My first problem with Wards 9th book is not the storyline it is the publishing. Having already bought a matching set of books 1-8 I am completely miffed at the decision to publish books 9 and 10 in completely different formats from both the previous books and each other. Publishing companies make enough money and as a supporter of the published word rather than online or kindle books, it annoys me that they purposely publish books with different covers and sizes just because they know fans will buy the first edition and then re-buy the matching book when it is later released, thus doubling their profits.
Lover Unleashed supposedly deals with the story of Payne (according to the blurb), interestingly it is Manny who graces the front cover, not a woman and the storyline deals more with men that it does women. Although the story revolves around Payne by the end of the book I still feel like I know little about her, I know some of characteristics, like strength and stubbornness just like her twin Vishous. However, her inner workings, her past are all still a mystery to me. I feel like Ward has only scratched the surface of this character and I fear that like her other women she will be sidelined to the margins once this book has finished.
I have enjoyed the side-story of Vishous and Jane, as it is about time we actually saw a relationship that has been previously introduced. Their relationship has developed in Lover Unleashed and they have gone through troubles and have had to find ways to deal with that. By having Payne be Vishous’ sister Ward has opened up a further triangle: that of protective brother who doesn’t think a human is good enough for his sister. That brought a humour and light-hearted aspect to the book that was a nice and funny relief. It also allowed for the reader to see Vishous self-destruct as he struggles to handle new disclosures and his relationship with Jane is tested.
In the previous book Lover Mine one of the things I liked was Ward creating problems within the relationship of Beth and Wrath, however, even that fell short as Beth was quickly returned to the sidelines and was seen as quite powerless. Lover Unleashed takes this to a new level and although still not as female forward as I would like Ward is making progress within each book. Funnily when Rhage and Mary were mentioned (in passing) I had totally forgotten that his shellan even existed considering she has never had more than a footnote since her initial arrival in Lover Eternal. Perhaps what I feel is missing from Ward’s books is the real life aspect of their stories that I might have to settle getting from her website rather than the books: http://www.jrward.com/bdb/index-slices.html
I have enjoyed the Manny/Payne relationship although I did feel that Ward focused more on Manny than Payne. The ups and downs of their relationship are interesting and as always the sex scenes are hot. I especially liked the build up and anticipation Ward created prior to the final sex scene. Like Xheh, Payne is a strong female character who desires and is fully capable of fighting, wishes the freedom to live her life the way she wants and has the strength of will to stand up to anyone who gets in her way. Through these two characters the Black Dagger Brotherhood now has women fighting the war as equals to their ‘brothers’ although not official members. Without revealing any spoilers I did feel that the ending was perhaps wrapped up in too neat a bow. If anyone has read Lover Unleashed I would love to hear their opinions on the revelation in the Manny-Payne dynamic.
We are also given more insight into Quinn as a character and his inner turmoil. Those waiting for a detailed sex scene between two men will be disappointed, and the Quinn-Blay dynamic is no nearer being resolved. We are given a glimpse of a potential future storyline for Quinn and I have a feeling that it will annoy me and not satisfy my craving for an emphasis on the male-male connection.
The introduction of a new faction of vampires I think will present a large scope for Ward to keep the backdrop interesting and fresh as the war with the Lessers could get repetitive.
This has not been my favourite of The Black Dagger Brotherhood Series and I did find myself dipping in and out of it rather than sitting and being so enthralled that I cannot put it down, which has happened with previous books from this series. However, as always I have enjoyed Lover Unleashed and will certainly keep reading the series, as there are many new threads introduced that I am exited to see where Ward takes them.