Lover Enshrined

J.R. Ward
2008, Paranormal Romance
Signet, $7.99, 534 pages, Amazon ASIN 0451222725
Part of a series

Grade: B-
Sensuality: Hot

Wrath, Rhage, Zsadist, Butch, and Vishous – each had his big romance featured in his own book detailing his devotion to his mate. Through it all, readers have come to know and love each of them both separately and as a loyal member of the Black Dagger Brotherhood. Now it’s time for Phury’s book – you know, that gentleman who suffered untold years of deprivation in an attempt to save his twin Zsadist. If ever a brother deserved a great story, it’s him and this is his book...well, yeah, okay...sorta.

For the most part, reviews of any book in this series should come with a spoiler warning since each book builds significantly on the earlier ones. If you have not read the previous books, this review is sure to enter spoiler territory somewhere along the way. That said, I am a firm believer that this series should be read in order and, seriously, it is much more rewarding to do so.

As a faithful follower, I relish the relationships between the brothers as much as the romance. When I read Lover Awakened, my favorite of the series, I was as touched by the relationship between twins Zsadist and Phury as I was by the romance. Butch and Vishous played another dramatic brotherly duo while the evolution of Wrath as king and Zsadist’s growth - from the brother avoided by all to a respected trainer of recruits - are other examples of moving developments with nothing to do with romance. All of it drew me strongly and kept me glued to each book as I marked my mental calendar for the next release. Each and every book in the series left me with a hole that could not be filled by another book for weeks. The romances were great, but the Brotherhood carried the day in my mind.

Still, I am a romance reader, first and foremost, and regardless of my love for the Brotherhood, I am also always looking for my romance fix and expect this series to provide a great romantic story that takes front and center in the midst of all the action. But a warning to those who read this series mostly for the romance – you may need to develop some patience in finding it among a number of ongoing storylines. It is rumored that Ward is shifting the series to urban fantasy and this latest episode seems to verify that.

Phury, as readers saw in Lover Unbound, has agreed to serve as the Primale of the Chosen. As Primale, it is his duty to ensure the continuation of the Brotherhood by impregnating the Chosen and, therefore, keeping the bloodline strong. The Chosen number around 40 and the Primale certainly has his work cut out for him. There are other males in this series I am sure would enjoy the job, but not gentle-natured Phury. This brother completely lacks the callousness required to bed 40 women regularly and sire hundreds of children.

Readers were introduced to Cormia in Lover Unbound as the member of the Chosen selected to be the Primale’s First Mate (yes, he has a mate even though he beds all the Chosen – I too was confused). An unwilling participant, Cormia can hardly believe it when the huge, fearsome looking Primale releases her from her binds on the sacrificial wedding bed and refuses to force the issue. Phury and Cormia’s relationship gets off to a real non-start and instead of pages of interaction between the two, there are pages of Cormia. Getting to know her translates into learning about the Chosen and I must say - it is a remarkably boring world.

The romance moves so slowly that it seems to run in place for the majority of the book. This notion is heightened by the numerous pages between each of Phury and Cormia’s encounters. Equal in page count is the story of a trio of young recruits, John, Quinn, and Blake, as well as Rehvenge and his entourage. At one point I counted 11 characters with lead potential in addition to the Brothers and their mates. More than once, I lost the progression of the romance in the middle of it all.

My level of enthusiasm for Phury and Cormia’s romance was low. Possibly it was a lack of chemistry or my impression that Cormia’s character had little depth, but I think it mostly had to do with Phury’s dismal outlook on life. Reading about Phury depressed me. I found myself preferring the non-romance portions of the book.

The sensuality rating comes close to Burning since there are a couple of scenes with secondary characters that qualify as such. The sensuality between the leads however is more of a pure Hot rating.

Since the Brotherhood has been my primary motivation in following this series so closely, I found myself missing the Brothers who didn't play much of a role here. Zsadist remains a strong secondary character as Phury’s twin and the mate of the woman Phury has loved from afar. But...despite this reminiscing over previous books, and all the new characters, and the ongoing storylines, and the biggest “to be continued” ending yet, I remain on board with Ward and her development of the series, wherever she may take it. No doubt my qualified recommendation for Lover Enshrined will be considered controversial, but reading it left me with the same feeling I've had after reading the earlier books in the series, and I remain enthralled with Ward's creation of the Brotherhood. I may not be a fan of urban fantasy but if that is the road she chooses to take, I will follow – probably even into hardback.

-- Lea Hensley

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