Desert Isle Keeper Review

Lover Revealed

J.R. Ward
2007, Vampire Romance
Onyx, $7.99, 455 pages, Amazon ASIN 0451412354
Part of a series

Grade: A-
Sensuality: Hot

When I pick up a Black Dagger Brotherhood book, I know that within minutes I will be completely immersed in a gripping tale that leaves me not caring a bit if I’m reading about a male-dominated world where tormented vampire warriors have ridiculous names, use extreme slang, and that their leather-clad bodies are tattooed and pierced. To me, it’s an entirely different world that I don’t attempt to liken to present day, but one that makes me regret each time I must leave it.

The Brothers are a group of extreme warrior vampires trained to protect civilian vampires from the lessers, a group of creatures whose sole purpose is to end the vampire race. Since vampires must be born into the ranks of the Brotherhood, there are few members and their society is a closed one. This is the story of tough ex-cop Butch O’Neal who, although human, is accepted into the fringes of the Brotherhood and, therefore, presents the greatest dilemma of this series to date – why does this highly secretive society so readily embrace Butch?

Butch is a hard-edged, smart talking, streetwise ex-cop who, through a bizarre series of events, fell in with the Brotherhood six months earlier. He now lives in their compound, dresses in their clothes, eats their food, drives their cars, and drinks their Scotch. To Butch it feels more than right to live with the Brothers but, in a sense, he is still where he has always been - on the outside looking in. Unable to return to the human world and unable to fight by the Brothers’ side despite his brute strength, Butch is little more than a glorified chauffeur. And, more depressing, there’s Marissa, the beautiful aristocratic vampire who consumes his thoughts and refuses to have anything to do with him.

Since the Blind King rejected her as a mate (Dark Lover), the glymera (aristocracy) has taken great care to avoid Marissa. She is the unwanted forsaken female, the defective spinster virgin, and the one left utterly behind with no hope of a mate. Marissa feels condemned to live a life alone caged in her beautiful, lavish nightmare. For a short while just a few months ago though, she had reason to hope for much more, but Butch spurned her as well.

While attempting to save the life of a civilian vampire alone one night, Butch is captured by the lessers and left for dead after being forced to endure indescribable torture. Vischous (aka V), Butch’s roommate and the Brother who has foreseen his importance to the Brotherhood, rescues Butch and realizes that something far more serious than torture has occurred. Contemplating how close to death Butch truly is, V knows Marissa may be the answer. Once notified of Butch’s grave condition, she rushes to his bedside and lovingly nurses him to recovery. However, upon regaining consciousness, Butch is furious to find Marissa in his presence because he knows she has been exposed to the unknown contaminate now within him.

Initially Marissa and Butch’s relationship rests heavily in the realm of the Big Misunderstanding. Once resolved, Butch’s actions towards Marissa are nothing short of adoring tenderness, while Marissa is unable to express herself so easily. In all fairness, Marissa is undergoing some big changes in her life and if you thought Marissa’s character too weak for a heroine’s role, think again. She drops her pitiful, helpless attitude and looks only to herself for strength to the point where I could hear the strains of I Am Woman playing loudly in the background. Exercising her newfound independence, Marissa does so occasionally at the cost of Butch’s feelings. He makes the mistake of trying to protect her one too many times and she retorts “You’re protecting me? Christ, I could lift you over my head with one arm, Butch. There’s nothing you can do physically that I can’t do better. So don’t do me any favors.” Okay, I guess I didn’t recall that female vampires are stronger than even men of Butch’s conditioning and size and admit she does have a valid point, but, man, that’s low! Still, even if the ride is sometimes rough, the romance is intense and immensely rewarding in the end.

Equally important is the deep friendship between Butch and V. There is such loyalty, trust, and devotion between these friends that at times I felt a little uncomfortable with its intensity, but their relationship works into a powerful revelation later in the book. This series' signature, in my mind, is the moving relationships between the Brothers, as evidenced most recently by the stirring bond between Zsadist and Phury in Lover Awakened, my favorite in this series.

The evolution and purpose of Butch’s character was full of surprises and there was no guessing this ending. As for the other characters, John gets an attitude, Rhage and Phury’s appearances are non-eventful, Wrath’s presence is engaging, while Zsadist – oh Z, my favorite - puts in some good time as the recruits' teacher and also has an endearing scene with Bella. And it’s sworn-worthy Rehvenge whose story I now most anticipate, although V, who holds great interest for me as well, is slated next in the series.

Although Lover Revealed can stand on its own to a limited degree, it is my strong recommendation that you read this series in order. The world-building and the development of the relationships are not to be missed and, as a stand alone, I doubt I would have graded this book higher than a B-. I struggled with the sensuality rating because it runs on the harder side of Hot, but didn’t think it quite reached Burning. And in regard to the A- grade, it was my slight aggravation with Marissa that kept this from that perfect A.

I view this series as a continuing family saga and, therefore, feel I am reviewing far more than Butch and Marissa’s romance. But even with the definite “to be continued” nature of the series, this book’s ending was purely quality romance, without an obvious cliffhanger to mar its effectiveness. Oh, but don’t let me forget the teasers I haven't mentioned - they will leave readers speculating for months and, somehow, that is just the way it should be.

LLB: I was uninitiated into this series when I read Lover Revealed. Though less enthusiastic about it than Lea (my grade is a straight B), it's easy to see why Ward's series is so addictive. I plan to catch up on the earlier books as soon as I can fit them in. I felt the sensuality was actually more Burning than Hot, but Lea's points are well taken.

-- Lea Hensley

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