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REVIEW: Lover Awakened by J.R. Ward

Dear Ms. Ward,

As everyone who has read your books knows, Zsadist is the most feared member of the Black Dagger Brotherhood. A vicious fighter in the vampire Brotherhood’s battle against the evil lessers, Zsadist is also scarred, antisocial, and rumored to kill women. But in your previous book, Lover Eternal, Zsadist began to make a tentative connection with Bella, a beautiful vampire who desired him. Although Zsadist rejected her, he was devastated and furious when one of the lessers abducted Bella.

As Lover Awakened opens, it’s been six weeks since Bella’s abduction and she is still missing. The lesser who holds her captive, a Mr. O, thinks of her as his wife and is obsessed with her. But Mr. O makes a key mistake that allows the Brotherhood to find Bella, and Zsadist rescues her.

Bella wakes up in the Brotherhood’s mansion to the realization that Mr. O has carved his first name into her belly. She feels safe only when she sleeps in Zsadist’s room, but Zsadist has suffered even worse trauma when he was imprisoned for decades as a blood slave to another vampire and sexually abused by his mistress. Zsadist hates himself and most things sexual, so he keeps pushing Bella away. At first Bella believes that the thinks less of her because of her abduction, but she comes to realize just how low Zsadist’s self-esteem is relatively quickly. That still doesn’t make it easy to overcome Zsadist’s conviction that Bella would be better off with someone else.

Woven with the Zsadist and Bella’s storyline are flashbacks to Zasdist’s captivity and threads about other characters, including Phury, Zasdist’s brother, who is in love with Bella himself, Rhevenge, Bella’s brother, who wants to lock her up for the rest of her life to keep her safe, Mr. O, who wants to kill Zsadist for taking Bella from him, Butch and Marissa, whose love story began in Dark Lover and progresses a bit here, Vishous, who is experiencing new problems, and John Matthew, who was introduced in Lover Eternal and who now has a home with Tohr and Wellsie but struggles to fit in with other young vampires in his training class.

One of the things I love about your series is that the books are long enough for intertwining threads, but in this book, I began to feel that the number of storylines was perhaps too much of a good thing. The problem for me is that though at times I got involved in Zsadist and Bella’s storyline to some extent, and once in a while I even shed a tear, I never had a chance to get deeply absorbed because the sections devoted them would inevitably be relatively short, as the book quickly jumped to other characters’ stories.

Some of those stories I enjoyed very much and others not so much. I very much liked John Matthew’s story and Butch’s story, but I would have preferred less of Rhevenge and Mr. O. Mostly though, I would have liked a bit more focus on Zsadist’s relationship with Phury, and on Bella’s healing process from her own trauma. The conclusion I come to is that this book might have been better had it been longer, but that’s not to say that it’s without its strong suits.

You have a distinctive writing style whose very contemporary feel I like, and for me all three of the books in this series have been very readable. And though my favorite remains Dark Lover, I liked that Zsadist was such an atypical hero and I felt Bella was stronger than your other heroines.

I also like that you are not afraid of triangles like the one created by Phury’s feelings for Bella, and that (even if it may not have worked as well as it could have in this book) you are ambitious enough to interweave so many plot threads together at a time when many romance authors are making the hero and heroine the sole focus of their stories. I also like that beloved characters can get seriously hurt in your books and did in this one, because tragedies do happen in real life and have their place even in romances. And I loved the climactic scene in this book, in which Mr. O is confronted by the main characters.

Overall, I feel that although this book did not move me as deeply as it did Jane (who loved it) or many other readers, it was still a lot of fun and I plan to read the next book in the series. My grade for Lover Awakened is a B-.



Janine Ballard loves well-paced, character driven novels in historical romance, fantasy, YA, and the occasional outlier genre. Recent examples include novels by Katherine Addison, Meljean Brook, Kristin Cashore, Cecilia Grant, Rachel Hartman, Ann Leckie, Jeannie Lin, Rose Lerner, Courtney Milan, Miranda Neville, and Nalini Singh. Janine also writes fiction. Her critique partners are Sherry Thomas, Meredith Duran and Bettie Sharpe. Her erotic short story, “Kiss of Life,” appears in the Berkley anthology AGONY/ECSTASY under the pen name Lily Daniels. You can email Janine at janineballard at gmail dot com or find her on Twitter @janine_ballard.


  1. Marg
    Nov 25, 2006 @ 06:52:27

    I haven’t got to this book yet….reading your review makes me want to reshuffle my TBR pile…again!

  2. Janine
    Nov 25, 2006 @ 18:06:58

    Ah, that never-ending TBR shuffle. I know how that goes. :)

  3. Devonna
    Nov 25, 2006 @ 22:12:27

    I have not read a Black Dagger book yet ~ I want to, but I really need to get through some of my other TBR first. Maybe next year, I’ll get to them.

  4. Josie
    Nov 26, 2006 @ 16:57:31

    This is definitely one of my favourite books of the year – I sat up til 3am reading this because there was no way I could have gone to sleep without finishing it… I can’t wait for the next book now – I’m dying to find out what happens with Tohr and John Matthew!

  5. Janine
    Nov 26, 2006 @ 17:18:42

    Devonna — I think you must be one of the few people left.

    Josie — Glad you liked it.

  6. Wickedlytwisted
    Nov 30, 2006 @ 19:18:52

    Loved this book and who could not have a special place in their heart for Zsadist. I have read the complete series and impatienly waiting for more.

  7. Hazel Haynes
    Jan 01, 2007 @ 18:29:00

    I read the book before reading the review and I concur with most of your observations. Still I found the Black Dagger Brotherhood a great series that I stumbled across. Lucky me.

  8. Janine
    Jan 06, 2007 @ 20:44:59

    Wickedlytwisted – I enjoy the series too and I will be reading the next one, but probably not with the same level of excitement that you feel.

    Hazel – Glad you enjoyed the review and the book.

  9. Tracy C.
    Jan 13, 2007 @ 21:50:57

    I love J.R. Ward’s series…..Lover Awakened is my favorite…Once I started reading them I had to run out to Walmart and pick up the other 2 and now I am patiently awaiting the next one due out in March, 2007..I wish it were sooner..This is my favorite series right now and I am reading like 15 different series…I can;t wait for the rest of the series…But Zsadist and Bella were captivating..I started reading this book and could not and would not put it down till I was done..I am excited about Phury’s book, but not sure when it will be out…..Keep up the good work Ward!!!!

  10. Gail Honeycutt
    Jan 18, 2007 @ 20:08:50

    I’ve just read your book Lover Awakened and i must say that it was a very, good book. It was hard but I read the book really slowly because I didn’t want to finish it fast. You really had the character come to life in my mind. I can’t wait to read Dark lover. Keep up the good work! Oh by the way could you find someone for Phury to love, I think he needs to be happy and loved to just like his twin.

  11. Ann
    May 09, 2007 @ 13:47:37

    Hi am from My small home Jamaica, I have bought the Book Lover Awaken which i have not read as yet but lucky me to stumble upon all your comments! I am even more xcited to read it!
    Have not yet due to Exams….but each time i pass it..i have to resist it badly!!

    Exams will be over soon but I am looking foward to reading it!! Will rate it when I am fin!

  12. Trinity
    Aug 02, 2007 @ 04:46:16

    i have this book and i have read it so many times i just cant over it and i love it, even though in the other books it kind of sounds like zsadist is a female killer and completely shut down but you get to lover awakened and you realise that he isnt shut down but his just shut off from emotion and when he meets bella she awakens everything within him and it eventually opens doors to his past that he tried to close and lock but when bella opened them she let everything in them out and set the true zsadist free.then without all his baggage to deal with and worry about he could focus on bella and with that in mind he noticed he does actually like her and evetually falls inlove with her but he keeps trying to make her go for his brother instead of him because he blieves his not worthy of her and he does want phury to be happy except bella doesnt want phury she wants zsadist and she never gives up until he cant fight her anymore and he realises she is his solution to all the shit his been through.

  13. Tracy C.
    Aug 07, 2007 @ 02:29:22

    I love J.R Ward and Z’s story is my favorite!!! This whole series is GREAT and I can’t wait for V’s story to come out in September, I am counting down the days!!! If you all have not gotten these books, BUY THEM..You will not regrett it at all….

  14. Pam Szubinski
    Oct 16, 2007 @ 14:28:28

    UGGGGG – I love this series and started reading them kinda backwards – buttttt, I am desperately seeking Lover Awakened in hardcover, is it available? I’m probably gonna just have to break down and get the pb so that I can read it and just continue to search for the hardcover. any thoughts?

  15. Anji
    Oct 16, 2007 @ 14:45:58

    Rhapsody Bookclub only has Lover Revealed and Lover Unbound available as hardcovers. You can also check Amazon Marketplace, although it’s extremely expensive on there (around $170), or ebay. Or you can e-mail the author.

    Anyone else have any ideas?

  16. Pam Szubinski
    Oct 17, 2007 @ 16:26:33

    umm, the Science Fiction Book Club has Wraths, Rhages and Butch’s stories in hardcover and V’s story just came out – if anyone was looking, but not Z’s. How would I go about emailing the author? I went to her website but must have missed that information :) thanks for any and all help :)

  17. Anji
    Oct 17, 2007 @ 16:35:10

    Actually, you could post the message on her message board or check out the contact information on her website. You’ll most probably get a faster response on the message board.

  18. kalo
    Nov 12, 2007 @ 10:07:34

    I love this book!! I love J. R. Ward! The vampire series are to exciting!! love it all!!!

  19. cierra
    Jul 14, 2008 @ 04:31:00


  20. shelly
    Mar 02, 2010 @ 12:51:23

    Lover awakened has been my favorite so far, it is hard not to connect with the main characters and I find myself wanting to protect Zsadist, because of his damage. When that story ended, I felt I needed to know more. I found these books late in the game and am just starting number 7. I just read “Father Mine” which gave me the closure I needed with Zsadist.

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