J. R. Ward – "Lover Awakened"

15 Nov

GENRE: Romance / Paranormal
PUBLISHED: Signet Eclipse Books, 2006

The back blurb:
“In the shadows of the night in Caldwell, New York, a deadly turf war rages between vampires and their slayers. There exists a secret band of brothers like no other – six vampire warriors, defenders of their race. Of these, Zsadist is t he most terrifying member of the Black Dagger Brotherhood.

A former blood slave, the vampire Zsadist still bears the scars from a past filled with suffering and humiliation. Renowned for his unquenchable fury and sinister deeds, he is a savage feared by humans and vampires alike. Anger is his only companion and terror his only passion – until he rescues a beautiful female from the evil Lessening Society.
Bella is instantly entranced by the seething power Zsadist possesses. But even as their desire for each other begins to overtake them, Zsadist’s thirst for vengeance against Bella’s tormentors drives him to the brink of madness. Now Bella must help her lover overcome the wounds of his tortured past and find a future with her …”

Lover Awakened reverses the roles the hero and heroine had in Lover Eternal. In LA it is the heroine, Bella, who does the pursuing and it’s the hero, Zsadist, who is scared to commit. And he has every reason to because in his past he was abused in every way possible. The main conflict between Bella and Zsadist isn’t just his fear of commitment, it’s his aversion to any physical contact whatsoever (a problem the standard commitment-shy hero sure hasn’t). Large parts of the story between Bella and Zsadist deal with this aversion and Bella’s (and Zsadist’s) battle to overcome it. Ward does a good job with that- it’s very emotional and touching to read.

But then, that is the problem I have with the love story between Bella and Zsadist. There is so much focus on overcoming Zsadist’s fear that there is no room for anything else for a long time. This made it a bit hard to believe that they could live together and have anything to talk about. And it sure didn’t help that Bella was short-changed in the bargain. She went through a lot herself (kidnapped by the Lessers) but she conveniently forgot about it. I don’t know, but I thought this a missed opportunity to show that Bella and Zsadist had something “together”. Instead, what seems to be true for all Brothers, is especially true for Zsadist. He is such a tortured character there just is no room for anything else, even the heroine. She was active, she went after what she wanted (=Zsadist), but that was all there was to her in my opinion. And sometimes I even felt uncomfortable with her going after Zsadist so determinedly because the only thing that distinguished her behaviour from the behaviour of Zsadist’s former Mistress is Bella’s willingness to back of when needed and Zsadist’s attraction to her.

Zsadist himself is true to his name. He doesn’t see himself as worthy of Bella. At every opportunity he pushes Bella away, hurting her with the things he says and his behaviour. He wants her to turn to his twin brother, Phury, because Phury is everything he is not. Some serious things have to happen before he finally changes his behaviour and starts to connect with his brother, the other members of the Brotherhood – and Bella.

Another thing is, a lot of time is spent with other characters. There is Zsadist’s relationship with his twin brother Phury and Phury’s drug problem. There is the Lesser who abducted Bella and is obsessed with her. He wants to get her back (weakening the Lesser Society even more as a serious threat to the Brotherhood). There is the pretransition vampire John and how he deals with his new life. And there is Bella’s brother Revhenge, who introduces a new element to the paranormal mix. This gives the story a wider scope (and I like that) but I also thought that because of that the balance in LA was off, that the romance needed more space.

All the irritations are there in full force in this third installment of J. R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series. I even think a new one is emerging to be added to the list: Ward likes to leave the reader guessing what happened and spring it later at a convenient moment. I found this a most irritating move and when it was used on a crucial plot point it was just cheap. Zsadist knew from the beginning that Bella was nearing her needing time (am I the only one who think it should be nheeding?) and there was never any mention of it until it hit them all. I think this is cheap because in the scene when Zsadist learns this the reader is in his head the whole time except for the crucial instance when the doctor tells Zsadist about it.

Zsadist went over to the doctor. “What?”
Havers drew him into the corner and spoke softly.
Z was stunned speechless when the male was finished.
“You sure?”

(p. 75)

That’s all the reader gets. Until page 269 when the needing hits Bella and the Brotherhood.

But despite all that, I have to admit I still had fun reading this novel and Ward’s teasers for the next novels worked again.

See also: “You Feel Me?”

Would I recommend this novel? Yes.

Will I read this novel again? Probably yes (as part of the series).

Grade: 4 / 5


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