A Man Walks Into a Bar...and 400 Pages Later Doesn't Resemble Himself At All
J.R. Ward is the author of the Black Dagger Brotherhood Series. Dark Lover is the first book in the series, and its leading man is a vampire named Wrath. If you're anything like me, that name works just like a hook should. The reader quickly learns in the first few pages that Wrath is a character who others fear and respect; Wrath is a mean motherfucking vampire. You don't get the name Wrath for nothing. By Chapter Two, the reader gets the gist of the story: another vampire named Darius, who is part of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, wants Wrath to help his half vampire, half human daughter(who doesn't know she is anything but a normal human and hasn't met her father ever in her life) through what the author calls "the change", the time when a vampire becomes a vampire. Ok. Are you still with me here? Some guy named Darius wants some guy named Wrath to handle his beloved daughter's right of passage, a possibly very painful right of passage, into a vampire.
I don't want to paint Darius as a negative character because he dies shortly after asking Wrath to help his daughter (and getting a refusal), and he's actually a good character. But who the hell wants any guy named Wrath around his daughter? The key to why he does is that Wrath is the last pure vampire on Earth. Ah, you say. Now I get it. Now I understand why a loving father (even if it's from afar) would want his daughter to be around a 6'9" vampire named Wrath. He's not only tough, but he's got good blood.
The rest of the story involves Wrath accepting his duty to his fallen brother, meeting Darius' daughter Beth, and promptly falling for her because his body wills it so. Powerful beings have powerful urges, it seems, and Beth's mojo is just what the doctor ordered for our man Wrath.
The story isn't a bad one. The reader finds out there are other brothers who have names like Wrath: Rhage, who is the leading man in the next book in the series; Zsadist; Phury; Tohrment; and Vishous. Why Darius is the only other one to not have a misspelled name indicating pain is never explained. Why Wrath isn't spelled Wragth or some other way that includes unnecessary letters and possibly changes the way the word should be pronounced from one indicating pain to one not indicating anything (see Zsadist) is never explained either. What is explained is the romance between Wrath and Beth and the interweaving of their relationship with the other Brothers in addition to their fighting the bad guys, called Lessers, who hunt vampires.
In between killing the bad guys indiscriminately, there is some serious sex. Wrath knows his stuff in the sex department, and he takes care of business.
It's all very sexy. Good, that works. This is a romance novel, after all. But Wrath ceases to be Mr. Badass Vampire and turns into Beth's lapdog. At one point, the reader finds out that his daily leather has to be changed into dress clothes so they can go to dinner. Why? Then he decides he must marry her. What? Badasses don't just stop being badasses overnight.
The problem seems to be that the romance novel world is populated by writers who believe females want men who fall madly in love immediately upon meeting a woman; there is one male for one female in this world and when said beings meet, they must marry post haste; and finally, nothing is more enchanting than a bad man becoming a good man in the span of weeks, or even days, for that matter. It is just out of character to say that a vampire named Wrath, who the reader is told has been alone for a long time and by his own choosing, would change into some pansified version of himself who can't be without this one particular woman for any extended period of time (and I mean hours).
Just as bad as the emasculation of Wrath is the dialogue between the brothers about Beth. It's cringeworthy. Males of any type simply don't talk the way Ward has them talk about Beth. Lines such as, "That is one fine female, true?" just don't ring true. They speak about her like they've never met any women other than prostitutes and club girls, which seems unlikely since they have been alive for many years.
The series isn't bad, and for my money, the next Brother to get his story, Rhage, is as good, if not better in some ways, as Gregori, (Dark Magic) who I referred to in an earlier post as the gold standard in romantic heroes. But the author's tendency to make junkyard dogs toothless in 400 pages is irritating to any reader who enjoys bad boys and wishes each time she reads a romance novel that this one will be the time that the bad boy retains something of his bad boy allure.
"Dark Lover"....Love, Moira
Hero: Wrath ~ Okay, I'm digging already on any man/supernatural being with this tag. The first description of this character is menacing! As a vampire, he's top notch. Dark, imposing, and set apart Wrath is different from the common idea of vampires as charmers and seducers. Dark sensuality with a dollop of danger is right up this blogger's alley.
Heroine: Beth ~ She is a fairly likable character. Resistant, but not overly. Trusting only after evidence is thought out. However, as is too usual in romances, she succumbs ever so quickly to Wrath in the bedroom, then goes back to defiance commando style as if learning that one is a vampire & hunted, vulnerable & ignorant about what one is can all be overcome in a flash of bold idiocy. She is better than many others and I'll leave it at that. I did appreciate her regular job...regular apartment....regular salary. It was refreshing to have a heroine who isn't a top psychologist, rich, and the absolute best at what she does.
The Story: The Black Dagger Brotherhood series is new to me. This is the first I've read in the series. The story was interesting in its details of Ward's vision of the vampire world. The Brotherhood members all have potential as heroes, and I will chance a second book in the series.
Ward, however, disappoints this reader when she morphs this leather clad warrior with "skills"(both in combat and in the bed-chamber) into a nervous, insecure man in a suit jacket waiting for his date to arrive and fussing over tableware presentation. No nancy-boys in my vampire sagas, PLEASE! Thankfully, it wasn't a total abdication into the realm of sissification. I will grant Wrath is an A worthy hero sans the above mentioned faux paux and the all too tender schmooshy talk. I simply am not buying it. I would also happily recommend it as an above average vampire novel.