J. R. Ward
Published 2011 489 pages
Summary (from the book jacket)
In the darkest corners of the night in Caldwell, New York, a conflict like no other rages. The city is home to a band of brothers born to defend their race: The warrior vampires of the Black Dagger Brotherhood.
Payne, twin sister of Vishous, is cut from the same dark, seductive cloth as her brother. Imprisoned for eons by their mother, the Scribe Virgin, she finally frees herself - only to face a devastating injury.
Manuel Manello, MD, is drafted by the Brotherhood to save her as only he can – but when the human surgeon and the vampire warrior meet, their two worlds collide in the face of their undeniable passion. With so much working against them, can love prove stronger than the birth right and the biology that separate them?
Lover Unleashed is the ninth book in the phenomenally popular Black Dagger Brotherhood vampire romance series by bestselling author J.R. Ward. Ward’s BDB books are an addictive mixture of heart-wringing romance, dark fantasy and drama – spectacular, messy and often completely over-the-top relationship drama – of which I personally just can’t get enough. If you haven’t read any of the BDB books don’t be tempted to start here, the relationships and back-stories are just too complicated, read the books in order starting with Dark Lover (trust me, if you’re remotely interested in paranormal romance or urban fantasy you’ll be glad you did.)
In theory Lover Unleashed is the story of Payne, an injured female vampire, and her human doctor Manny Manello, M.D. Series fans will already aware that in a previous book (and in best soap opera style) Payne was revealed to be the long-lost twin sister of Vishous. A sister that he never knew existed and only found out about when she was seriously injured and was looking at a lifetime of paralysis. The revelation of a twin sibling hidden since birth would be a lot for anyone to deal with but Vishous already has no shortage of issues and this one appears to the final straw that might just break his back – as well as destroy his relationship with his mate, Jane. So, in practise, Lover Unleashed turns out to be a tale of two twins and their relationships. However due to Vishous’s overwhelming presence the story ends up more about Vishous and Jane ironing out the kinks in their relationship (literally) than Manny and Payne discovering true love.
For some series fans this will be a bonus – Vishous has always had large fan club and the abrupt ending of his story, Lover Unbound, left a lot of them wanting to know more about how his relationship with a ghost was going to work on a day-to-day basis and how they would work through the problems (not to mention Vishous’s S&M kink) left behind by the childhood abuse he suffered. Those questions are answered in this book. Vishous and Jane don’t live in happily-ever-after land they have a relationship that needs to be worked at, just like in real life. With Vishous stealing the limelight it isn’t long before his relationship with Butch is wheeled into the spotlight to one again titillate readers. While I’ve never been a member of Vishous’s fan club, the overall outcome for me was that I was left liking and understanding his character a lot more than I did before I started Lover Unleashed.
Lover Unleashed may be a little disappointing for die-hard romance fans. Neither Manny nor Payne has the huge presence that most of the previous characters have had in spades. Their chemistry is a little muted and that just left their forbidden doctor/patient relationship to supply a frisson of romantic tension. Their forbidden human/vampire relationship problems are conveniently solved and at no time did they generate enough romantic tension in the plotline to feel like they wouldn’t be. Their relationship is kind of sweet but never really pulls the heart strings like those of earlier series offerings such as Lover Awakened or Lover Eternal. Payne’s dialogue is repetitive and annoying, so much so that I’ve rated the story down half a point for it. Her speech style didn’t do much to endear her character to me and if I had quid for every time I’d rolled my eyes when she said “Verily” I wouldn’t be a rich woman but I’d have enough money for dinner for two at a nice restaurant…
While there are plenty of new characters and plotlines introduced within Lover Unleashed which will no doubt be explored in future novels, there is a noticeable lack of development of the Blay/Qhuinn relationship. After spending a lot of pages in Lover Mine driving their difficult male-on-male relationship to boiling point Ward leaves this plotline in a holding pattern for Lover Unleashed. It’s like an aeroplane circling the airport just waiting for permission to land – I was expecting the plotline to land in Lover Unleashed but with Vishous and Jane taking up a large chunk of the story it’s fair to say that there wouldn’t have been enough room here to do the Blay/Qhiunn plotline justice.
Now, for all my griping you’d think I hadn’t liked Lover Unleashed but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I seriously loved it. For me, vampire fantasy just doesn’t get better than this. It might be because I like my romance to be served up with a big heap of dark fantasy action, rather than hearts or flowers. It may be because I am addicted to the drama. It could be that I just love the BDB world with its larger than life characters and dangerous vibe, so much so that I would be happy to read any story set there, be it romantic or not. Hard-core romance fans may not feel the same. But as ever, don’t take my word for it – buy, borrow or beg a copy of this novel and make up your own mind.
Editor note: readers of J.R. Ward’s Fallen Angels series should keep an eye out for Veck, a police detective assigned to a serial killer case. He will be the protagonist of Envy, the next book in that paranormal romance series (due Sep 2011.)
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