Lover Eternal is the second book in the Brotherhood of the Black Dagger series. The series is about the brotherhood of some vampire warriors who get all hyper-alpha when they bond to a female. They also have lots of H’s in their bad-ass names. (And there are lots of reviews that satirize these names. Don’t get me started.)
In Book one, their leader assumes the throne, and they become a more cohesive lot than they were before.
So it’s all very over the top, (which I love, btw). Even if you don’t love over-the-top romance in general, you just gotta stand back and admire that J.R. Ward just GOES for it. Hormone-drenched, urban fantasy, kick-ass romance to the nth degree is her specialty . Even the sexless villain falls in love (more about that later).
So in this book, our hero is Rhage. Rhage has a little problem–as you could guess from his name: he was cursed to bear a beast within him. The thing manifests itself whenever he gets a little too intense – either through fighting, losing his temper, etc.
When this happens (spoiler!) he turns into the beast, eats the bad guys (yuck!) and suffers indigestion afterwards. Oh, and he’s also hot. Really, super, madly, crazy-hot. He is beauty & the beast in one complete package. Not only that, BUT he has to sleep with women – a lot of them, all the time—or the Beast will come out and totally harsh his mellow. Yet he wonders what it would be like to settle down with a woman of worth, he confides to a fellow warrior.
SO, that’s the sich when he runs into Mary–a woman of worth. Mary’s done good works in life, but she also suffers from bad luck. In fact, her health sucks. Yeah, she’s dying. When she winds up in the Brotherhood compound through a series of coincidences, she runs into Rhage when he’s recently post-beast and he’s basically a total dick to her.
AND THIS IS WHERE J.R. WARD EARNS THE BIG BUCKS. She does stuff throughout her books that you can look at objectively and know in our normal world that it would be just gross. I mean, in this situation, Rhage is not quite himself. He’s kinda blind, he’s kinda feeling sick in his tum-tum; what he should really be doing is lying quietly in his bed until he’s himself again. Only, the bad-ass warriors in this series don’t take sick days. So when he’s staggering his way down the hall (to do what it’s not very clear) he encounters Mary. Once he hears her voice and smells her, it drives him mad. Soon he’s all over her like white on rice and he’s basically being Chester the Molester. But you know, she responds.
With any other author I might have thrown the book down at this point, but J.R. Ward gets me to read onward. First of all, he’s beyond gorgeous, and she was just wishing the other day for a guy to be totally into her, just once, before she dies. Second of all, it’s been a long time for her. But wait: the best part is this—no woman would actually volunteer to date a guy like this after such a first encounter, even despite her unwilling arousal and awareness of his (ahem!) attributes. Yet Mary doesn’t remember the encounter. The vampires take away her memories of the night. So when someone she knows calls and arranges a blind date to meet Rhage (he calls himself Hal) she doesn’t know that he’s already decided to bond with her just after one blind grope.
[Is the name Hal a nod to Henry the V? Like from back when he was Prince Hal in Henry IV part two? We get the sense that Rhage is just the same kind of play-hard playboy now redeemed by maturity and suffering.]
The second time he sees Mary does he grope her again? No, instead he’s the perfect date. And here’s why we love romance: we love it because this stuff doesn’t happen in real life. Mary cannot believe that the gorgeous guy is into ordinary, little her. And she is ordinary, in the best of all possible ways.
Meanwhile, he IS into her. Really, really into her. Why? Because in J.R. Ward world vampires are hyped-up men on hormone-occtane. They meet the ‘right’ woman and it just goes hormone-ily sideways. They have no control over their physical response, and it’s so powerful, so motivating for them, that they usually just give in and go with the flow. In this situation, Rhage doesn’t question for a second his attraction to Mary. He was semi-blind when he was sliming himself over her before, so he’s surprised to see she looks nothing like he expected, but that’s okay, he’s going to sit down and get to know her, giving her 100% of his attention.
It’s this good behavior, following the sexed-up bad, that just gets me so hooked.
Meanwhile, poor Mary is simply unable to believe he doesn’t have another agenda. Suddenly, she’s Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Mary: “Do I have to spell it out for you? I’m an average looking woman with a below average life span. While you, you’re healthy, strong, beautiful…”
He tells her the ways in which he likes her, but as Helena would say: Never did mockers waste more idle breath.
See—it’s not a silly romance—it’s Shakespeare!
Mary’s just not sure about him, and can’t quite accept that he likes her–especially when he gets all removed and dispassionate while getting her hot n bothered.
And that’s the big problem with Rhage n Mary: they can’t quite seem to knock boots. The beastie inside doesn’t want to let Rhage have all the fun, and Rhage is scared to death he might hurt Mary if he can’t control the beast. The beastie threatens to come out around her, and Rhage doesn’t know how to engage with Mary, keep the beast down, and do the deed all at the same time.
Mary meanwhile, is really, really dying fast. Which is sad.
They work it out of course, but you’ll just have to read the book to find out how.
NEXT WEEK: I’ll review an even BETTER book, the next one in the series: LOVER AWAKENED. (Squee…this is the one with the well done villain.)