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REVIEW: Lover Reborn by J. R. Ward

Dear Ms. Ward:

I haven’t read a book in this series since Book 5.  My interest waned as I felt the series moved farther away from the core romance base where the series was birthed.  I read the flyleaf of the hardcover when I received my complimentary copy and discovered that this was the love story of Tohrment.  Tohrment lost his bonded mate in book one when she was shot, a casualty in the vampire/lesser war.  Because suicide would prevent Tohr from reaching the Fade, the vampire heaven, where he would be able to live out eternity with his Wellsie and their unborn son, Tohr spends each night fighting the vampire enemies with the hope of death.

Lover Reborn by J. R. WardHe hasn’t fed from another woman in quite some time and his frame is becoming gaunt and weak.  With each swipe of the blade, he seeks oblivion.  Even in his blinding grief, however, he is a man who loves his adopted son, John Matthew, and the king, Wrath, that Tohr serves.  Tohr is caring man, crippled by his loss.  I’ve been trying out new paranormal romances but the power in this book makes those other authors’ stories seem anemic.  Tohr’s grief is a palpable, living thing.  It is as animated and full blooded as some characters in other books.  One scene early on in the book features Tohr taking Wellsie’s dress that she wore during their bonding ceremony and placing it on “her” side of the bed, stroking it:

With a shaking hand, he touched the satin of the filled-out bodice. There were whalebones set within the fabric, the structure of the dress built to enhance a female’s gentle, curving body.

It was not as good as her rib cage, though. Just as the satin was not as good as her body. And the sleeves weren’t as good as her arms.

“I miss you. . . .” He stroked the indentation of the dress where her waist would have been—should have been. “I miss you so much.”

To think she had once filled this dress out. Had lived inside of it for a brief time, nothing but a camera shot of one evening in both their lives.

Why couldn’t his memories bring her back? They felt strong enough, powerful enough, a summoning spell that should have had her magically reinflating the gown.

Except she was real and alive only in his mind. Ever with him, always out of reach.

That’s what death was, he realized. The great fictionalizer.

The struggle I had throughout the story, however, was that Tohr’s entire emotional arc was getting over his grief or perhaps, coming to terms with it.  Tohr is confronted by an angel, Lassiter, who is stuck in the In Between and charged with a task of winning his freedom from the In Between by convincing Tohr to let go of Wellsie.  Because Tohr’s grief and his refusal to move on from Wellsie’s death is keeping her from entering the Fade, vampire heaven.  She is becoming nothing, a spirit to haunt the In Between, a purgatory.  In order for Wellsie to escape the In Between, Tohr must overcome his grief, start to live again.  Tohr is tormented by this – that his actions are causing Wellsie pain and preventing her from an eternal peace and happiness.

No’One is a former member of the vampire aristocracy, a Chosen.  She was stolen from her home and raped repeatedly by a Sympath.  As part of the backstory that was revealed in previous books, No’One was impregnated and subsequently rescued by the Brotherhood.  During her pregnancy, No’One is cared for by Darius and Tohr in their early days.  No’One gives birth to a half Sympath/half vampire named Xhex (her story is in Lover Mine).  No’One kills herself and Tohr buries her but she comes back to life ordered by the Scribe Virgin.  No’One refuses to take a name, hides her remarkable beauty in dark robes, and seeks to undertake the most menial tasks available.  She no longer feels as if she is a woman of worth ever since her abduction and rape.  She is taken into the home of the BDB to reconnect with her daughter, Xhex.

No’One and Tohr begin to use each other. Tohr to try to get over Wellsie and No’One because she believes her service to Tohr as a blood donor and then later as a sexual mate is part of a greater atonement.

There were several things I appreciated in this story. First, the unexpected happened, particularly at the end.  Second, you addressed what I thought was one of the biggest weaknesses in the series, and this is the role of women within the patriarchal vampire society.  Finally, the multitude of story lines were deftly woven together and while the subplots didn’t captivate me like the main romance, they all played off each other.

The powerful emotional connection I felt to Tohr’s grief overshadowed the romance.  I did not believe that Tohr fell in love with No’One.  His grief wasn’t packed away until about 90% of the story was through.  I was unconvinced that No’One’s love was returned. I believed that Tohr could come to love her but not that he actually did.  Further, I felt that his dark moment which led to cruelty wasn’t assuaged by a sufficiently meaningful grovel.

The ploys for future stories were obvious and unlike a couple of twists to the Tohr and No’One storyline, were predictable which lessened their emotional impact.  I was fully engaged in the story when Tohr and No’One were on page but was impatient at times to move through parts such as Xhex and John’s struggle to maintain their HEA or Quinn and Blay’s apparent continued misunderstanding.  Likely because I haven’t been following these stories, they held little interest for me.  When I was finished, I was vaguely dissatisfied but the grief storyline will stay with me and I’ll reassure myself that Tohr’s good heart will eventually come to love No’One in the manner in which she deserves.  B-

Best regards,

Jane

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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

29 Comments

  1. nitnot
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 04:24:03

    I got this book the other day, just because it’s Thor’s story. I didn’t know the heroine’s name is No’One!

    I love the earlier BDB books like any other fan out there, but I know – I JUST KNOW – that name will annoy me the fuck out while reading the book. OTOH, Ward sometimes surprise me with her insightful writing. Marisa’s story in the beginning for example. I could feel the invisible cage she was in. But from then one she hasn’t captured me. Here’s hoping this book will.

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  2. Angela
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 07:04:45

    I loved this book. I think it’s the strongest since the first four and the romance actually really resonated with me.

    I absolutely agree that Tohr’s grief was palpable. I had tears in my eyes for a good portion of the book and was outright crying in some spots.

    I think the romance worked better for me than you because even though his grief wasn’t “packed away” until nearly the end, I could still see the foundation of a relationship being laid. They had a connection, that wasn’t always easy, but I could see solidifying. So I saw their relationship as progressing from the beginning. Sometimes steps forward and more backward, but always eventually progressing to a stronger relationship.

    I was also definitely involved in the sub-storylines. But I’ve been invested for a while in them from the previous books. Some of the moments with Saxton/Blay/Qhuinn/Layla were incredibly heart-wrenching and I’m really glad that Blay and Qhuinn’s book is next.

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  3. Angela James
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 07:29:15

    “Further, I felt that his dark moment which led to cruelty wasn’t assuaged by a sufficiently meaningful grovel.”

    I think I gave up this series around the same time you did, so I haven’t read this either, but this line from your review jumped out at me because this is often a big reason a lot of romances I read leave me feeling vaguely dissatisfied. An author creates an incredibly compelling, really emotional black moment or conflict, something that really tears at your emotions and heart, and then…it’s like they don’t know how to write themselves out of it, run out of the emotional investment in doing so or just out of energy and there’s no equally compelling or satisfying emotional compensation. Like the hero can treat the heroine like absolute total crap, be entirely cruel and demeaning to her, and when he realizes he’s in the wrong, all he has to do is say “gee, sorry” and the heroine jumps into his arms, ready to believe he’ll never ever do that again, and ready to suddenly trust him completely with her emotions. I need…more to convince me that she’s actually convinced, and to convince me the hero actually feels remorse & has a change of ways. .

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  4. CourtneyLee
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 08:14:14

    I think this was one of the stronger recent books in the series, but I was actually captivated more by the secondary storylines than the romance. The Blay/Qhuinn thing has always been one of my favorites and I like the turns it took in this installment.

    And John and Xhex’s storyline was so great for me because I love that it addressed an issue I’ve always had with the tendency of romances to go from initiation of the relationship to HEA in a matter of days. I just don’t buy that a lot of the time. This book addressed that two ways: John and Xhex had their story, fell in love, got mated, but still had issues, serious issues, to deal with in order for them to truly begin their life together; and Tohr and No’One’s story took place over such a long time, not just a few days.

    I also like that the end was not as deus ex machina as I was worried that it might have been.

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  5. Janet
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 08:15:48

    I’ve been wondering to myself for the past couple of days – this book left me hugely depressed. I sure didn’t feel indifferent to the book, but I didn’t feel positive about it either. So is it good or bad? The writing does invoke a strong reaction in me, just not a positive reaction.

    I had major problems with the premise that Wellsie and her son were denied the equivalent of vampire heaven because Tohr was so heavily in grief. It is an epic world where everything – the size of the men, the sex, the bond which literally alters the scent of the male, the lifespans of centuries, the mating ceremonies where names are carved into the flesh — why wouldn’t Tohr’s grief also be epic and why would a “woman of worth” such as Wellsie be punished by the deities because of his epic depth of his sorrow? Instead, she is completely helpless and her fate is determined solely by his actions. He had been grieving for three years. Three years in that world is a blink of an eye. It takes most of these men centuries to find their first true mate, but then he is expected to put her away and find the next woman in three years?

    To be blunt, even the idea of f*ing another woman to get your first wife into heaven just hits me wrong. Especially at the point where he admitted he knew that No’One had fallen in love. Talk about using a woman. As stated in numerous Amazon reviews, going from your Wife’s Fade ceremony to the bedroom with the new woman is just not kosher. Wellsie deserved better.

    I would have been much better as Tohr as a side story in a book dealing with his grief, packing the house, finding a new life purpose and THEN when he was ready and capable …. finding a new love outside of the deadline pressure of having to f* Wellsie into heaven.

    And all that doesn’t even touch my thoughts on Layla. She is too pure and innocent to be given anything like the truth. But hey honey, sit down here and literally give this man the blood from your body.

    You know what? Wen she found out the truth – I wish she would have stomped around and demanded some retribution from every single Black Dagger Brotherhood member who hid the facts of who she was feeding from her for “her protection.” Instead she goes into a submissive quivering mess and hopes they don’t kill her for “her betrayal.” Gag.Me!!!!

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  6. Jane
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 08:25:08

    @Janet: The timing issue was of concern to me as well because of the longevity of these lives. I remember when Anne Bishop’s last book came out which saw Damien connect with another woman after the loss of his “soulmate”. I never understood why the Scribe Virgin didn’t bring back Wellsie.

    And of course the language used in this series is heavily patriarchal. Just the phrase “woman of worth” is off-putting. There isn’t a male corollary and it seems that “woman of worth” depends upon one’s suitability as a blood mate for the Brotherhood. I’m not convinced that Ward even recognizes what she has done in the creation of her world, but it is sad that the stories are so heavily oriented toward a male power structure.

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  7. Patricia Eimer
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 08:52:58

    The patriarchy of it all (the whole series) sort of put me off back at Book 4 and I’ve been coasting on these as bathtub reads ever since but this just doesn’t sound like my cup of tea at all. Wellsie can’t find peace because he’s in pain?! Really? So basically even when you die the men are still in charge of what happens to you. I think I’ll pass.

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  8. Kati
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 09:12:24

    I’ve stuck with the series, deriding it most of the way, because I wanted to see Tohr get his HEA. While I wasn’t firmly convinced that he truly loved No’One (or Joan, as I like to call her), nor did I feel his grovel was sufficient, it resolved his story enough that I’m done with this series.

    I saw that she had a signing the other day and blasted out a bunch of new tidbits about what coming next for this series, but given my lack of general satisfaction with the way the series has gone for the last three books and the price point of the series, I’m going to say that JR Ward and I have broken up. None of the tidbits intrigued me enough to stay with the series. I can’t say with 100% certainty that I won’t pick up a Ward book again, but Tohr was the last of the brothers that I had any interest in, so for now, I’m reasonably confident that I’m done.

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  9. Jane A
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 09:21:47

    I no longer read these books, so I haven’t been following the overall story arc. But I do remember Tohr and Wellsie. I also remember the importance of fated bloodbonded mates and given Ward’s emphasis on that I don’t understand how Tohr is able to move on from Wellsie to No’One. Doesn’t this imply that each of the brothers in previous stories could actually move on from the death of their mates, despite all strong language to the contrary?

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  10. Angela
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 09:54:04

    @CourtneyLee: I liked that about John and Xhex’s storyline too. I think it made perfect sense that they would have some trouble in this area, and the way they worked through it (in the end) made me happy.

    @Jane: RE: “female of worth” I know, or rather am pretty damn sure, that I’ve seen the phrase “male of worth” in the books, so there is a direct opposite but equal relationship there.

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  11. CourtneyLee
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 09:54:53

    All the patriarchy issues is one of the reasons I’m looking forward to Blaylock and Qhuinn’s book. Getting away from the male/female gender politics is one of the big reasons I love reading MM romance so much. And I sincerely hope that Layla finds her spine in their book. She showed a lot of potential in this one.

    Janet, I also wish she would have been righteously pissed at Phury for misleading her on who they asked her to feed.

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  12. CourtneyLee
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 09:58:43

    @Angela: I remember seeing “male of worth” a lot, too. And I do appreciate how the patriarchy is being dealt with, particularly in the case of John Matthew and Xhex’s conflict. I hope the trend continues.

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  13. Jane
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 10:43:14

    @Angela – thanks for the correction. I definitely think that Lover Reborn is less bound to the patriarchal roots than others but I recall the most significant thing about past females were the colors of their dresses worn to the ceremonies. This is a series called the Black Dagger Brotherhood and it is the continuing bonds of the Brothers that wend throughout the series. Even this new age of books is toward another band of brothers and not sisters.

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  14. Jane
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 10:43:42

    @Jane A only after a three year mourning period and tons of self flagellation ;)

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  15. Angela
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 10:56:05

    @Jane: Wasn’t trying to correct, just talking – mostly I like to be sure I’m just not forgetting something. :)

    I do agree that the Brothers/male characters are definitely the stronger/more defined characters in the series. Even though the new band is of males as well I really felt like there was a small but significant shift in Lover Reborn in regards to this. I do think that we’re getting to witness a time of change for the vampires and that excites me.

    To veer in a completely different direction, another thing that I liked about this book is that it felt like the overall arc of the series seemed to regain momentum in a direction.

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  16. Madhura
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 13:36:46

    Great review. Although I have kept up with the series, it has moved from auto-buy to library-borrow for the past couple of books. My main gripe with this series is that it lacks growth – both for characters and for the world. All the changes that have transpired seem very tepid to me. Even the villainous lessers are extremely weak in comparison to the ultra-macho brothers, and yet the all-powerful (atleast that is how is depicted) king Wrath has no real long-term strategy against them. And don’t get me started on the patriarchy in the series – even the so called warrior female brother, Payne, was hardly present in her book let alone the follow-up.

    Now onto this book itself, the central romance was meh to me. I just didn’t buy Tohr and No’One’s HEA. I came away from it with a stronger sense of Tohr’s love for Wellsie and his grief for her loss. That was the one standout part of the book for me. Even with all this, I might have bought into Tohr moving on if not for how quickly it happened. I mean, it was what a 2 years since his bonded mate has died, and with their average lifeterm being centuries long, he moves on so quickly? Makes no sense.

    Now to the unpopular opinion, I really don’t get the Qhuinn-Blay thing. They are literally juveniles in this world, and their behavior so far certainly confirms that. All the angst and drama seems a bit soap-operaish to me. I see not much of a character growth for Blay, while Qhuinn’s growth mainly centers around abstinence as a penance of some sort.

    All in all, I feel like a wonderful series has lost its way. I still enjoy Ward’s writing (wish she didn’t try so hard with the hip-hop speech), but I feel like she just can’t write beyond the characters themselves so the underlying story suffers.

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  17. Courtney
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 14:19:38

    I have to say that I loved the book. I’ve read them all and I think this was her strongest book since the first four. Overall, I felt like the love story wasn’t overshadowed by the other subplots as it’s been occasionally in the past. (Full disclosure: I still think Ward’s “Lover Awakened” is one of the best romance books ever).

    I do think the point that the reader was feeling Tohr’s grief over Wellsie more than his love for No’One/Autumn is far (although that wasn’t my reading experience). One thing I wish we could have seen more of was their time together when she was pregnant with Xhex 200+ years ago. I feel as though that connection was part of the reason Tohr could be with her and ultimately fell in love with her, but we didn’t see it, even though the book was ginormous.

    One friend last week mentioned that with it being an open-ended series, there’s no overall driving story-arc anymore and I think that concern is echoed in some of the comments above. With no end-game in sight, where does the series go, grow, and come to a final conclusion?

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  18. theo
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 14:49:56

    I haven’t read this series since the whole Casper thing and all of the absolutes in that book that suddenly weren’t absolute anymore. And that was the problem I had with them. I’d read the first four several times and when the fifth came along, it suddenly seemed as if the rules were changing to suit the individual story rather than what had already been established. That might just be me, but to me, it was a huge mountain to climb over and I just couldn’t.

    So that said, I do appreciate this review a lot. I always liked Tohr and Ward had written the original brothers in such a way that I cared about them all, but it sounds to me like this would be a DNF and I just can’t afford to spend my money on books I’ll be disappointed in. I got a wake up call on that with V’s story.

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  19. Patrice
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 15:11:43

    Good review. I fell out of following this series and this doesn’t sound like I’ll rush out to borrow it from the library.

    Tohrment loves NoOne? I can see the naming convention hasn’t gotten any less campy.

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  20. Janine
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 17:32:43

    I quit this series after John Matthew and Xhex’s book. It was always a guilty pleasure for me due to the treatment of gender and race, but for me the first four or so books were enjoyable enough to be in the B range, and after that they went into the C’s and lower.

    The only romantic moment in Phury’s book was the kiss between Blay and Qhuinn. Rhevenge’s book was just awful. John Matthew and Xhex’s book had some interesting parts, but I was utterly bored with the ghost hunting film crew subplot. After that I thought, I already feel so guilty for reading these books, I may as well just quit altogether.

    Damn you, Jane for making me question that decision! I will not go back to this addiction even for a B- grade from you! :: snarls and stomps away::

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  21. LG
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 17:43:31

    @Angela: I haven’t read any of this series, but the power of Google Books tells me that, yes, “male of worth” is a phrase that has been used in the series before. In Lover Unbound, Lover Mine, and Lover Unleashed, just to name a few.

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  22. Hydecat
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 19:36:28

    Ha. I’ve only read (well, listened to) the first book in this series. I enjoyed the story in a ridiculous, campy way, but I did wonder how Ward was going to resolve the “problem” that Tohr was happily mated. Now I know, and I’m not sure I could get behind it. I mean, knowing that she’s writing a series about the Brotherhood, it’s a given that they each need a book, which means you know from page 1 that she’s going to kill off Wellsie or come up with a creative way to do the married-romance thing. I’m sorry she went the death route, but not terribly surprised. Still, I don’t think setting Wellsie up to die and then keeping her in limbo to make Tohr’s romance plot happen would work for me.

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  23. Nicole
    Apr 03, 2012 @ 08:45:27

    It seems to be a common theme here that people have lost patience with this series. I don’t remember which book is which since the names all blend into each other, but I think I skimmed Phury’s book (having not paid for it) and flipped through the next one (in about twenty seconds) but there seemed to be plots all over the place so I never took it home.

    I didn’t like the fact that there was too much going on in each book; too much that I didn’t care about in order to get to the core romance scenes. I often found myself more interested in the teasers for future books (but from what I’ve read here it seems that those future books turned out to be disappointing for many people).

    I wonder who’s still avidly reading this series? I like so much about J R Ward’s writing; I just wish she’d write what I want to read!

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  24. Jane A
    Apr 04, 2012 @ 09:52:59

    @Jane:
    Aah, Ward forgot to mention that detail until this book. See, in my mind she keeps changing the rules, which is another thing I dislike about the BDB books.

    Personally, I wish she’d go back and finish her series at Harlequin.

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  25. adoore
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 23:36:39

    I read this book hoping that Ward would capture my attention once more. Tohr had been one of my favorite male characters because of the way he spoke of his Wellsie a strong, assertive, and independent woman. I feel in love with them as a couple event thought they were not a large part of the first three books. I also accepted and believed in the rules set up by Ward in this universe. The Bonded/mated couple that couldn’t live without each other. It is constantly repeated through out the book by it many male characters. I no longer believe this since Tohr HAS to move on and F…. someone new in order for Wellsie and their son to move on into the Fade. Really an innocent get to suffer while no’one a suicide gets two chances at life.

    All the previous are broken I no longer believe in the Bonded/mate theory because any of the brothers can move easily to another woman. It is so easy they can even invite them to their Fade (funeral) Ceremony and after spilling their ashes go up to their room and have relations (talk about disrespectful). Sadly I am no longer a fan and will move on to other authors but I will miss what could have been. And my last note no one even thinks or discusses the lost of the child that was never given the opportunity to take his first breathe.

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  26. Barbara
    Apr 08, 2012 @ 12:01:44

    I really really really like this book. I will admit that some of the books, especially Phury’s were only so-so, but the emotions in this book were very well-written. Unlike the other books, this took place over the course of a year so it wasn’t an instant romance. Where others question Tohr having to bed Autumn to move Wellsie on…..that was Tohr’s interpretation of Lassister’s information. No where did anyone really say that was a requirement. Also, if Autumn had a requirement, was Tohr really it, or was it to find love. I did quibble a little with the manner in which Autumn forgave Tohr’s really horrible rant. A little more groveling should have been in order. Their mating is a foregone conclusion but it doesn’t happen in the book…..so again there is still more to their story.

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  27. hellocat
    Apr 14, 2012 @ 13:48:25

    I loved the first 4 books, like most on this site. The hip hop language of men who originally came from Eastern Europe, the constant references to their bling/clothes/phones, etc. just turned me off. I do not get the “Quay” obsessions with the fan base since I do not read romance for MM romance (makes it hard for me to relate to either character) but I hope those who have been waiting for that book get better results then the rest of us who patiently waited for Tohr’s book. My hope had been the VS brought W back but oh well…I have to agree with someone who said they were breaking up with JR. Ditto for me…”true?”

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  28. Alice A
    Jul 11, 2012 @ 10:25:18

    I’ve just started reading this book and honestly, I though this would contain Tohr getting back together with Wellsie. I LOVED Wellsie and when it said that Tohr had started seeing her in his dreams and was going to ‘set her free’, I was like, Yeah, he’ll get her back!! And then…

    I kind of don’t want to read it now. .___.

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  29. adoore
    Jul 11, 2012 @ 19:07:06

    It gets so much worse. To me Wellsie and Tohr’s love is diminished in this book. Some say that the fact that the book spans a year gives Wellsie and Tohr’s love some respect but I am sorry this man that professed his love for his bonded/mate and then goes ahead and F…..s some woman and then realizes he loves her and will mate with her and carve her name on his back to me erases everything he previously said.

    I understand moving on. I understand I am alive let me continue until the day I meet up with my shellan. But I don’t understand having him find someone only three years after his shellan’s death when we know they live up to a thousand years. I do not understand him equating the new relationship to his previous one with the love of his life and even saying he feels closer to the new woman . I do not understand him carving the new woman’s name on his back.

    This was a horrible way to destroy the belief of the bonded/mate in this series. No longer do any of the beautiful phrases said by the brothers about their relations with their shellans are believable because I’m sorry if Tohrment can move on when he had the perfect relationship with the love of his life then any of the other brothers can move on.

    Plus taking a date to your dead shellan’s Fade ceremony should be frowned about. It was wrong and then have her next to him while he is spreading her ashes and then go f…. her afterwards is just plain disrespectful.

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