J. R. Ward: LOVER AWAKENED

Lover Awakened by J. R. Ward
Black Dagger Brotherhood #3
Piatkus 2006
527 pages
4.5/5 stars

For me, this third instalment in Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood is the strongest yet. I will start by cautioning that you not go into the series from here – it definitely loses impact if you’re not familiar with the characters beforehand. Although Ward explains some previous events (something I find useful because I simply can’t remember details) it is not quite enough to keep you on track, and the emotional side works much better when you have an understanding of the characters and their situations.

What makes me say this one is stronger then the previous ones? It is somewhat hard to pinpoint, but I think it is the characters. The heroine, Bella, is surprisingly rational, in a somewhat gentle way. She recognises that Zsadist – yeah, here we go with the names – is not someone she should want, but also knows it is him she wants, and although Z’s twin Phury (I know, I know) is a much better option she’s just not into him, even though she takes the time to think of the social implications of her choice.

The social implications are what simultaneously please me and rub me the wrong way. On the other hand, the vampire aristocracy is very reminiscent of the London ton of Regency romances – Ward even likens the two in the glossary provided at the beginning of the book – but at the same time its notions of propriety feel very out of place in a modern setting. Of course, it must be kept in mind that vampires live for centuries, but I was a little disappointed to find the aristocracy so exclusive of the smallest of aberrations.

Now that I mentioned the longevity of the vampires, I cannot leave out my biggest pet peeve with this book. In reminiscing his past as a blood-slave, Zsadist looks back to the early 1800s, and I can’t get over how ridiculously old-timey the diction is. Naturally, in 1800s the way of speaking and phrasing things was different, and admittedly I’m better acquainted with the British varieties, but Ward’s shift to an earlier way of phrasing just feels very off. Again, vampires would use a different way of speaking, having lived a long time, but compared to how well they seem to have adopted the 2000s way of speaking, one would think they would have been as well adapted in the 1800s.

Ahem. Back to the business at hand. Quite unexpectedly, I ended up liking Zsadist. Severely abused for about a hundred years, it’s no wonder he is troubled. His two major relationships, those to Bella and his brother Phury, are very interesting and more carefully done than I have seen in this series so far. Although been held captive and terrorized for six weeks, Bella at no point claims to understand Zsadist but merely wants to help; and his brother will do anything for him. Even the tentative love triangle between the three is resolved in a mature way.

So mostly the half-star demotion from five comes from the language. I’m never getting over the hilarity of the warrior names, and the supposedly 1800s language had me in tears – I don’t even know which that was, amusement or bemusement. But I liked the characters and their relationships, and there were some twists relating to the minor characters that actually took me by surprise, which was very nice and got a few squeals.

I recommend the Black Dagger Brotherhood series if you want something easy to breeze through, some laughs, a lot of action, and vampires. It’s not a series I thought I’d like, but as Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches would probably say, there’s crack in the writing. Just be sure to start from the beginning! (The first book is Dark Lover!)

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