Lover Unbound- J.R. Ward

In Book Reviews, romance novels on September 3, 2010 at 12:09 am

Vampire Dom Morphs Into Vampire Teddy Bear In Love

Lover Unbound is the fifth book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J.R. Ward and this time the Brother involved is Vishous. V, as he’s called, has some serious issues.  He was abused as a young boy, cursed by his mother with a hand that can kill people, in addition to his raping and killing other young boys in his father’s war camp.  Oh, and his father is named the Bloodletter, and he had Vishous partially castrated while he was in his care.  This guy has had a bad life. Fast forward to adulthood, V is in his early 30s and is in the Brotherhood, where at least he can put some of his rage to good use killing Lessers. When he’s not enjoying himself that way, V likes to have sex in which he dominates his anonymous partner, and when I say dominate, I mean candle wax, metal clips, masks, ball gags, and whips.  The Brother likes to get his freak on.

He’s shot in the chest one night as he’s trolling for Lessers and ends up in the local hospital emergency room under the care of Dr. Jane Whitcomb.  Dr. Jane has her own troubled past, which includes a sister dying when Jane was just a child and repressive parents.

Vishous experiences vaticinal dreams, and he’s seen her in one of his dreams.  He’s  immediately drawn to Jane and when his Brothers come to the hospital to rescue him, he demands she be taken with them. So they kidnap her.  This is the beginning to the romance between them. As with other Black Dagger Brotherhood books, there is the required Brother falling before the lady (which is a nice feminist touch) and the lady being independent and feisty, which of course excites these vampires.

I have to admit I’m torn about this installment in the series.  On the one hand, the problems with the series remain.  The dialogue is as always, cringeworthy.  This Brother has the unfortunate tendency to end his sentences with the word true, which becomes irritating after just a few instances. In addition, once again, it must be said:  men, no matter what age or how long they’ve been on this planet, would not speak the way she has them speak. Also, the female Ward gives Vishous seems far too masculine compared to the other Brothers’ mates.  I have to fight the urge to describe her as butch since that would just be confusing. You see, V has been in love with his roommate named Butch for months before meeting Jane.  So Ward is working within the characterization she’s already established in earlier books with V in giving him such a tough female.  It just seems that she is so much less than the brightest Brother should have.  Also, it seems like Ward hasn’t remembered the cardinal rule of storytelling in a series: rules set up previously must be followed. Rhage had to suffer severe punishment for bringing Mary to the house, but Vishous can have Jane come to live with them with impunity. Finally, the ending is just dreadful and unbelievable. The Brother with all the gifts (good and bad) and he ends up with that?

However, there are parts of the story that I do like. It is written with much more pathos than the other Brothers’ stories. Part of that pathos is seen in V’s pining over Butch. He loves him, but the reader doesn’t get the sense that it’s physical love, per se. Ward does an admirable job walking a very fine line with V’s feelings for Butch. In one sense, they are unrequited because Butch is mated to Marissa, but in another sense they are absolutely returned as Butch cares for V more than any other Brother.  Some readers may be turned off by the homoeroticism Ward offers in V’s story, but it isn’t graphic and shows his painful need to reach out to others despite his outward behavior that indicates he wants to be alone. Unlike his fellow Brother, Zsadist, who survived his painful life before entering the Brotherhood but in a ruined state, Vishous doesn’t lurk around the mansion looking all gaunt and demonic.  He’s the opposite of Zsadist: while Z withdraws, V reaches out.  He wants  interaction.  It’s the reason why Butch, a human, was invited to live at the mansion.  And it’s the reason why he has his Brothers kidnap Jane. No matter how much he retreats into his domination world or the world of technology (he’s the Brother the others call on when they need something hacked into, rewired, etc.), he craves a connection to other beings.

Lover Unbound isn’t a bad entry into Ward’s series, and the added depth she gives this Brother does make him more interesting than the other Brothers.  However, his metamorphosis  from a tortured soul to a man so madly in love he sounds at times like an enthusiastic child is too complete.  Yes, love does change a man, but what’s existed in him for 300 years doesn’t go away completely and doesn’t change in a matter of days.  Once again, Ward has turned a junkyard dog, on some levels the best one in the series, into a teddy bear.  But this is the dilemma she put herself in from the first book because her vampires are born instead of made.  Because V can’t change Jane into a vampire, he has to change to fit her–he becomes almost human, and in doing so, he ends up as just a shadow of the badass he was at the beginning of the story.

In the end, as with all romance novels, everything is wrapped up nicely.  Is it real?  No, but it’s not supposed to be entirely real.  It’s romance. All romance readers ask, though, is that writers treat their characters well.  I don’t know if I can say Ward did for V.  Considering how much there was to work with with V, she seems to have missed the mark a bit. This reader thinks Vishous deserved better.

Ward, Like Countless Women,  Ignores The Old Proverb, “A Leopard Doesn’t Change It’s Spots.” (And Sometimes,  We Don’t Want It To.)

Vishous is the Brother of Ward’s interest in this installment of the Brotherhood Series.  This is also the heftiest novel in the series thus far.

Of course, the battle against the Omega and his minions, called Lessers, is ongoing, however that storyline takes somewhat of a back seat in Lover Unbound, as Ward focuses primarily on the character Vishous, his origins, his history, and his awkward present, which she develops nicely.  This brother is given more of a “soul” than any other warrior in the Brotherhood series.  Vishous’ character offers a fair portion of substance, which is often lacking in romances.  As in most areas of life, when we finally get something of substance, we get the good and the bad.

Vishous is intelligent; he develops and implements communication and security systems amongst the Brotherhood personnel and grounds, and throughout the entire series – Vishous is the “go to” guy when problems arise.  I liked this aspect of the character.  A man should be good at what he does;  it’s an attractive quality, but a man who is “damn good” at what he does….Ahh, that’s where attractive gets a boost to become sexy.  His character also came across to this broad as quiet, self-contemplative, and giving.  The old adage is usually true, “Still waters run deep.”  Added to the fact that he is attractive and well and powerfully built, and you have a winning combination.

Ward wrote a brutal upbringing for Vishous, which actually helps the reader feel for this guy.  Where Ward made a wrong turn wasn’t in creating this character to have homosexual tendencies, a secret (or not so secret) love for another warrior, nor in his sadism, but in making each of these stem directly from that brutal upbringing at the hands of his father (otherwise known as the Bloodletter), and writing none as preferences, but instead writing them as symptoms.  Of course, Ward seeks to neatly tie up all these issues by introducing a female character, Jane, who makes him forget everything but her.

Jane was one of the least appealing female characters I’ve encountered in romance novels.  Vishous longs for someone to spend his life with – he gets, from Jane, a commitment for booty calls that fit around her work schedule.  Vishous is an incredibly attractive vampire/warrior – he gets a plain jane…(sometimes I crack myself up….) with a man-ish face and figure.  Vishous is portrayed as terribly smart and emotionally deep – he does get a doctor, which implies intelligence, but this isn’t conveyed in the character other than in an attempt involving her childhood lived as the “less-loved” sister.  Ward even has Vishous cash in his chips as a sadist to give masochism a try with his woman.  This all works to write a wild love scene or two, but leaves me wondering where the romance was.

Ward takes a great character (a character with problems, but a great character) and in my opinion, tries to emasculate him.  What we are left with at the end of Lover Unbound is a technological genius and large, eternal vampire/warrior who offers to accept the life of a part-time lover waiting patiently with hot chocolate for his woman….when she has time.  That Ward then gives Vishous an entirely different ending didn’t help, as it was even worse.

Recommendation:  * * * _ _

Vishous was a great character.  Suffer through the rest.

~  Moira


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