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REVIEW: Lover At Last by J.R. Ward

Dear Ms. Ward:

I’ll be honest — I was a rabid fan of the first three books in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. In fact, I’ll still pull out Lover Eternal sometimes, because I enjoy Rhage and Mary’s story so much. But as the series turned more towards Urban Fantasy and became more epic in nature with multiple storylines, the emphasis on romance was left by the wayside. This made my interest in the series wane. That being said, Twitter has been, well, all a-Twitter about your first male/male entry in the series, featuring Qhuinn and Blaylock, so I was interested to see how you approached writing two heroes.

LAL
Along with John Matthew, Qhuinn and Blaylock have been best friends since before their transition. Blaylock has always known that he was gay and has always had feelings for Qhuinn. For his part, Qhuinn was busy whoring around, banging as many girls as he could, clueless about Blay’s feelings. Right up until they end up kissing in a previous installment of the series. Qhuinn’s reaction is negative in the extreme, and Blaylock takes the hint and moves on with his life, finding romance with Saxton, Qhuinn’s cousin. Of course, Qhuinn can’t stop thinking about the kiss and is now becoming convinced that Blaylock is the love of his life.

Blaylock is deeply hurt by Qhuinn’s rejection. This plays out mostly by Blaylock misinterpreting the motivation behind every single thing Qhuinn says or does. Blay gets mad about ridiculous things, storms off more than any Regency romance virgin, and is generally an ass to Qhuinn. For Qhuinn’s part, he wants Blaylock any way he can have him, even offering to allow Blaylock to have sex with him while Saxton is out of town. Qhuinn spends a lot of time begging Blaylock to “take it out on him” “touch me, please” and generally begging. As someone who is not invested in the story, I have to be honest, they acted a whole lot like middle school aged girls.

I read this book also because I was very curious about the sex scenes, and whether you would go *there*. I began my disenchantment in the series when V and Butch danced around going *there* and didn’t. So I wanted to see if you’d go all the way. You did. Mostly. I felt like the sex scenes, which are usually a strong point in your books were more abbreviated, and much less sensual than your normal fare. I thought that you’d have benefited from reading some M/M authors who write deeply emotional sex scenes that inform character and relationship development – particularly because this couple has been dancing around each other for so long.  The scenes to me seemed slightly perfunctory and I thought could have really been punched up emotionally.

The book also advances two other main storylines within the series, involving Xcor, who is  plotting to overthrow the Vampire King, Wrath, and pining for Layla, the Chosen. And Assail, who is a drug dealer, who was involved in the attempt on Wrath’s life in a previous book.

It’s hard for me to evaluate this book, as I found even at the end of it, I had no emotional investment in either Blaylock or Qhuinn or their happy ending. They spent literally 95% of the book going back and forth, miscommunicating and acting like children. Then they have one conversation in a bar, and next thing you know, they’re exchanging I love you’s and are together forever. For me, the romance was unsuccessful. But I’d imagine for your readers who have been absolutely frothing at the mouth to read Blaylock and Qhuinn’s story this book was very satisfying and offered them exactly what they were hoping for. And that’s really the point, isn’t it? For me, this is the end of my Black Dagger Brotherhood ride. Final grade: C-

Regards,

Kati

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Kati

I've been reading romance for more than 30 years and reviewing regularly for the last five. My first romance was Irish Thoroughbred by Nora Roberts, and once I read it, I was a goner. I read most subgenres of romance (except inspirational and steampunk) but focus mostly on contemporary and paranormal, with a sprinkling of historical thrown in for flavor. I am an avid sports fan, so I have a special place in my heart for sports themed romances. I'm a sucker for old skool romance, which is probably most evident in the fact that The Windflower is my favorite romance of all time.

24 Comments

  1. Kat
    Mar 27, 2013 @ 08:11:42

    I loved the tension between Qhuinn and Blay much more in the earlier books. I find it interesting that you felt that Blay was acting like an ass, because for me it was Qhuinn who always felt a little off in the story. His sexual past is reframed in the context of his family issues and subconscious desire for Blay while at the same time deliberately sabotaging any potential relationship beyond friendship. (I think?) But I didn’t really buy it.

    On the other hand, there were a lot of erections in this book.

  2. MrsJoseph
    Mar 27, 2013 @ 09:25:17

    @Kat:

    On the other hand, there were a lot of erections in this book.

    *dies*

  3. cbackson
    Mar 27, 2013 @ 09:36:58

    What I really want to know is how we’re supposed to pronounce “Xcor”? “Score”? “Ex-Core”? Inquiring minds want to know.

    Also, “Assail” is a total name-fail in my mind. Shouldn’t it be “Assayle”? Or “Aszail”? I’ve come to expect more from you, Ms Ward!

  4. Anne
    Mar 27, 2013 @ 10:11:47

    I am one of the frothing readers, and I enjoyed this book. I agree with Kati, though, in being disappointed that their honesty with each other started at the end of the book. I would have enjoyed seeing them together more after Qhuinn’s big self revelation. They certainly still had a lot of things to work through and all we got was “ONE WEEK LATER.”

    I was also disappointed that there was so little interaction between them and the brothers about their relationship. From reading the sex scenes they were nearly bringing the house down and had to be overheard. These guys comment to each other on EVERYTHING. If I’m supposed to believe that these guys are so incredibly accepting of the Qhuay relationship, then shouldn’t there have been some sort of teasing, or even just talking about it?

    All that said, I did really like the book. I was really happy that Ward wrote the explicit sex scenes and I thought they were well done. I was a little concerned there would be a lot of fade to black, and I’m glad that didn’t happen!

    There sure were a lot of erections in this book. (That was awesome, Kat!)

  5. wikkidsexycool
    Mar 27, 2013 @ 10:46:28

    Hi Kati,

    Thanks for the review.

    Like you, I was a former BDB addict. I even got members of my family hooked on these books, and some of them swore the brothers had to be real “brothers” as in multiracial. Alas, JR Ward shut down that bit of hope and change. My addiction finally stopped after I read the reviews on Torment’s book. Before that, I was off and on the Ward train. I don’t know what happened with Fury and Payne and John Matthews books, but they’d held so much promise. And I don’t want to get started on the Shadows. They too started out promising but were turned into glorified man servants for Rhev, basically carrying food and never helping in the fight to free Rhev in Lover Avenged.

    I think of what could have been, but I realize the series is going for urban fantasy, only that may not be JR Ward’s strength. I’ll probably end up getting this book when it comes out in paperback, because I’d waited and always wanted to see Quinn and Blaylock together. Unfortunately, while the first three books in the series got it right, I don’t have the same old feelings of lust for the brotherhood, but at least I can return to the first four books (I did like Butch and Marissa’s book, even though I wanted Butch and V together).

  6. Christine M.
    Mar 27, 2013 @ 10:54:58

    @cbackson:

    How about Chriscore? À la Xtina? ;)

  7. Spaz
    Mar 27, 2013 @ 11:01:36

    I could not agree with you more. I have waited for this book (along with so many other fans) for what seems an eternity and was one of the ones waking up early Tues morning to start it before work. I’m only about 75% of the way through and I can’t help but defeatedly admit I am disappointed. I give her kudos for “going there” with the m/m relationship but it feels like she should have done better research and more reading of m/m books. There are several things that have occurred in this book that really bugged me, and I was unable to just move on from them. Thank you for providing me vindication that I am not the only one to feel this way.

  8. bethany
    Mar 27, 2013 @ 11:22:11

    Agreed on all counts. It was SO disappointing. I expected a lot more tension of their usual sort, instead what we got was two grown men throwing hissy fits and a lot of erections, and it just didn’t feel true to who Ward had written them to be in previous books. It’s almost as if by having a full length novel, it ruined what had been so great about them in the first place. Maybe if she’d resolved their story as a subplot rather than having it be the WHOLE story, it would have been an improvement–and that’s not because it was a m/m romance. It’s because when we got the whole story, suddenly it was uninteresting and there wasn’t a lot of meat to it.

    I actually enjoyed the other parts a lot more. I like Assail, especially his growing connection to the Marisol girl. That was a hell of a lot more intriguing. I find Layla/Xcor also more interesting. The Shadows were even a lot better than Qhuinn/Blay.

    I’m not sure if it was Kati who said it, or another commenter, but they mentioned missing the Brother interaction. I felt like it was totally missing. All we got was some scenes of V yelling at Qhuinn for being stupid (and yes, he was also heroic, but I felt heroically stupid as well).

    Best scene in the book was the plane crash with Z strapped in, and Qhuinn determined to get Z home for his shellan and his young. That scene brought me to tears. Maybe it should have ended with that versus started with that.

  9. Darlynne
    Mar 27, 2013 @ 11:35:41

    For me, the romance was unsuccessful.

    This has been my problem for the last several books. Although I was one of the few who loved V and Jane’s tale–and an admitted squeeing fan girl from the beginning–the emotional letdown at the end was significant (something Ward acknowledges). That letdown has colored and bled through each of the subsequent books; Payne and Manny: ugh, plus huge loss of points for making the one female Brother such a *&^$#@? non-entity. Tohr and No’One (sheesh, I cannot even remember her real name): nothing. Xhex and John: slightly better.

    I know a lot of readers say Ward has gone in a more urban direction, but, personally, I think that is a real disservice to the great, romantic and still emotionally satisfying urban fiction out there: Kate and Curran, Allie and Zavion, Elena and Clay, just for starters.

    My point is that something is missing and I don’t know exactly what. The emotions and raging erections are still there, but at a remove, without any kind of connection ultimately. *I* bonded with all those characters, but I don’t see them doing the same with each other, if that makes any sense.

  10. KT Grant
    Mar 27, 2013 @ 11:41:42

    The one thing that irked me most of all was the lack of communication and over the top angst, mainly from Qhuinn. Lover at Last was his story more so than Blaylock, who came across as more one-dimensional. I felt Ward failed with Blay in a way. The miscommunication and keeping such secret is one tiresome trope and there was a lot of that here.

    I feel the love scenes did work for the most part, especially to those readers who have never read LGBT romance and would be comfortable reading these sex scenes that came across as more sex and love making until the last 200 pages or so.

    But I will say I felt the ending was beautiful and the last sentence choked me up so much. I hope in the future books Ward revisits these two and doesn’t make them fade into the background. I’m hoping she’ll give Blay’s ex-lover, Saxton his own story.

  11. Anne
    Mar 27, 2013 @ 15:06:12

    @KT Grant – I’m worried that Saxton is the lawyer working with Xcor and team to take over the monarchy. Or maybe that doesn’t worry me, but that’s my guess. So I think we’ll see more Saxton.

  12. Toni Cline
    Mar 27, 2013 @ 16:55:21

    Oh my gosh I am soooo glad I wasn’t the only one to feel this way! I agree with you completely. I am having to force myself to finish this book & the only reason I’m bothering is that I’ve read all the others in this series & I really hate leaving a book unfinished. I honestly don’t know what J.R. was thinking. My 2 key ‘irks’ so far are: 1) Layla’s pregnancy has been a total cop out! It seems to me to just be an easy way for Ward to avoid a sticky situation as far as the overall story goes 2) I felt that too much emphasis was put on the sex! It was like these guys were constantly either having sex thinking about sex talking about sex or wishing they were having sex Sorry I like a little more of a plotline to go with my reads. Hopefully I can hurry up and finish this thing and be done with it because you know 600+ pages isn’t so short when you’re dragging yourself through it! My one saving grace=the breaks I take from Lover At Last to read my fav author’s (Shelley Laurenston/G.A. Aiken) hysterical new book ‘Wolf With Benefits’ that came out today as well! YAY! Let me say it totally kicks Lover At Last’s booty-lovin’ obsessive butt!

  13. Kaetrin
    Mar 27, 2013 @ 20:20:56

    I agree with you Kati – I felt much the same way. I stopped reading the series at Phury’s book – all the rest are languishing on my TBR but I couldn’t bring myself to open them. But I wanted to read Qhuinn and Blay’s story and I was happy to see such a mainstream release of an m/m romance.

    I’m not a huge fan of the “Big Mis” and I found myself largely frustrated by Blay and Qhuinn. There wasn’t enough of them happy together. As for the sex – there was gay sex and I was happy the door was open, but, for me, it lacked sensuality. It was fast and rough (and no lhube!!). I missed carressing fingers, tongues on nipples and other places – it was pretty much BJ’s and anal sex and I was hoping for more nuance. I can understand that many Ward fans (who may not read any m/m apart from this series) may be uncomfortable with rimming so I can see why that wasn’t there but there are other things which were absent and which could have made the sex between Blay and Qhuinn more emotional – even something like face to face sex.

  14. colette
    Mar 28, 2013 @ 05:52:21

    Oh man. Good and bad…….

    First the Good.

    Have been waiting and waiting and waiting (oh and WAITING) for this book. Never never ever was a reader of MM to be honest prior to Qhay. Actually looked into it BECAUSE of Quinn and Blay, and if this latest release was not Quay, would have walked away as my heart could just literally no longer take anymore.

    Many amazing and riveting parts to the book. The whole plane part of the story was AMAZING and made me start crying LOL. Truly loved that. Loved Wraths addressing the Glymera, was right in there LOATHING Quinns family with everybody else and honestly – I thought Layla was AWESOME and finally grew up. I get Assail more now, feel invested in Xcor for sure (:)) But where was JM really in all of this??… I would have thought he would be all over this. Udderstand the Shadows better and understand iAm a whole lot more for who is really not very talkative

    I felt SO frustrated with Quinn and Blay. Felt the drama was contrived to last WAY WAY too long, felt NO research in MM writing was done AT ALL (pls Ms Ward, I would like to introduce you to Amy Lane, prep and a tube of lube. You’ll like her – angsty, character driven etc etc just like you) and ended up having moments where I actually was DISLIKING Blay. Never have thought THAT was even possible.

    And I was kinda OK you know, frustrated, but hopeful.. hanging in there to the bitter end for sooooo long through the book, and I kept thinking – they’ll come together now. Oh, not yet huh?? Ok it MUST be now.. Then I hit 75%, and thought SURELY NOW, but no. For gods sake.. the last 20 pages??? and then “1 week later..” I remember reading the page count, it was like 30 pages left and felt.. panicky and betrayed a little . Unfair.. I dont know, but COME ON!!!!!

    Did you just give up Ms Ward once they FINALLY both talked and heard each other? Felt it was done?? Was this just written for us fans or because you felt moved to write THEIR story??

    I felt like you couldn’t be bothered to finish off the roller coaster we were on.. like dropping us off at the peak and telling us to roll in to the exit in a heartbeat with it was enough ?? AFter 600+ pages, wont lie, that was hard. Where was the the final sex scene with love and an emmotional connection that every other scene was missing and bringing us back to full circle when Blay would not let Quinn touch him after sex?? Where was the the argument with Sax resolved?? Where was the feeling that he DID have family with Sax being around and invested in his life? Why did a bonded male not react possessively after the BDB ceremony or at least have some discussion with Sax??? Wouldnt stop the other characters. I would have LOVED, freakn loved this book and all its convoluted angst, it they connected at 75%. That I could get. My heart was on a rollercoaster. I knew it, understood why and was committed. But a rushed resolution in bar and then “1 week later” …

    Honestly, I’m torn from just being grateful it was written and terrified that she’ll abandon Quay in the future or Sax’s story with any bad reviews ( which is another whole level of wrong) …. to feeling ripped, a little pissed, and praying what was missed or glossed over will appear in future books. But I’m not stupid, if it was gonna happen, it would have happened in their book and I really feel the need to buy some great MM books and send them to JR Ward… with a tube of lube.

  15. Inez Kelley
    Mar 28, 2013 @ 07:15:12

    I was far more vested in Xcor and Assail than Q and B this round. That whole story line was a novella stretched far too long. And although the plane scene was awesome, I kept thinking that Qhuinn was JM’s Abstru-whatever and was NEVER supposed to leave JM. But no one said anything about this as he jumped his butt on the shitty plane. *eyebrow*

    I do wonder about the legal aspect of Wrath’s reign. That has possibilities.

  16. Lauren
    Mar 28, 2013 @ 08:18:11

    Another fan of BDB and somewhat disappointed in the direction of the books after the first 3 also. However, I do like the story line that is threatening Wrath’s kingship, but I believe that Ms. Ward is just taking to dang long to get there.
    Of course I will read the newest book Lover At Last because I love the series. And with any writer some books are better than others but as a whole its a GREAT story.

  17. Toni Cline
    Mar 28, 2013 @ 08:30:27

    Sorry just one thing for the people referring to the lack of lube. The very first time the 2 get together Quinn cums on Blay’s ass before he bangs him, hence lube.

  18. Kifah
    Mar 28, 2013 @ 14:37:16

    Is it just me or is there some deliberate random continuity changes made to make the story fit. I could be wrong here…and admittedly to lazy to reread previous books to check…but now Quinn’s previous skittish ways clearly included boys and girls all along? I do remember the red head (I think). But wasn’t part of the whole issue that Blay really thought he didn’t swing that way?

    That stuff bugs me!

  19. Laura
    Mar 28, 2013 @ 19:37:15

    @Toni Cline: BIG difference between semen and lube. It’s been a pet peeve of mine for years, authors writing anal sex scenes substituting spit or semen for lube. As a woman who actually enjoys the backdoor fun, I can guarantee you that the slippery stuff is essential to having an enjoyable and injury free experience.

  20. trixee
    Mar 28, 2013 @ 21:44:52

    Perhaps I was the only reader who was not “frothing at the mouth” to read about Blay and Qhuinn. M/M just doesn’t do anything for me and all the angst was already past my limit. As another poster stated, for me their story would have been better served as a novella or even a secondary romance. I never found either character all that compelling that they would be able to carry an entire novel. Granted, I haven’t read this one and am not sure that I want to. This series just isn’t what it once was and if I do read this one, it will be more for Assail and Xcor and the fight for the throne. I think I stopped reading her books for the romance around V’s or Phury’s books.

  21. Maura
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 05:14:30

    @Toni Cline: That’s… that’s not lube.

  22. Evelyn
    Apr 01, 2013 @ 09:34:37

    I was totally disappointed by this long-awaited book. Though I stopped reading several books earliere, I definitely wanted to read this one. I enjoy real M/M stories and agree with your opinion that there was no emotional development between them. I also felt that a lot of stuff was shortened.
    Sadly this could IMHO be a way to bring M/M books in mainstream books, but was not done right.
    For stories of the other characters-I only browsed through due to lack of interest.
    Also, the Kindle edition had some typos, which really annoy me during reading.

  23. Deedee
    Apr 08, 2013 @ 09:54:59

    I personally LOVE all of the BDB books. I do understand, where you stated, once Qhuinn came to the realization that he was gay it was over, I was pissed. I would have loved to read more about them and the trials of their relationship within Brotherhood. I’m sure once the Glymera finds out, there is going to be a lot of talk and especially how Blaylocks parents are so open to their realtionship. Which I think is great. Yes, it is a different kind of love story and how they fell in love was crazy, but everyone falls in love in different ways. Vishous is in love with a ghost for gosh sakes, lol. Their love for their mates and what they had to go through to prove their love is awesome in each book. I do have my faves but regardless I just loved this book, all of them for that matter.

  24. Christopher
    Feb 14, 2014 @ 17:05:26

    I just finished reading ‘Lover At Last’. To the author: Thank you for including a gay story line in your novel. I love vampire books, especially when civil interaction with humans is involved. However, 99.99999% in literature involve hetero heros. That never dissuaded me, an OUT gay man, from reading them (what choice is there?). I am not writing a critique of your book. I am composing a ‘thank you’ letter. Your story development around the two males, and their separate evolution’s as gay men, was right on. I was deeply moved and highlighted the passages about acceptance and normalcy. I was moved to tears several time, both of sadness and of joy. I hope that gay people struggling with their identities read this book. It’s humanity towards gay people is sorely needed in a sometimes hate filled world. P.S. I enjoyed the heck out of this book, in general. I cannot wait to find out what happened to Sola and Assail. And, I’m hoping there is a way for Xcor and Layla to be happily united. Thanks again.

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