Review: Dark Lover, by J.R. Ward

Dark Lover
J.R. Ward
Paranormal Romance
September 2005
Signet Eclipse
ISBN: 978-0451216953
416 pages

I’m a bit late on the Black Dagger Brotherhood wagon, but after reading Dark Lover, I’m hooked. Set in a could-be-anywhere city in decline called Caldwell, in upstate New York, Dark Lover introduces Ward’s take on the vampire mythos, and the two principal characters of the novel, Wrath and Beth.

Wrath is centuries old, a vampire king who has eschewed the throne in favor of fighting as one of the six warriors who defend the vampire species from those who would hunt them to extinction. These warriors are members of the elite and secretive Black Dagger Brotherhood, and their lives are dedicated to keeping civilian vampires safe from the lessers, who have been created for the sole purpose of eradicating vampires. Wrath’s parents were slaughtered by lessers centuries ago, and he’s spent the intervening time exacting his revenge by hunting them down. Initially he’s very “grr, argh,” and I found myself hoping he’d mellow over the course of the novel, because he’s almost too much at the opening. Gladly, Ward develops him well.

Beth is a journalist in Caldwell with big writing aspirations and a dead-end job at the Caldwell paper. An orphan who bounced through the foster system, as far as she knows she has no one but herself, her cat, and a few friends at Caldwell PD. It’s clear early on that she has had to be self-reliant and tough to make it through her youth and young adult years, and Ward writes her with just the right amount of resiliency and vulnerability. Too much either way, and she wouldn’t have been easy to identify with, and I found myself really liking her.

Wrath and Beth’s paths are set to intersect when one of his fellow warriors dies, leaving behind a daughter (guess who!) who is half human, half vampire, and wholly unaware of her father’s vampiric legacy. Ward’s vampires don’t fully mature until their mid twenties, when they go through their transition. Being half vamp, there has always been the chance that Beth would never experience this painful change of state… but if she did, there would be a good chance she wouldn’t survive the physiological transformation.

It’s nice to get attached to a character, and then find out there’s a good chance they’re going to bite it (er, so to speak), isn’t it? It’s also nice to have the security that in this genre, you don’t usually kill off your protagonists and thwart the expected happily ever after. Whew!

It’s easy for me to get bored with the same ol’ thing with intimate scenes in romances, and I often find that I’m skimming through those parts of the book to get to the good plotty bits. To my surprise, even at 400+ pages, I didn’t feel that need to skim, so bravo, Ward! With all these expected story elements, it would be easy to have the narrative be boring and cliche, and it wasn’t. The pacing was excellent, and the variations on the paranormal romance theme were just enough to keep me interested not only in this book, but to make me excited to see these elements revisited in the next.

It’s the best kind of what I have come to expect in paranormal romances: BAMF supernatural males who are built like WWE wrestlers and armed to the hilt and carrying some sort of rough, psyche-warping past; strong women who have over come their own problems to carry on and kick ass; interesting spin on mythology; sex scenes that don’t make me roll my eyes. All in all, I’m glad to have picked it up.

Visit the author’s Web site.


About Jessica

Dork extraordinaire, that's me! An unhealthy knowledge of Star Trek, a love of books, a fondness for purring cats.
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9 Responses to Review: Dark Lover, by J.R. Ward

  1. Spragujs says:

    So I wonder if the Moonlight writers swiped Beth’s background (and name) from this novel… I was having a bit of Deja vu reading your review!

    • Jessica says:

      There might have been some overlap, and I have to admit, even though the Beth in the novel wasn’t described as looking anything like Beth from Moonlight, I totally have her as my mental image for the character. Truly, though, Elizabeth is a pretty common name, so maybe they didn’t. Also, my memory of her character background in the show is slim. Aside from being kidnapped by whatsherface as a small child, Moonlight’s Beth hadn’t had any other vampire connections, had she?

      Oh, wait. You’re talking about the journalism and connections to the local PD, I think. Ha. Well…maybe you’re on to something. 😉

      For the sake of saying…Wrath would wholly and completely chew Mick up and spit him out. I don’t think there was a vamp on the show who could out BAMF Ward’s warrior vampires.

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  3. Jen D. says:

    This book has been glaring at me from the shelf it’s been sitting on for about a year. I didn’t know how to feel about all the hype surrounding the BDB since I haven’t really seen any reviews for the first books in the series. So thanks for this review! I think I’ll finally be picking it up this weekend.

    • Jessica says:

      I think the first books are fun reading–I’ve read the first seven over the past week or so–but I’m not sure I buy into the hype that I’m learning surrounds them.

      They’re pretty good paranormal romances. Better than others I’ve read in some respects, maybe not as good in other respects. Solid entertainment, regardless.

      Also, I now have mental cage matches going on between the BAMFs in this series and the BAMFs in Kenyon’s Dark Hunters series. They’re all cut from the same cloth, and apparently I need the mental entertainment. 😉

      • Jen D. says:

        LMAO!! I’m all about a good cage match. Ugh…I haven’t read any of the Dark Hunter books either.

        So…which group of BAMFs is winning?

      • Jessica says:

        It’s slightly unfair, since some of the BAMFs in Kenyon’s series are gods (literally), and if they were matched up against the warrior vamps of BDB, it just wouldn’t be fair. ‘Cause, you know. really powerful gods.

        Non-deity vs. non-deity bad-ass, though? They’re pretty even. Though I’m pretty sure that Zarek, from Kenyon’s 3rd or 4th DH novel, would pwn most of Ward’s vamps purely because he’s a crazy mofo.

  4. Jen D. says:

    Soooo….Dark Hunters beat BDB BAMFs unless it’s non-deity vs. non-deity with the exception of Zarek and then all bets are off. I think I got it. Now the question is which to start first….hmm…

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