J. R. Ward
Published 2008 534 pages
Summary (from the book jacket)
Fiercely loyal to the Black Dagger Brotherhood, Phury has sacrificed himself for the good of the race, becoming the male responsible for keeping the Brotherhood’s bloodlines alive. As Primale of the Chosen, he is obligated to father the sons and daughters who will ensure that traditions of the race survive, and that there are warriors to fight those who want all vampires extinguished.
As his first mate, the Chosen Cormia wants to win not only his body but his heart for herself. She is drawn to the noble responsibility behind the emotionally scarred male. But Phury has never allowed himself to know pleasure or joy. As the war with Lessening Society grows grim, tragedy looms over the Brotherhood’s mansion, and Phury must decide between duty and love….
Lover Enshrined is J. R. Ward’s sixth offering in her highly addictive Black Dagger Brotherhood vampire series. If you haven’t read any of J. R. Ward’s BDB series before Lover Enshrined isn’t the place to start. Its plot is far into a complex story arc that has been steadily building over the last three books, which may leave new readers feeling like they have arrived late to a party where everyone else is already intimately acquainted. So if you are not already familiar with the Brothers you need to start with Dark Lover, the first novel in this series, and read the books in order. Trust me, you’ll thank me later for this piece of advice (or maybe not, when you jonesing for your next fix of “book crack” as I’ve come to affectionately nick-name the BDB series.)
Lover Enshrined is Phury’s story. Phury is perhaps the most unlikely Brother. His sensitive, artistic temperament seems at odds with his vampire warrior duties. His vow of celibacy (a thing of the past now that he has “saved” his twin, Zsadist) also makes him an unlikely candidate in his new role as Primale of the Chosen. He is supposed to father children upon the Chosen, forty or so women of pure vampire bloodlines, and replenish the dwindling vampire gene-pool but finds himself with no desire for the task.
Phury has made it a life long habit to put the needs of others above his own and he finally reaches breaking point in Lover Enshrined when his death wish and drug addiction spiral out of control. This doesn’t exactly make Phury prime romantic hero material but then J. R. Ward has made a habit of breaking established romance boundaries and giving readers unlikely romantic heroes to fall in love with throughout the BDB series. Phury is no exception and even though his near constant inner monologue of low self esteem issues made me want to smack him on occasion I was still rooting for him to get his act together with Cormia before it was too late.
A drug addict as a romance hero was never going to be easy to pull off but J. R. Ward manages it well enough. Cormia though, is another story. I personally found Cormia hard to relate to. Maybe it is because she came from the Sanctuary and had effectively lived her entire life in another dimension but whatever the reason she had little character development during the story.
Previous female characters in the BDB novels have had as much depth as their male counterparts – Beth, Mary, Marissa and Bella in particular were not only just as interesting as their hellren but were also characters you could identify with. Cormia remains something of a mystery, even at the end of the book. Readers know that she loves Phury but the motivations behind those feelings aren’t clear, apart from she finds him attractive and a male of worth.
Lover Enshrined is a fantastically good book but it lacks the relationship focus that made earlier novels in this series, Lover Eternal and Lover Awakened in particular, such huge romance hits. That isn’t a criticism though, as much as I love those two books I don’t want to keep reading those stories over and over again with just the names of the hero and heroine changed.
The BDB series is clearly evolving from just paranormal romance into its own unique contemporary dark fantasy genre. With Lover Unbound readers saw a change in focus with the overall story arc receiving more prominence than the romance between the central characters. There was still romance and it was still red hot but it played a smaller part in the overall story.
Lover Enshrined continues in this vein, with the book actually starting with a scene from twenty five years previous to the stories current time line. The Omega is proud because he has fathered a child upon a vampire woman - the vampire baby boy is taken away and abandoned but twenty five years later that vampire baby is about to become a man and be reunited with the father he has never knew… This kicks off the plot for Lover Enshrined and dominates the story. Along with the development of characters who previously only had small supporting roles in the BDB series there is also the introduction of a host of new characters and new ideas that will probably have more significance and larger roles in following novels.
J. R. Ward’s storytelling goes from strength-to-strength. Her original mythology and fantasy world building are good but it is the strength of her characters that elevates her writing to brilliant.
Emotive, original and oh-so-addictive – you are going to want to buy, beg, borrow or steal a copy of this book (but don't steal mine!)
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