I think the last BDB book that I read every page of, was Vishous’ book, Lover Unbound. Scratch that, I’d forgotten about Xhex and John Matthew. Anyway, I hadn’t bothered reading the stories of Rehvenge, Tohr, Qhuinn, and Payne (Payhne?) because by the time John Matthew’s book rolled around, the series had stopped pretending it was still a romance and went full-on urban fantasy territory. I have no problem with urban fantasy–the Dresden Files count, right?–what I do have a problem with is when a book is touted to be a romance, but the whole romantic angle is shoved aside in favor of the urban fantasy aspect. I also just wasn’t interested enough in the war between the Brotherhood and the Lessers to keep going. I hated reading the swaths of precious story real estate devoted to the Lesser point of view. This one has massive Vishous/Butch/Jane drama, Xcor stuff, and some ridiculous cop stuff that made me go, “Who are you people?”
This entry to the series is about Payne, the twin sister of Vishous. Having been imprisoned by her own mother, the Scribe Virgin, for hundreds of years, Payne is ready to live life and party… until an injury from a training spar with Wrath renders her paralyzed from the waist down. Vishous will do anything to save his newly discovered twin sister even if it means seeking the help of hot shot surgeon Manuel Manello (who, as it turns out, is not Hispanic, as I had hoped—needz moar color), Jane’s ex-boss and former rival of Vishous for Jane’s affections. With the help of Jane, the Brotherhood absconds with Dr. Manello to the compound where he is supposed to operate on Payne. The moment Manny looks upon Payne’s beautiful visage, he is hooked. His heart and soul go, “mine, mine, mine,” and when he and Payne touch, it’s just plain over for our friend with the alliterative name. Luckily for him (and for the remaining few of you still reading this series for romance), Payne feels the same way.
Meanwhile, Jane and Vishous have been having marital problems. Vishous is unable to talk about his feeling in a major way and is suffering from a past trauma that is slowly making him lose his mind. Before Jane, he dealt with his issues with sadomasochism, serving as a Dom to many willing subs, but this is no longer something he can indulge in (though his solo session in his Penthouse of
Payne Pain was both painful, yet scintillating dirtydirty to read about). He could only really deal with the constant barrage of mental and emotional pain by physically hurting himself and others, but now he has no outlet. The situation gets so bad that Jane moves out of their place and Vishous gets his licks and kicks from allowing a bunch of Lessers to beat up on him. When Vishous almost dies because of these shenanigans, Butch volunteers (with Jane and Marissa’s OK– they are super understanding wives) to Dominate Vishous and give him what he needs, in order to save his life (now that’s real friendship– fine, yes, I’ll beat the shit out of you if that’ll make you happy, true?). Butch is a really good friend.
On the Qhuinn/Blaylock front, Blaylock is still with Saxton, Qhuinn’s cousin, and Qhuinn is SOL and heartbroken. He has been spending non-sexual time with the Chosen Layla and the two become friends. When Qhuinn gets a vision that he will have a child with Layla, he freaks out and swears to himself that he will never ever ever have sex with her. Not that he’d be having sex with anyone at all. Qhuinn has taken a vow of celibacy and given up the life of plowing people he doesn’t love. We’ll see how long that lasts. He might want to ask Phury for some advice.
And now on to Xcor (how do you even pronounce this? ex-KOR? Zscore?) and his crew…psyche! I so don’t care. I skimmed through these parts. I almost miss the Lessers.
And then straight out of an episode of Law and Order, we get the point of view of Jose Dela Cruz, Butch’s old cop partner, for no reason other than the tenuous connection of Butch making an anonymous 911 call early in the book to report a dead body he finds and Jose recognizes the voice as Butch’s. That’s about it, as far as I could tell, as to the connection of Jose’s POV to the main storyline. Halfway through the novel, Jose shrugs off the whole voice storyline and goes, “Eh, whatever. I have a new psycho partner to deal with,” which brings us to a newly minted detective called Del Vecchio. I mean, who is this guy? Is he being set up to become a member of the Brotherhood or Xcor’s gang? What does he have to do with anything? How does he tie in to the whole episodal arc of the series? These two cops stumble upon a serial killer that turns out to be a Lesser, and then that’s it. What did I miss? I don’t read J.R. Ward’s other series, so I don’t know if I’m missing some wink-wink, nudge-nudge, but I’d be happy if someone were to enlighten me about this whole storyline.
Your Heroine Payne is basically a Mary Sue, like the character that comes out of nowhere and is better and brighter and smarter than everyone else. Like in a BDB fanfic where the author writes in a new character, a la “What if Vishous had a twin sister all along and he never knew about her?” (see also “Oh hey, what if Buffy suddenly had a little sister?”). She gets paralyzed, gets operated on, but that stuff doesn’t work. You know what does? Sexual healing. Manuel gives her a little something-something and all of a sudden, she’s on her feet again, literally GLOWING. Brought back to life by the touch of a man. Natch.
Your Hero Manny Manello of the ridiculous name becomes Handy Manny to Payne. He is a handsome, wealthy, successful surgeon taken out of his world and element and plopped into a situation where he has to–ahem–feel his way through. Manny seems like a nice guy: a good boss, a caring son, a loving horse-owner. When his prized filly Glory gets in bad accident and may never walk again, Manny has to decide whether he has to put her to sleep or not, I got teary. It almost reminded me of—oh, hey, Wharden. What you did there? I see it.
Oh My Word Man, did this entry to the series suffer from ADHD. You know how the Game of Thrones books have a million characters and about eight to ten storylines going on at the same time? This isn’t it. It doesn’t quite work here. As a romance reader, I wanted the focal point to be Payne and Manny (though to be honest, these two were a total snoozefest), but instead they are set aside for some Vishous-Butch-Jane dramathon… but more like Vishous-Butch and Jane is just incidental. Did the Wharden regret sticking these two crazy kids in boring, heterosexual relationships, instead of with each other? I did appreciate, though, the peek into what comes after the HEA. Apparently, Jane and Vishous aren’t cooing to each other in a corner and playing grab-ass, which is how we usually see the characters after their HEA in a previous book. Most of the time, the after-HEA serves as a nudge-nudge to the main romantic leads to show them, “See? You could have this if you just fall in love.” The heaviness of the Vishous drama, however, completely outshines the Payne-Manny storyline until I felt like skimming through the Payne-Manny parts just to get to the meat of the thing, which is apparently between a Butch-Vishous sandwich.
Payne and Manny are boring. They are your usual star-crossed lovers with the same old storyline of: meet, angst, break up, make up. I did find it interesting to discover what happens after you get mind-wiped a couple of times by a vampire—you go a little nuts. Manny is initially mind-wiped in Vishous’ book, then his memories are returned to him early in this book, only to have them wiped again. The poor man gets so messed up that he starts drinking heavily, becomes unable to tell day from night, and blacks out from the painful headaches that come with his brain trying to remember what was erased. The BDB ruins this man’s life. Not only could he ever function again in the “real” world, there is no other choice but for him to stay with the BDB or…die. Nothing else goes on for Payne and Manny but each other. It seemed like their storyline was shoe-horned in just so the book could have a “central” (smirk) romantic plot, like the other books. I really didn’t like these two getting together. Manny Manello would literally have been better off without Payne. Getting involved with Payne and the BDB ruins him…like crystal meth.
There are a few more books in the series for me to read so I can catch up to the latest book, which at press time, seems to be The Shadows, which features the brothers Trez and iAm, formerly of Rhevenge’s entourage. I really hate that reading this series has begun to feel like a chore. I know I don’t have to read these books, but I feel that I have to see it all the way through (though I regretted doing this for the Sookie Stackhouse series… grrrrr). And it’s not like I really know what’s going on, because I skip huge sections of the books in favor of the two central romantic leads. But I’m still compelled to read Lover at Last, which is about Qhuinn and Blaylock, and Lover Reborn, which apparently features Tohr and Xhex’s mom (which is a bummer for me because I really liked Wellsie, Tohr’s first wife).
TL;DR Man meets paralyzed vampire female, man operates on vampire female and falls in love with her, female reciprocates feelings, they can’t be together because they’re from two different worlds, but love finds a way, and man and female have lots of sex, all of which are sandwiched within boring vampire urban fantasy stuff. The end.
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