In the shadows of the night in Caldwell, New York, there's a deadly turf war going on between vampires and their slayers. There exists a secret band of brothers like no other-six vampire warriors, defenders of their race. Yet none of them relishes killing more than Wrath, the leader of The Black Dagger Brotherhood.
The only purebred vampire left on earth, Wrath has a score to settle with the slayers who murdered his parents centuries ago. But, when one of his most trusted fighters is killed-leaving his half-breed daughter unaware of his existence or her fate-Wrath must usher her into the world of the undead-a world of sensuality beyond her wildest dreams.
This book may be unsuitable for younger readers because it includes one or more of the following: sexual situations, drug use, abuse or violence, or other mature subject matter.
Dark Lover by J.R. Ward
After spending what ended up being months organizing, packing, throwing away, hauling, cleaning, and eventually somewhat settling into a new apartment (hence the lack of recent reviews), I decided to sit my sore muscles down and re-read a series that I fell in love with a few years ago. As hoped, I fell in love with it all over again and even grabbed some of the newer books that weren’t out when I last found myself in the land of the Black Dagger Brotherhood. First up: Dark Lover.
Judging Covers: I probably shouldn’t even judge. The first books in this series are old, and the cover designs seem to reflect both their age and the lack of design generally afforded unknown books (at the time, at least). The version you’ll see on 90% of the copies of this book is a somewhat blurry, monochromatic photo of some woman going at a guy’s neck. It’s not inaccurate, but it doesn’t truly capture the story or the series. I much prefer the cover of this book released by Piatkus Books (U.K.) to the monochromatic U.S. version. However, it seems that the newest copies have thc cover I’ve included here, and while there’s no sign of Wrath’s long hair, widow’s peak, or almost white green eyes, it’s definitely an improvement. In any case, this is one series where judging the books by their covers would be a big mistake.
The Verdict: It’s rare that I go all in on a paranormal series. Since they’re typically a bunch of magical, mystical happenings taking place just out of sight in our real world, it’s often hard for me to reconcile the author’s created world with the one we actually live in. But in Dark Lover and the rest of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, J.R. Ward has managed to build a vampire world inside ours by keeping it rather distinctly separate.
Beth is a very likeable, easy to relate to heroine, who’s just going about her rather unfulfilling day-to-day when a whole lot of strange starts happening. After narrowly escaping an attack during her walk home one night, she’s an anxious, nervous wreck, trying to keep her wits about her but jumping at every little noise. And then a huge, dangerous-looking man appears at her door, and in a fuzzy, dream-like state, things get heated quickly.
Wrath is the unseated king of the vampire race, choosing to fight alongside his warrior brothers instead of wearing the crown. As members of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, these male vampires have essentially been bred to be bigger and stronger than all others, and they’re responsible for protecting the race from the soulless “lessers” whose goal is to decimate them. There’s a lot of mythology at play here that (oddly enough) doesn’t conflict too heavily with Christianity. Though there is a Scribe Virgin who is essentially some kind of goddess, and an Omega who is something akin to Satan, there’s also mention of a Creator throughout the series, not to mention angels who join the story in later books. It wouldn’t have been a deal-breaker for me if the series had eschewed known religion, but J.R. Ward’s managing to incorporate her mythology into at least the fundamentals of modern faith shows some pretty incredible creativity. Now, on to the story…
Beth soon learns that she’s half-vampire, the daughter of Wrath’s fallen friend Darius and an unknown human woman, and since in this world, vampires don’t actually become vampires until they’re in their early twenties, Wrath has shown up to help her through her transition — something that is frighteningly painful and apparently carries a very real risk of death. Wrath initially does it out of obligation to his late friend and Brother, but he soon finds himself head over heels for Beth.
Adding a bit of “realism” to the story is the fact that Beth isn’t immediately yanked out of the human world. She has no problem leaving her job or her apartment behind, but she maintains some connection to Butch, a very rough-around-the-edges police friend of hers who sees the danger in Wrath and does his ineffective but reckless/courageous best to protect her. Of course, she needs no protecting from Wrath, the epitome of the alpha male. Once bonded to her, he’s pretty much incapable of allowing any harm to come to her, and that reverence extends to the Brothers and the way they treat her. But as quickly as their relationship moves, this is no trite instalove. The characters, their story, and the world around them all have a depth that keeps me coming back for another read every couple of years.
Dark Lover by J.R. Ward is unlike any other paranormal series I’ve read and much better than most of the other series I’ve read…of any genre. There’s romance and danger, good vs. evil, mystery, camaraderie, lots of sexy times, and pretty amazing storytelling in general. There’s a whole cast of characters who are much more than background and each have their own time in the spotlight as the series continues. If you haven’t read the series, crawl out from under your rock and do so now. Hell, if you have read it, pick it up and read it again. The romantic, dangerous, sexy vampire world J.R. Ward has created is easy to get lost in and impossible to put down.
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