Review: Devil’s Cut

Review: Devil’s CutDevil's Cut (The Bourbon Kings, #3) by J.R. Ward
Series: The Bourbon Kings #3
Published by Ballantine on August 1st 2017
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 418
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION:  Loved, loved, loved this conclusion to the Bourbon Kings trilogy.  A very soap-ish over the top story, this one finished in grand style. I’m pleased with the scope of the story and an only sorry that the whole series was so short.

THE STORY:  As we resume our story…The patriarch of the family has been murdered and the eldest son, Edward, has been arrested and confessed to his murder. Edward sits in jail mourning the loss of the woman he loves Sutton.  The middle son, Lane has taken over the family bourbon business which is deeply in debt due to his father’s embezzlement.  While Lane has reunited with the love of his life, Lizzie, their happiness is threatened by the lies and deceit in the family.  Finally, the sister, Gin has married a man her father picked out for her who is already abusing her. Gin is determined to take everything she can from her marriage especially to finally be a mother to her teenage daughter (who is the daughter of her longtime lover, friend and enemy Samuel unbeknownst to both daughter and Samuel).  And thus the story begins its conclusion…

OPINION:  I’ve been a fan of the Bourbon King series since the first book.  I loved the big, overly dramatic tales of the rich that reminded me fondly of the 1980s nighttime soap operas and Danielle Steele novels that where unofficially the mandatory reading for girls in my high school.  Together the three books in this trilogy make a wonderful, decadent mini-series reminiscent of the best of that genre.

As the mystery surrounding the murder of the family patriarch deepens, dark secrets of the family continue to be revealed.  There are far more twists and turns left to be explored in this book — and thankfully, the resolution path is not obvious or expected.

These characters are complex and not always nice or good.  Although there is much sudsy drama, the characters remain the central part of the book.  This book travels into the darkest and most dangerous territory of the story as all the characters face serious danger — both physical and emotional.  I liked the characters in this book from the beginning — not because they are nice people (many are not, but because there is the possibility for redemption for many of them).  This book reveals who might end up with a happy ending and who won’t.

There isn’t much I can give for the plot because that would give away the fun of the twists in the plot.  I can say that if you started this series, this book will provide the closure one would have hoped for.  It is a fun, over the top book, but enjoyable especially as a summer beach read.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book resolves neatly (sometimes it felt too neatly) all the storylines in the trilogy.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  DEVIL’S CUT is the third and final book in the Bourbon Kings series.  The book really does complete the continuing story and should be read as part of the trilogy.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: The Chosen

Review: The ChosenThe Chosen (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #15) by J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood #15
Published by Ballantine Books on April 4th 2017
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 544
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“And herein was the conundrum, Xcor thought behind his closed lids. The only possible way out of this deadly scenario was to reveal the love he’d found for a female that was not his, never had been, and was not e’er going to be. But he would not sacrifice the Chosen Layla for anyone or anything. Not even to save himself.”

FINAL DECISION:  Layla and Xcor’s romance brings to light a lot of discord and fractures in the Black Dagger Brotherhood world.  Things are changing and this book demonstrates and brings to light those changes along with a surprisingly sweet romance.  Loved it.

THE STORY:  Xcor is the enemy of the Black Dagger Brotherhood having attempted to assassinate the King.  Captured by the BDB, Xcor is only awaiting death.  He is a vampire who has lived a cruelty and harshness and the first softness he has found are his feelings for Layla.  The Chosen Layla is the mother of twins and has been meeting Xcor secretly because he fascinates her. The only way to stop Xcor’s death sentence is the reveal information she has about him which would threaten her position with her “family” and perhaps her own relationship with her children.

OPINION:  I loved this book.  First, I will confess that I’ve always liked the Xcor and Layla pairing because it really seems like a beauty and the beast scenario (my favorite trope).  I thought they had a difficult journey to find their happiness and it did not always seem like it would be possible.  The story of Xcor and Layla also gave characters that otherwise seemed pretty one-dimensional some needed depth.

Layla has always been in a difficult position as to Xcor.  He is the enemy of everything she loves — and yet she has not been able to resist him.  This book ups the ante and places her own relationship with her children at risk.  I saw in this book her strength in a way that she hasn’t revealed herself before. The heroines in this series have often had to risk things and people that are important to them — the only difference here is that the very characters we have come to know and love are in opposition to the romance.

One thing I really enjoyed is that many of the characters recognize that love is not always controllable and cut Layla some slack.  I thought the majority of the characters reacted in ways that I expected them to — with anger and concern and distrust, but that struggled with their own care for Layla.

Xcor has been changing for a long time in this series.  The long term nature of his story has made his transformation feel natural and real.  I wasn’t surprised by his actions here because it has become evident over time that he will do anything for Layla — even become a better person.

But this book is about more than Xcor and Layla. If it seemed like all the characters were settling into a normalized world — this book rips all that apart.  There are plenty of fractures and changes that this book reveals or causes.  Things are a changin’ in Caldwell and it’s about time.

There are secondary and related stories or glimpses about Qhuinn and Blay, V and Jane, Trez (who has a shock coming after the death of Serena), Throe, Tohr, Assail, and Lassiter.  There are plenty of appearances by other BDB characters and plenty of new stories (including drama and angst) are apparently brewing.

WORTH MENTIONING:  I actively disliked Qhuinn in this book.  His behavior was completely unacceptable and I don’t know that he redeemed himself at all in the end.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE CHOSEN is the fifteenth book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series.  This book should be read as part of the series to truly understand the long simmering romance and the dynamics of all the relationships here.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Blood Vow

Review: Blood VowBlood Vow (Black Dagger Legacy, #2) by J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Legacy #2
Published by Ballantine Books on December 6th 2016
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 432
Goodreads
four-stars

“He was extraordinary. Or maybe…extraordinarily dangerous was more like it  However she defined the effect of him, she had a sixth sense he was going to change her life.”

FINAL DECISION: Good addition to the Black Dagger Legacy.  Axe and Elise seemed set up perfectly for an angst filled drama, but the story ended up simpler than I expected.  My favorite part of the book was the continuation of Rhage and Mary’s story from BEAST.  If you read BEAST, you have to read this one.

THE STORY: Axe is a new recruit trainee with the Black Dagger Brotherhood. He is a loner who despises the idea of love after it wrecked his father when his mother left them.  He agrees to take the job protecting a female vampire who needs a bodyguard (Axe desperately needs the money).  He ends up meeting Elise who is an aristocratic female (definitely not of Axe’s class) and he is immediately attracted to her despite knowing that there can not be anything between them.  Despite the boy from the wrong side of the tracks and the upper class girl vibe, these two find that they are desperately attracted to one another.  In other tales, Rhage and Mary are happily waiting for the finalization of their adoption of daughter Bitsy.  Just when everything seems to be going so well, a man who might have a greater claim on their daughter enters the picture disrupting the happy ending that the trio expected.

OPINION:  This was an interesting book, but I honestly liked the secondary story involving Rhage and Mary more than the primary story.  Axe and Elise seemed set up perfectly for an angst filled drama, but the story ended up simpler than I expected.

From his presence in the prior book in this series, Axe has shown himself to be a highly damaged person.  A former drug addict, a current sex addict (who spends his free time at a sex club engaging in public sex), a male vampire who feels deep anger and guilt about his father, I expected his journey to love to be difficult and filled with drama and angst.

The intense problems are quickly resolved when he falls for Elise.  This is more about two opposites falling for one another (although it is clear Elise is not as pure as she seems and Axe is not as dark). Axe is smitten from Elise from the beginning and doesn’t seriously fight that attraction.

Elise is a woman who wants to be different than the expectations of the older generation.  In fact, the one thing that is consistent with the Black Dagger Legacy books is that the old ways are changing in the vampire world and this younger generation is determined to make different lives for themselves than the older generation expected.

The idea of the new generation breaking out from convention is a strong theme in this series which I enjoy — especially because I’ve read the Black Dagger Brotherhood series where the characters do largely adhere to the old ways (although things are changing there as well).

With Elise’s skills and abilities I had expected that we would see a crossover with the Rhage and Mary story, but those are kept largely apart.

The Rhage and Mary part of this book make this mandatory reading for fans of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series (especially after BEAST).  This is the center of the angst and drama in this book.  After the events of BEAST, this book upends the “happy ending” when a male appears who may have a claim on Rhage and Mary’s newly adopted daughter. This story kept the pages turning for me. Drama, love, resolution with complex ideas and themes.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book is highly focused on the new trainees and the original BDB characters which is nice for those readers who want to know more about the characters and less about the mythology of the BDB series.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  BLOOD VOW is the second book in the Black Dagger Legacy series.  This is a spin off of Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series. The main story of this book about Axe and Elise can be read without knowledge of the rest either of the series (although there is no world explanation so you have to pick up the nuances) but the secondary story about Rhage, Mary and Bitsy is a continuation of BEAST (Black Dagger Brotherhood).

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: The Beast

Review: The BeastThe Beast (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #14) by J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood #14
Published by NAL on April 5th 2016
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 508
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“She was the watch on his wrist, the roast beef when he was starving, and the pitcher of lemonade when he was thirsty. She was his chapel and his choir, the mountain range to his wanderlust, the library for his curiosity, and every sunrise or sunset that ever was or would ever be.”

FINAL DECISION: I loved this book. Ward has done a great job creating a realistic conflict between Mary and Rhage which stays true to their story but accommodates the changes that have occurred with them and their friends.

THE STORY:  Rhage thinks everything should be perfect. He has the woman he loves, his brothers have found love and are doing well.  But Rhage is having panic attacks and he can feel a distance between him and Mary and even a distance in his own life.  At the same time, Mary is dealing with a crisis of her own at work.  When Rhage suffers a mortal injury, he and Mary must confront their problems rather than ignore them.

There is also stories about Layla and Xcor which moves them closer to their own book.  Assail also has his own story continue.

OPINION: I found this book particularly enjoyable because it takes seriously Mary and Rhage’s relationship. This book settles a lingering issue between Mary and Rhage. While the two love one another, they have never dealt with the fact that they cannot have children together.  Now as the other members of the BDB are moving on to the stage of having children, the issue that seemed settled rises again.

I enjoyed how Ward goes deep into her characters in this book.  Even with love, there are sometimes disappointments in relationships. Rhage loves Mary and wouldn’t choose anyone else, but there is no doubt that the reality of never having children is finally settling in. So many times, the choices we make seem simple until we have to live with them.  Rhage and Mary are both having to live with their reality.

I really am embracing Ward’s revisiting of couples from the original Black Dagger Brotherhood. I still find those characters the most compelling in the series and am happy to see more of their journey.

WORTH MENTIONING: There is a new character introduced who has an interesting connection to Manny.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE BEAST is closely connected with the Black Dagger Brotherhood ongoing story.  A reader could read LOVER ETERNAL and understand the romance between Mary and Rhage but there are other storylines which would not be understandable without reading more of the series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Blood Kiss

Review: Blood KissBlood Kiss (Black Dagger Legacy, #1) by J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Legacy #1
Published by Signet on December 1st 2015
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 397
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION:  Loved this one.  The combination of the new adult/next generation type story with Paradise and Craeg and a revisit with Butch and Marissa both gave the story continuity with the Black Dagger Brotherhood and the freshness of a new series not dependent upon the overarching storyline of the Black Dagger Brotherhood.

THE STORY:  Paradise, the only daughter of the vampire king’s First Advisor, should be living a cloistered aristocratic life, but she wants something more.  She has convinced her father to allow her to enter into the Black Dagger Brotherhood’s training problem to learn to protect herself.  Doing so goes against all sex and class expectations of Paradise.  The training is incredibly difficult both physically and mentally but also because one of her fellow recruits has caught her eye.  Craeg is from a middle class vampire family and has his own reasons from joining the program.  That purpose does not include getting romantically involved with Paradise.  But the heart wants what the heart wants.

OPINION:  I had expected that this book would exist in the Black Dagger Brotherhood world but would be almost entirely separate — wrong.  With the inclusion of the Butch and Marissa story, this book is very closely tied to the Black Dagger Brotherhood.

The combination of these two stories give this book a closeness with the main series and yet also has a next generation feel.

Paradise and Craeg are clearly of a different generation than the characters in the BDB.  Their concerns, their values, their thoughts are shaped by the war with the Lessers including the large scale deaths of vampire families caused by them.  That event has changed the cultural values of these younger vampires.  Paradise is the perfect example.  Raised to be a pretty object, she is restless and wants something more than the life that she was expected to live.  More independent, more self-determinate, more willing to take on non-traditional roles and actions, Paradise is blazing her own trail and that includes finding her own male.  Craeg is of the working class generation (one we haven’t seen in the BDB).  He is now alone in the world after the Lesser attacks.  He is a natural leader and intends to use his training to get revenge for his family.  He doesn’t want any attachments which is why his fascination with Paradise dismays him.

I liked the different pace of their relationship as their concerns are more personal, more coming of age first romance type.  Their problems are quieter than the more angst driven BDB stories.  I enjoyed the change and I think their classmates also have interesting stories which bodes well for the future of this series.

WORTH MENTIONING:  The secondary story involved Butch and Marissa, a violent death of a female vampire that needs investigating, Butch’s issues with sexual roles of women, and Marissa’s dealing with her own past.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  BLOOD KISS is the first book in the Black Dagger legacy series.  This series is a spin-off of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series.  This series is still intimately connected with the Black Dagger Brotherhood even though its focus is on the new recruits but new readers could try this out as a first book.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: The Shadows

Review: The ShadowsThe Shadows (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #13) by J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood #13
Published by Signet on March 31st 2015
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 590
Goodreads
four-half-stars

WARNING: Spoilers are contained in this review!

“Don’t do this to yourself, Trez.  Just…just know that I love you and let me go.”

FINAL DECISION:  This was an incredibly difficult book for me to read.  Many won’t consider it a romance at all because it has a sad ending (spoilers below).  I thought it was incredibly moving and beautiful but I’m glad I knew what happened otherwise I would have been angry.

THE STORY:  Trez has been on the run from his people.  Prophesy declares that Trez must be mated to the princess of his people.  Trez has spent years defiling his own body fighting his fate.  When he falls for the Chosen Selena, he believes himself unworthy of her.  Selena, herself, is fighting a fatal disease and doesn’t know how much times she has left.  When Selena experiences a crisis, Trez and Selena decide to live each day as if they have forever — even if they don’t.  At the same time, Trez’s brother iAm is trying to protect his brother.  Their people, the Shadows, intend to having the Annointed One returned to him.  Time is running out for all of them.

OPINION:  I normally avoid spoilers in writing a review believing that part of the beauty of the story is allowing the information to flow as intended by the author.  I truly couldn’t find a way to write an honest review of this book without disclosing the big spoiler of the book.

DON’T READ ON IF YOU WANT TO AVOID SPOILERS!

I personally don’t think this book can be considered in any way a romance.  It is definitely an incredibly beautiful love story, but, for me, it doesn’t fit into my definition of romance which requires a happy ending.

Selena dies in this one.  The story is piercingly beautiful.  I cried through half of it.  I admit that I knew the ending of this one before I began so I knew that there was no miracle ending coming to Trez and Selena.

I thought the relationship between Trez and Selena was heartrendingly beautiful.  The two truly did seem to experience a whole breadth of a relationship in a short time.  Because of the power and intensity of their relationship, I thought the rest of the book faded in the background a bit.  There was no wasted space and time for these two.  Every moment was vital precisely because I knew that they only had this moment..this one time.  There would never be another date, another kiss, another fight.

All the extraneous things that often are the focus in romance books were less important.  For Trez, even the overhanging threat from his people is less important than he could have ever expected.  The impending loss of Selena so overwhelms his other fears and concerns that he won’t even spare time to think on them.

The interwoven stories work especially well in this book because they provide a breather from the unrelenting intensity of Trez and Selena’s story.  The other stories don’t feel as important (there is also a significant relationship between iAm and the female he finds) but they clear the palate before plunging back into the main story of the book.

I loved everything about this book but the ending.  While the ending works and perhaps is necessary for such an honest book, I couldn’t help wanting a different outcome.  I think that might be its point though.

This book is controversial.  Those coming to these books wanting a HEA might be disappointed and angry.  I’m glad I knew the ending so that I could emotionally prepare myself.  This might be the best written and constructed book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, but this is not a story I’d like to revisit often.  Too real, too sad, too painful.

WORTH MENTIONING:  The secondary stories were the introduction of Paradise (who is the subject of the first book in the Black Dagger Legacy series), Xcor and Layla, Assail’s continued drug trade, and there is a new story starting with Rhage and Mary.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE SHADOWS is book 13 in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series.  This book is better as part of the series but actually you can get the entire story in this book which is unusual for recent books in this series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: The King

Review: The KingThe King (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #12) by J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood #12
Published by Signet on August 26th 2014
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 605
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION:  I loved this book.  Returning to the beginning, Ward revisits the story of Wrath, king of the vampires, and his shellan/wife Beth.  I loved these characters when I read DARK LOVER and I loved that their story continues to evolve.  I especially loved that the guts of this story began and ended in this book.

THE STORY:  After being together for two years, Beth desperately wants a child with her husband Wrath. Wrath, however, intends never to have children not wanting to sentence them to the dangers of his life, the lack of choice in being part of the hereditary monarchy of the vampires, and also he doesn’t want the medical risks to his beloved Beth.  This causes the first read marital discord between Beth and Wrath.  At the same time, enemies of Wrath threaten his position as king, using Beth as the lever.

OPINION:  Firmly entrenched in the multi-view narrave approach to the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, I didn’t expect that we would get another book about the original couple in the series.  While this book maintains the multiple narratives (hello, Trez/iAm/Selenaa, Xcor/Layla and Assail/Sola), this book feels like Wrath and Beth, part 2 with the other stories clearly subservient.

I’ve always loved Wrath and Beth’s story.  DARK LOVER is what compelled me to begin this long journey through these books.  This book goes deeper into their relationship.  This book isn’t about the passion of coming together, but rather, the difficult journey of merging diverging goals, desires, and dreams that is the ongoing challenge of any marriage.  That is one of my favorite parts of this book.  There is no question that Beth and Wrath love one another. There is no manufactured dispute to draw them apart and make them question their commitment to one another. Rather, their different wants make them wonder how they can reconcile conflicting desires.  That is any long term relationship.

This book also brings to a close the latest attempt by Xcor and the Band of Bastards to dethrone Wrath. As this book ends, there are clearly splits in the Band of Bastards and it is uncertain what the future holds.  This book is clearly a turning point in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series which gathers up threads of the overarching story to prepare to go forward in a different direction.

Despite its length, this book just flew for me.  All the stories were interesting and I felt invested in all the characters. For me, the BDB has regained the compelling narrative that drew me to the series initially.  The stories feel more character focused and the multiple narratives feel more an asset in allowing the stories of these characters to play out in a more realistic timeframe.

I’m interesting to see whether than momentum can be maintained in the next book which is about Trez/iAm/Selena.

WORTH MENTIONING: For the first time in a long time, this book is primarily focused on Wrath and Beth. While other stories are woven throughout the book, this one is primarily about these two.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE KING is the twelfth book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series.  The stories in this book are intertwined and dependent upon reading the other books in the series, but for the main story, a reader could get away with just read DARK LOVER and then this one.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: The Angels’ Share

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Angels’ ShareThe Angels' Share (The Bourbon Kings, #2) by J.R. Ward
Series: The Bourbon Kings #2
Published by NAL on July 26th 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 432
Goodreads
five-stars

“Timing, like fate, is everything.”

–the Note from the Author

FINAL DECISION:  One of my favorite books of the year.  THE ANGELS’ SHARE interweaves the individual stories of the various siblings in a compelling dramatic and amazingly mesmerizing way.  I couldn’t put this book down and my only regret is that I have to wait for the next book in the series.

THE STORY:  This book picks up immediately after the events of THE BOURBON KINGS.  The head of the family, William Baldwine has been found dead after the discovery of his embezzlement from the family company and the personal family fortunes.  First believed a suicide, suspicion begins to fall on the oldest brother, Edward, who was almost killed by William leaving Edward in pain, scarred and a shadow of his former self.  Edward also struggles with his attraction for Sutton Smythe, the new head of the family company’s rival and the woman Edward has wanted for years.  This story, along with the youngest brother Lane’s struggle to grasp the scope of the family’s financial problems and save them all are the focus of this book but there are other ongoing stories.  Gin, the sister continues her self destructive ways, loving lawyer Samuel while agreeing to marry a man she hates for money.  Now Maxwell, the mysterious brother who has been gone for years, has returned as well.

OPINION:  I came to this series after reading and enjoying Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood paranormal romance/urban fantasy series.  I actually like this series more.  After reading the THE BOURBON KINGS last year, I returned to the BDB series with a better appreciation of the multi-narrative technique that Ward uses in both series.

In THE ANGELS’ SHARE, the multi-narratives give this book the sense of a saga, a soap opera, a complex story that slowly reveals itself.  By slowly disclosing the individual stories of these characters, their complexity and humanity is revealed.  By giving readers the personal viewpoints of the various characters, we can understand them even when they are not particularly likeable.

The organizing narrative again comes from Lane.  Lane is becoming the family head after the death of his father.  With the strength of his love for Lizzie, Lane is changing and growing into a role that should have been his oldest brother Edward’s.  I adore Lane who is becoming a truly admirable man as the story progresses.  His honest struggles and mistakes make him eminently likeable and I still love his weakness for the practical and grounded Lizzie.

I want to say that this book is not a romance in the traditional sense.  Lane and Lizzie are together at the beginning of this book and no one else has a happy ending at the end.  I usually avoid giving spoilers, but those readers who insist on a very traditional read will not find that here.  Instead, there are multiple romances in this saga, all of which change and are exposed here for good or for bad.  The mistakes and miscommunications and successes of these characters in relationship to one another is the focus. Life and relationships are complicated things, changing and molding these characters.

Edward, the oldest brother, goes through the most growth in this book.  After being abused and tortured by his kidnappers in South America, Edward has spent years in pain and pitying himself.  Having abandoned everything that was important to him before, he remains angry.  After an experience that has fundamentally changed him, he doesn’t know how to deal with those changes and how even to integrate those he loves from his life before.  Instead, he wallows in a half life.  Now a suspect in his father’s death, Edward is being moved from his stasis. He has two women in his life now — Sutton, who he loved for years but believes that he can now never be good enough for, and Shelby who never knew him before and has no expectations of him. Things are changing for Edward and by the end we see that he has a lot of secrets that have yet to be revealed.

Gin, the sister, is in trouble.  Engaged to marry a man who she hates because she fears the loss of the family fortunes, she continues her self-destructive ways.  Much of Gin’s story remains a mystery but even for her there are bright spots.  In fact, there is scene between her sometime lover and often nemesis Samuel that is my favorite in the book.  The incredibly deft hand that Ward uses in crafting that scene made it one that both warmed and broke my heart reading it.  The question of how these two people who love one another so much managed to mess it up so badly remains concealed for another day.

We are finally introduced to the mysterious sibling Maxwell. He only has a small appearance in this book, but he clearly has secrets of his own.

Ward has interwoven these stories in such a way that I was sucked into the stories and couldn’t put this book down.  I read through much of the night with the “just one more chapter”. When I reached the end of the book, I was both incredibly satisfied and incredibly anxious for the next book in the series. I am addicted this dysfunctional family and I have to know what happens next!

WORTH MENTIONING:  The “angels share” refers to the amount of bourbon that is lost during the aging process though evaporation.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE ANGELS’ SHARE is the second book in The Bourbon Kings series. This series consists of the stories of the Bradford family heirs to the Bradford bourbon company.  The stories of the siblings (and their friends) are intertwined in each book.  While a reader could skip the first book in the series and catch up here, this is a family saga where each book builds on the prior one and leaves much to be resolved in later books.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 5 enthusiastic stars.

five-stars

Review: Lover at Last

Review: Lover at LastLover at Last (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #11) by J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood #11
Published by NAL on March 26th 2013
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 608
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  I was happy that Qhuinn and Blay finally got their HEA but I thought this story lacked something perhaps because the most dramatic parts of their story took place in other books sapping some of this book’s emotional core.

THE STORY: Qhuinn has loved his friend Blay for years but has denied the attraction afraid of adding being gay to his other perceived “imperfections”.  Despite the fact that he has impregnated the Chosen Layla, Qhuinn finally has reached the point of admitting that he wants Blay. At the same time, Blay has apparently moved beyond his own attraction to Qhuinn after years of unrequited love. Blay is in a relationship with Qhuinn’s cousin.  Despite the relationships pulling them in different directions, Blay and Qhuinn cannot deny the passion that exists between them.

OPINION:  After being thoroughly engage in Qhuinn and Blay’s story in the last couple of books, I was a bit disappointed by how things went in this book.  First, I think that if you haven’t read the other books in this series, this book fails to make the romance compelling.  I think the most dramatic and emotionally compelling part of their story took place in prior books and without those portions here, the angst just dragged on rather than move the story forward.

I felt the story was “Q&B don’t talk to one another”, sex, “Q&B don’t talk to one another”, sex, etc, etc. until “I love you” and HEA. What I didn’t like was that it felt like the two always loved one another, Qhuinn had made the significant breakthrough in admitting his feelings in the previous book and all that was keeping them apart at this point was lack of saying “I love you.”

Despite that, there were moments between Qhuinn and Blay that I really liked and the longtime connection between these characters gave depth and significance to them finally finding their path to one another.  I’d give a 5 to their entire journey together, but only a 4 to this book alone.

Of course, there is not only one storyline in this book.

The continuing storyline about the Band of Bastards attack on Wrath’s reign is accelerating in preparation for the next book of the series which revisits Wrath and Beth’s relationship.  The intriguing relationship between Xcor and Layla also continues here. A new relationship appears on the horizon between the drug dealer vampire Assail and his “burglar”.  Finally, someone from Qhuinn’s past unexpectedly reappears and thus a new storyline is born.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. I will reread it later and perhaps my opinion will evolve after I get over some of my expectations disappointment.

WORTH MENTIONING:  The Lesser Society has made a welcome reappearance after being mere fodder for the vampires to kill in the last few books.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  LOVER AT LAST is the eleventh book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. This series has intertwined stories which cover a number of books. A single book has multiple viewpoints.  Qhuinn and Blay’s story takes place over a number of book merely culminating here.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Lover Reborn

Review: Lover RebornLover Reborn (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #10) by J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood #10
Published by NAL on March 27th 2012
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 592
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“If I can live though the events” she said, “I can get through the memories.”

FINAL DECISION:  Ward takes a difficult romance and slowly draws readers into the heart of these characters.  A minor quibble about the rationale of an important element of the story keeps this from a higher rating, but I thought this was a great addition to the series.

THE STORY:  In the vampire world of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, it has been over a year since Tohrment’s shellan and unborn child were murdered.  He is a shadow of himself unable to move forward.  Instead, he hopes for the day when he will be able to join his loved ones in the fade.  Then Tohr finds out that his beloved and child are trapped by his love and longing in the inbetween unable to find peace in the fade.  The only way to save her is to move on with another woman.  The woman who has caught his interest is No’One who is trapped in her own way.  She had been raped and gave birth to a daughter as a result.  Committing suicide immediately after the birth, No’One was given a second chance, which she has taken by serving others by cleaning and living a modest sacrificial life.  She agrees to help Tohr help release his loved ones by connecting with her in a sexual way.  But the two end up finding more than they expected with one another.

OPINION: This is a book about people who are trapped in one way or another. Tohr is trapped by his love of his shellan Wellsie and his unwillingness to let go of that past.  Wellsie and her child are trapped by Tohr’s love.  No’One is trapped by her rape, pregnancy and suicide.  For Tohr and No’One guilt (even though unwarranted) plays a strong role in trapping them.  While the plot centers around Tohr’s determination to save Wellsie, the central conflict is how Tohr and No’One free themselves and one another.

I commend Ward for writing a story about grief and the guilt that survivors feel.  It would have been infinitely easier to find a way of bringing Wellsie back. Many more fans would have been satisfied.  Instead, she wrote about moving on and the joy that can be found by those who are left behind.  I thought this story was complex and nuanced and the fact that it was a huge book where the events happened over a long period of time gave realism to the story.

My one complaint is that I don’t think there is any logic why No’One despite having committed suicide is allowed to return to the world why Wellsie is sent to the fade.  Ward, to her credit, addresses that controversy, but doesn’t really have a good explanation.  A reader thus has a choice — accept that things in life don’t have logical explanations or complain and fret about the illogical events. Perhaps, Wellsie’s work in the world was done and No’One still has a purpose.  Like so many tragedies in life, there is no answer.

I very much enjoyed this book and have acclimated to Ward’s multi-narrative approach to these books.  There are several secondary storylines.

John Matthew and Xhex are having problems adjusting to being mated.  John Matthew doesn’t find it as easy to accept Xhex risking her life as he had believed.

Qhuinn/Blay/Layla/Saxon continues to steam along.  It is clear from the end of the book, however, that Qhuinn and Blay’s book is next.

Xcor and his Band of Bastards continue to make themselves into the the opponents to the Black Dagger Brotherhood.  At the same time, the Lessers which have been the primary enemies to this point have begun to diminish in importance.  Xcor and his followers have some interesting developments in this book.

I greatly enjoyed this book.  After some initial problems when Ward changed her narrative focus in the series, I have again tremendously enjoyed this series (although they are better for me when I space out the reading rather than gorging on them).

WORTH MENTIONING:  Ah, I loved how this book ends with a nod towards the next book about Qhuinn and Blay.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  LOVER REBORN is the tenth book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. This book, as is true with others in the series, has overlapping storylines which begin before this book and some which continue into subsequent books. I think it is almost impossible to understand what is happening in this book without having read the others in the series first.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars