pretty quickly. The fact that these guys are supposed to be the chosen ones to protect their people and yet each of them is scarred and tortured physically and emotionally is a bit of a stretch. And don’t even get me started on the whole Scribe Virgin thing. Though these things bothered me, they’re only part of what drives the plot and love story. So what was it?

I guess it all comes down to Mary. If you’ve ever read Christine Feehan’s Carpathian series, you’ll have an idea of how this goes. She suffers beautifully and is described at various times by the brothers as someone they adore and need to cherish. She’s honored and worshiped by Rhage and the rest of the brothers. None of that is bad, but boy does it wear thin after a bit. It also feeds into something else for me: I realized as I read that I like my heroines to be partners in all ways. The heroine doesn’t have to be kick-ass (though I do like that), but I do need her to be proactive and involved. In the world created by Ms. Ward, the females are to be protected. All well and good. But that means every time something goes down, Mary waits for the men to return. And that makes her a lot less interesting to me. It’s not only the human women either, the set-up for the next book has a female vampire as heroine and she’s going to need protecting as well.

I struggled with a grade for this one. What I’ve just described in that last paragraph is a personal preference and did affect my enjoyment, but the grade arises more out of those plot points and the repetitive nature of so many of the scenes then anything else. The action plotting and backstory for these characters was weak. What did work was Rhage and Mary’s romance. These are both wounded people and when they finally (finally!) learn to trust each other, they’re able to overcome some of the pain in their lives. I believed that they loved each other. I did not like or believe in the ending. It combined more angst and schmaltz and was unbelievable – and that’s saying something considering Ms. Ward’s entire world is made-up.

I know others will like this one better then I did. I guess I’ll just have to wait for the next one by Keri Arthur and Lilith Saintcrow to satisfy my paranormal hunger.

-- Jane Jorgenson

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