Lover Unleashed
Grade : B

I’ve been following the Black Dagger Brotherhood since the beginning. For me they peaked with Lover Awakened; Zsadist and Bella just had that perfect mix of angst and passion that has made me read every scene in which they appear over and over. But while those two (and John Mathew/Xhex) are front runners for favorites, this book had an exciting new twist to look forward to: Payne, sister of Vishous, and the ultimate combo of innocent Chosen-style maiden and powerful warrior. I was looking forward to see her hooked up with a human, Manuel “Manny” Mannelo.

When Payne suffers a devastating injury, ghostly doc Jane knows only one man is up to the challenge of repairing that sort of damage: Her old boss Manny. Problem? Manny thinks she is dead, and humans aren’t allowed to know of the brotherhood. This is Vishous’s sister, though, and her problems are causing V some major emotional pain, so out the windows the rules go. Manny works hard to help Payne, they share a few intense moments in recovery, and then she disappears from his life and his memory. But the encounter somehow remains in both hearts. When Manny is needed once more he is reunited with Payne. But how long do the two have? Can their love flourish in all the trouble to come?

Those expecting a book primarily featuring these two love birds have clearly never read Ward before. Not only do we have battle with the Lessers going on, we also have a rogue force taking the Brotherhood on for best vampire ass-kickers. This force, led by Xcor, has ancient ties to Payne. Also complicating matters is the affect Payne’s iffy recovery has on Vishous and Jane. If all this weren’t enough, we also have a storyline with a serial killer and the Qhinn/Blay train wreck to deal with.

I’ll talk about the distractions first. Jane and V didn’t really do it for me the first time around, and this second time really, really didn’t do it for me. While their relationship moves forward (and I hadn’t realized just what was missing till this book pointed it out to me), I feel Ward took us a giant step backwards. First, it was clear that Jane had not had the healing effect on V’s problems that Bella had had on Zsadist’s. They were still very much tormenting him in this book – she brought no peace for his memories. Then there is an aspect of his pain management she refuses to deal with, forcing Butch to step up to the plate. This reintroduces a triangle I thought was laid to rest. I didn’t like this regression, and the end result was that it had me rethinking two previous HEA’s. I also saw only one glimmer of the V I had originally loved – the moment when he is imagining a support group for children of the Scribe Virgin. Funny and sarcastic! That glimmer didn’t save me from being tired of his whiny behind by the time the book ended, though. And Jane? Wish she’d be laid to final rest. If she can’t accept and be there for all of who V is, I am not sure she is the shellan for him.

A far more pleasant distraction was Xcor. Another child of the Bloodletter, Xcor has kept up some (but only some) of his father’s ways. I liked him. He is a bit neanderthal, but awesome in his love of honor and devotion to his race. I am interested in seeing how his issue with Wrath is resolved, and who he winds up with. Also his man Throe seems pretty incredible too. So yay! Two new pseudo-brothers to get into. I love it when authors can hit me with series extenders I actually want to read about.

Blay/Qhinnand and their endless angst annoyed me. I can’t abide people who just let their problems go on and on and on with no effort to fix them. There was also a hint of an additional complication which had me smacking my forehead for even reading these sections.

The serial killer and cops chasing him were nothing but distractions to me. One scene at the end with the serial killer led to some character building, but the rest felt like wasted space. I did wonder if we had another Butch situation going on with one of the officers but I couldn’t make myself care.

The hero and heroine were mostly awesome, but the book did not spend nearly enough time with them. Seriously, the revisit of Jane and V took equal page space. I liked Manny. He seemed like a caring and dedicated professional as well as a sweet person. When we meet him, he has only one thing besides his job, his “girl.” His scenes with her are very touching. I wasn’t as thrilled with a surprise the author throws in toward the end regarding his past. Wasn’t sure it was needed or really added anything to the character. But Manny is great with Payne. He tends to put her first in almost everything, taking care of her and nurturing her in a charming way.

Payne doesn’t get to show her warrior side much because she is injured, then recovering for most of the book. But I liked the mix of innocent maiden/Valkyrie that the author used to create her character. She seemed a good foil for Manny and had a tender, healing heart which made a good match for a doctor. Their love story is both hot and touching. The scene at the end with the gift Manny gives her brought a big smile to my heart. I love men who can know their ladies enough to give them great presents.

I am still enjoying the Brotherhood books, and felt this one was a nice, if not brilliant, addition. I would recommend it to fans of the series.

Reviewed by Maggie Boyd

Grade: B

Sensuality: Hot

Review Date : April 8, 2011

Publication Date: 2011/04

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Maggie Boyd

I've been an avid reader since 2nd grade and discovered romance when my cousin lent me Lord of La Pampa by Kay Thorpe in 7th grade. I currently read approximately 150 books a year, comprised of a mix of Young Adult, romance, mystery, women's fiction, and science fiction/fantasy.
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