Lover Eternal by J.R. Ward

35729This is my favorite BDB book, though the first time I read it, I remember not liking it as much. I don’t remember why. I think it was because I thought there was too much about the Lessers (who’ve always bored me), but this time around, I skipped over all the Lesser sections and the story flowed so much better. I love the story of Mary and Rhage.

Mary Luce was a social worker who leaves her life’s work after being diagnosed with leukemia. Now in remission, she works as an executive assistant at a law firm and volunteers her free time at a suicide hotline. Mary is in constant fear of the disease coming back, so she is emotionally distant and doesn’t have much in the way of human relationships. Her only friends are her next-door neighbor Bella (who is harboring her own secret) and John Matthew, a young mute man with a mysterious background whom she meets while volunteering at the suicide hotline. It is through John Matthew that she gets involved with the Black Dagger Brotherhood because as it turns out, John Matthew is a pre-trans vampire (a dormant vampire who hasn’t yet gone through the change). Bella, who recognizes John Matthew as a pre-trans and will thus need help through his transition, calls the BDB headquarters for assistance.

Rhage is a ridiculously good-looking vampire warrior with a curse and a member of the Black Dagger Brotherhood. There is a dragon-like beast that resides within him, which is very deadly and useful in the fights against the Lessening Society, the BDB’s sworn enemy, but otherwise a pain in the ass. Stress and tension within Rhage is what can trigger the beast, so Rhage has to release tension either through violence or sex. Sex is slightly preferable to violence, so Rhage has sex with seven to eight anonymous women a week, in order to control the beast. He meets Mary when she brings John Matthew to the BDB headquarters to be evaluated by the brotherhood, and is instantly entranced by her. He immediately becomes obsessed with Mary and begins to follow her, even amidst the vehement protests of other members of the Brotherhood. Mary is human, after all, and Rhage has no business getting involved with her.

While the two of them are out together, Mary and Rhage are attacked by the Lessers, one of whom secures Mary’s purse, with her keys and identification in it. Rhage stays with Mary in her house to ensure her safety, where they continue to get to know and get intimate with each other. The attraction is mutually-intense and all-consuming, but Mary is reluctant to let herself fall for Rhage because of her illness and the fact that she can’t believe that someone like Rhage would be attracted and in love with someone like her. Rhage, however, will not let her go, and even takes her to the Brotherhood mansion for her protection, even though it is strictly forbidden. Having to share the same quarters, Mary slowly fall for the vampire, even as she resists his sweetness and affection. Mary doesn’t believe that anything with Rhage could possibly last more than a few days, but Rhage believes Mary is his mate and thus, he can only love her and no one else. To top it all off, the beast inside him is a little too interested in Mary, too.

Your HeroineMary is strong and independent. Having had no one but herself to depend on for the last few years, she has become unable to trust or let anyone into her life. It’s easy to see why she would reject Rhage and refuse his help. After all, why would a ridiculously handsome and powerful vampire want anything to do with her? She’s sickly, not beautiful, and not the kind of woman a guy would go crazy for. She is a tough nut to crack and understandably so. She has gone through so much in her life. It is only when she sits next to Rhage and holds his hand as he feeds from another female (male vampires can only feed from female vampires), that we see Mary accepting who and what Rhage is. In this instance, we see how she is finally starting to trust and love Rhage, and the moment is a breakthrough.

Your HeroWhen Mary tells Rhage that she can’t love him, he says, “It’s all right, Mary, I’ll love you enough for the both of us.” Though I’m not a fan of the “man-whore” hero, Rhage totally gets me here. He’s my favorite out of the BDB.

My Favorite Part After Rhage is rejected by Mary one too many times, he leaves her at her house, determined to forget all about her. He turns around only to find Mary running after him, right before she throws herself into his arms, and cries, “I’m not okay, Rhage. I’m not okay.” She has finally acknowledged that she needs help. This is Mary at her most vulnerable and it is heart-achingly beautiful. Bonus favorite part: Rhage and Mary’s first date is at TGIFriday’s. Hee!

Oh My WordI’ve always found in interesting that the human females in the BDB world have such plain names: Beth, Jane, Mary. Why do you think that is? Is it because the human females are not as important or colorful as any member of the Brotherhood? That they’re nothing but the avatar of the reader? Just something that occurred to me.

But as physically weak Mary is, she is not a weakling. She’s smart, stubborn, and knows which side of the bread is buttered. She knows that it would be dangerous for her to live outside the Brotherhood compound, so she stays put even when the situation between her and Rhage become more uncomfortable and complicated. She doesn’t insist on leaving the compound, she doesn’t insist that she can take care of herself—she knows there are things going on beyond her comprehension and she doesn’t insist on being in front of it.

Because I’m re-reading the series from the beginning (I’m on the fourth now), I’ve noticed that the formation of each relationship basically starts out the same. Woman meets Vampire, Instant spark, Woman is in peril because of vampire, woman moves into vampire’s bedroom in the Brotherhood mansion for her own protection, woman and vampire have a lot of sex, they break up due to misunderstanding, get back together, have lots more sex, and admit they are in love with each other. This one is a Beauty and the Beast story. What’s different about Mary and Rhage’s relationship is that Mary has cancer and is forced to face her own mortality on an everyday basis. Rhage, on the other hand, is a vampire and can live for several hundred years. Because of Mary’s illness, the stark difference between Mary and Rhage is even more obvious. She is fully human and he is Other. It shouldn’t work, but it does. I’m even willing to accept the deus ex machina at the end as a resolution for Mary and Rhage because I love them both so much.

While the romance of the novel really worked for me, I was bored by the urban fantasy aspect of it. Because of this, I skimmed through maybe 30% of the book, which is all about the Lessers. The Lessers just don’t interest me very much and I hate that I have to skip huge sections of the books because I like to finish every book I read. I don’t feel all the way fulfilled with my reading of this novel because I skimmed through all the Lesser (heh) parts. When I excised all the Lesser stuff from my reading, I thought the novel flowed more smoothly and the pacing improved. I wasn’t a fan of the cliffhanger chapter ending that is followed not by the resolution, but some filler stuff about the Lessers. It was annoying and really detracted from my enjoyment of the novel.

TL;DR Mary meets Rhage, who is a vampire. Rhage becomes obsessed with Mary and wants to be with her. Mary, who has cancer, is reluctant to get involved with anyone. Mary comes into trouble because she is seen with Rhage by the Lessers and thus becomes a target. Mary moves in to the Brotherhood mansion for her protection and she and Rhage try to navigate the whole relationship thing with the whole cancer thing and the whole “I’m a vampire warrior” thing hanging over their heads. Mary and Rhage break up due to a Big Misunderstanding, get back together, and admit they’re in love with each other. Also, there are these creatures called the Lessers, who bored me and made me skim parts of the book with them in it. The end.

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