As the title suggests, in “Lover at Last” (Penguin Group), the latest installment of J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series, readers may finally get what they have anticipated—seeing her two most prominent characters finally realize the physical consummation of their love for each other—but the afterglow may not be what fans of the novels expect.
Ward continues her vampire saga which, like Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight,” bridges a gap between horror and romance, an undyingly popular genre one might call “hormance.” In a gothic, gargoyled fortress somewhere near New York City, the Black Dagger Brotherhood remains cloaked in secrecy as it continues battling with a rogue faction of the vampire race as well as a group of so-called lessers who are out to annihilate both groups.
Ward’s faithful readers will pick up quickly where the last book left off; but her references to past events, old grudges and alliances will leave the uninitiated occasionally confused as they try to absorb the arcane world filled with bloodthirsty kings, queens, musclebound soldiers and the hapless humans who share that world.
Despite a glossary of terms prior to the prelude, the hierarchies of the vampire society are hard to keep straight as the author weaves power plays throughout the main plot. And a secret pregnancy remains perplexing until the reason for keeping it on the down low is revealed a third of the way into the book.
Ward’s beings are atypical of the vampires found in classical literature and pop culture:
they use GPS, watch Honey Boo Boo, drink Herradura tequila and read articles in gossip magazines about “The Bachelor”; and since they are vulnerable to bullets, they arm themselves with all sorts of weaponry aside from their piercing fangs. Ironically, the supernaturals even pray. But perhaps the biggest difference from creatures created by other hormance authors, Ward’s characters supply plenty of steamy homoerotic passages as well as scenes of heterosexual lust.
“Lover at Last” is not so much about coming of age as it is about coming out.While the union of Qhuinn and Blay is the novel’s centerpiece, there are a number of subplots involving intense longing felt by peripheral character who remain separated because of the vampire aristocracy and their ancient social mores.
Despite a treacly ending, Ward leaves enough cliffhangers to keep readers hungry for the next installment. At its heart,”Lover at Last” is a book about self-acceptance with enough powerfully emotional passages that could earn Ward a new legion of readers. So, the saga continues…
First published by the Louisville Courier-Journal