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REVIEW: Lover Unbound by JR Ward

Dear Ms. Ward:

Lover Unbound (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 5)I’ve referred to you as romance crack before. Your books are addictive, like a pharmaceutical grade narcotic, that makes a reader hot for the next book before the current book is even concluded. Unfortunately, I think I got a bad batch and wonder what I should do about it. On the one hand, this book cured me of my JR Ward addiction. On the other, its sad to see such a promising series totally crater.

I can’t really give much of a summary without spoiling the book but I can say that Vishous, a man cursed with prognostication, is floundering, as his best friend has left him for a woman. He goes off to nurse his wounds and lo and behold, finds a woman of his own. He also finds out that he and Jane, his new love interest, have something in common – bad, bad mothers. This commonality and Jane’s willingness to follow him into his kinky world, bring the two of them closer together until the lessers threaten their fledgling love.

Jane and Vishous’ story is such a small part of the overall landscape in this book. It’s mostly a story about the denouement of Butch and Vishous, the groundwork for Phury’s book, and the development of John’s story. Oh, and apparently any decent male that appears in the BDB series is bound to be a brother.

So what didn’t I like? Well, let’s copy Janine’s format:

1. The Hero.

Vishous is heartbroken because his love interest aka Butch has gone off and found a woman.

Butch assumed a bored expression. “You can bite me.”
I wish, V thought.

As he took out some rolling paper, laid down a line, and twisted himself a cig, he did what he spent a lot of time doing: He reminded himself that Butch was happily mated to the love of his life, and that even if he weren’t, the guy didn’t play like that.

Vishous watched Butch and Marisa one night and he was jealous, not of Marisa but of the new relationship that Butch had developed with Marisa. A relationship that had no room for Vishous. “Lover Revealed” had strong overtones of a relationship developing between Vishous and Butch that was more than friends. This is brought into sharp relief in “Lover Unbound.” At one point, Butch treats Vishous tenderly and Vishous responds, physically.

The black tip of the dagger slid under V’s chin and angled his head up. As he was forced to meet Butch’s stare, V’s body tensed. Then trembled.
With the weapon linking them, Butch said, “They’re beautiful.”

Butch removed the blade, and as the male’s arm dropped, V felt a trickle of blood ease down his neck. It was warm– and soft as a kiss.

Yet despite the strong emotional and physical connection that Vishous has with Butch, it is easily abandoned once Vishous meets Jane. These feelings were merely placeholders for what Vishous was supposed to have with Jane. On the one hand, the acknowledgment of the unspoken feelings that Butch and Vishous shared seemed to be inserted to placate those that insisted that there were homoerotic overtones. On the other, the quick move to Jane seemed to placate those fans who insisted that there were no homoerotic overtones. I guess my feeling was “who cares” but at least make it believable that Vishous could fall out of love with Butch and in love with Jane at the drop of a hat.

2. The Heroine

I know that you’ve taken alot of flack for the flaccidity of your female characters. I was excited when I read the teaser for this book thinking that Jane might be the answer to those critics. Unfortunately, Jane was presented as a loner whose entire existence was that of her work. Despite her apparent devotion to her work, that character trait was easily disposed when it became necessary for you to insert her into the world of the Brotherhood. After meeting Vishous, her entire world narrowed to the extent that whatever mattered before no longer had meaning.

3. The Villians.

While I never cared for the lesser scenes, the absence of those scenes marked the greatest concession to a portion of your fans than almost every other part of the book. To be clear, there are no point of views from the lessers, the perpetrators of evil in this mythology. The previous four books have been heavy with them and to eliminate the POV entirely and to minimize their importance makes the later actions seem even more disjointed. Again, the lessers, like the homoerotic overtones, like Jane’s independence, are easily discarded. If the lesser POV was important enough to take up almost half of the previously written series, why isn’t it included in this book? Or conversely, why was it written in the first place?

4. The Scribe Virgin.

The core of your mythology is the Scribe Virgin. Through her, the Brotherhood owes its existence. She is the sun around which the world revolves. In every other book except the last, she has provided the solution to every hairy problem that arose. Her picture belongs in Wikipedia next to deux ex machina. entry In this book, the Scribe Virgin’s actions cause a reader to question the fundamental basis on your world. The questions, unfortunately, cause an unraveling of the mythology until the series is stripped bare and all the leathers and “yo, bro” can’t save this one.

It’s clear from this book that there is no reliability in your world building. The world can be reshaped in each book, from moment to moment to fit the story that you wish to tell. If it is convenient to shrug off a previously entrenched part of the mythology, then its gone. If you need to contradict the existing canon to establish a convenient outcome, then it is done. If a character trait that is developed and maintained for previous books doesn’t fit with the story, that’s shrugged off. Not only are the narrators then unreliable, but the entire basis of the world is made to be unreliable. The result is a total lack of tension or conflict. Any conflict that is manufactured can be easily resolved by simply removing the conflicting element, even if it contradicts the previously established world rules.

It’s no wonder that the homoerotic overtones of the book get so much play. The relationship between the brothers is the most authentic connections in the book. Without the worldbuilding, you still have a core of men who’ve relied upon each other to be the port in the the storm, emotionally if not physically. Butch and Vishous’ relationship rang true unlike most every other element of the book. The building of the bond between the men, Butch and Vishous, Phury and Zhadist, John and his young compadres, are really what make the book. I think that these relationships would be as interesting without the superlatives that are added by the paranormal aspect. In fact, I found the physical description of the Brotherhood in this book to be almost grotesque.

Inside were a pair of brand-new distressed jeans, a fleece the size of a sleeping bag, an XXXL T-shirt, and a pair of size-fourteen Nike Air Shox in a shiny new box.

Did I care for the ending? I guess not but mostly because I felt like to get from Point A to Point C, you trampled over Point A, erased Point B and said “ta da” at the end. The magic act just didn’t work for me this time. I guess in some ways I should thank you. I’ve broken my habit. Phury who? C-.

Best regards

Jane

I’ve heard this book is everywhere. BAMM, Wal-Mart, etc. Go forth, buy, disagree with me.

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

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