Title: Lover at Last (Black Dagger Brotherhood)
Author: J.R. Ward
Cover Artist: managed by the publisher
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
Length: (591 pages)
A Guest Review by Larissa
Review Summary: Blay and Qhuinn’s highly anticipated story that fell a little short of the mark, but did have its ups.
** THIS REVIEW CONTAINS WHAT SOME MAY CONSIDER TO BE SPOILERS **
Blurb: Qhuinn, son of no one, is used to being on his own. Disavowed from his bloodline, shunned by the aristocracy, he has finally found an identity as one of the most brutal fighters in the war against the Lessening Society. But his life is not complete. Even as the prospect of having a family of his own seems to be within reach, he is empty on the inside, his heart given to another….
Blay, after years of unrequited love, has moved on from his feelings for Qhuinn. And it’s about time: it seems Qhuinn has found his perfect match in a Chosen female, and they are going to have a young. It’s hard for Blay to see the new couple together, but building your life around a pipe dream is just a heartbreak waiting to happen. And Qhuinn needs to come to terms with some dark things before he can move forward…
Fate seems to have taken these vampire soldiers in different directions… but as the battle over the race’s throne intensifies, and new players on the scene in Caldwell create mortal danger for the Brotherhood, Qhuinn finally learns the true definition of courage, and two hearts who are meant to be together… finally become one.
Review: Ladies and Gentlemen, I’m here to talk to you about the Black Dagger Brotherhood. So sit down, relax, and get a drink because we’re going to be here for a while.
No, I didn’t forget to rate this book. This book is left unrated because this is going to be the one instant where you get to make up your own minds, since I can’t make up mine. I’m torn between a 5 star for effort and a 1 star for the pond of piranhas on crack this book is.
This is not an easy book to review for me. Lover at Last was one of the single most anticipated stories. Okay, apart from the Draegan Lords by M.L. Rhodes that is. Not only because Lover at Last is a mainstream m/m book (You can say a lot about this author, but she sure got brass balls), but because Qhuinn and Blay’s story has been told over the last 8 years, give or take. Imagine getting snippets about one of your favorite gay couples in mainstream literature only to hear that they finally get their own book? Yup.
So I went into this book with high expectations. Probably too high. And got quite the let down in a way. Even if I still love Qhuinn and Blay and was extremely bouncy happy dance excited to see their story. So bear with me through this review.
I’m going to split this review up in a few sections so you don’t have to struggle through everything.
Also note: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS. Read at your own risk.
The Black Dagger Brotherhood
The BDB is a mainstream, predominantly hetero urban fantasy/paranormal romance series that now spans 12 books. The series focuses on a vampire race’s struggles against “de-souled humans” made by The Omega called the Lessening Society, through a band of highly trained vampire warriors called the Black Dagger Brotherhood. All the brothers are big, strong, rough, tough, manly men who wear shitkickers and leather and are very fond of their weapons and toys. And I do mean very fond.
Qhuinn and Blay are not inducted the BDB, but they are warriors who fight with the brothers along with a few others. Their story has been told through pieces in almost all the previous books. So if you haven’t read any of the other books in this series, it might be hard to understand what is going on. I definitely would not recommend reading Lover at Last as a stand-alone.
What worked for me
QHUINN AND BLAYLOCK FINALLY GOT THEIR OWN STORY!!!! Okay, sorry for shouting, but it’s definitely a plus.
While the execution of this story left something to be desired of, it was good to read their story. It gives more insight into who both characters are and especially Qhuinn. We find out a lot more about his past. Qhuinn’s relationship with his parents and siblings was always very rocky because of his mismatched eyes. It made him imperfect for the aristocracy and from birth he was punished for it. During Lover at Last we get snippets of the past with his parents and we finally find out what happened the night of the Honour Guard.
Qhuinn always found a haven with Blay. His parents who, while aristocracy or glymera, never cared for imperfections and thus didn’t care that Qhuinn was less than perfect in physical appearance. Blay’s parents are very open and loving and that resulted in Blay being a kind and caring person, often putting others’ needs before his own. But I’m getting away from my point. It’s very cool and awesome how Blay’s parents handle their son’s coming out. It was definitely a highlight of the story.
What I also very much liked in this story was Wrath (the King, but also leader of the BDB) taking more of a stand and re-writing the laws pertaining to introducing new members into the Brotherhood. It was sorely needed as most of the Brothers are results of selective breeding within the race.
Qhuinn is the first Brother that is not a result of the selective breeding and it’s a good boost for Qhuinn’s self-esteem since he feels quite the outcast.
There is quite some action in this story and there is an incident with a plane and Qhuinn that highlights perfectly who Qhuinn is. It’s an attention grabber. Guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat.
Now we’re going over into territory of what didn’t work for me. The ending is very sweet and cool. Qhuinn finally does something for Blay instead of the other way around. I had to laugh when I read about Qhuinn in a tuxedo. Hell, the guy almost didn’t know what it was. He’s all leather, piercings (did I mention he has a Prince Albert?) and boots. The epitome of manliness. Unfortunately it was the only sweet, romantic scene between them. The rest was all laced with a heavy dose of emo.
Oh, did I mention that Qhuinn trashes Havers, the stuck-up, arrogant asswipe of a doctor? Epic!
What didn’t work for me
I’m afraid this is probably going to be longer than the other section.
The plot. Lover at Last is almost 600 pages long. Qhuinn and Blay’s story fills maybe 35/40% of this. The rest is all Trez, iAm, Assail, Sola, Wrath, Rhevenge, Xcor, Layla and some asshole Lessers. It was annoying, irritating and frustrating to read one chapter featuring either Blay or Qhuinn or both and then switching to another character. While it has always been Ward’s MO to introduce other plot angles in a story (how else did we come to love Qhuinn and Blay) it was excessive in Lover at Last. The constant switching was trying and took much away from the story as a whole. It also left Qhuinn and Blay’s story sorely underdeveloped.
To me it felt like all they do is fight when they suddenly see the light and resolve their issues. Okay maybe Blay finally had a much needed explosion and gave Qhuinn some harsh words.
The friendship between Qhuinn and Blay has been long and Blay has been in love with Qhuinn since before their transitions. However their friendship has always been focused more on Qhuinn and his troubles than Blay and this reflects in the story, as you might have noticed from the first part of the review. There is way more insight into Qhuinn than Blay and that’s too bad, because Blay is an excellent warrior and friend.
Then when Blay finally finds someone for himself: Saxton, it’s left unfocussed. It’s clear that Saxton is unimportant in the scheme of things and their relationship just dies. Saxton was a very cool character though. No drama there. But… while they break-up early in the story, Blay doesn’t tell Quinn until the last 10% of the story. WTF…?! He made Qhuinn think he was sleeping around on Saxton. It puts Blay in a bad light, while he’s is clearly a person of honour. Though the point was probably also to make Blay seem less like a saint. While it’s my understanding that Blay keeping his mouth shut is related to the Layla/pregnancy angle of the story, it made the story have an air of incredulity about it.
Then there was the pregnancy angle. Qhuinn has never expressed his desire to have a young (not that I was aware of) only for a shellan/mate. Suddenly there was the Chosen Layla (servant of the Scribe Virgin/Goddess). While Qhuinn has been known to fuck everything female that is willing, he was suddenly all about getting a young… Erh?
This made me scratch my head and think that Ward wanted to project a little white picket fence on Qhuinn and Blay. They are normal if they have kids…right? While Blay has more trouble with Qhuinn sleeping with Layla (in the previous book) he also has never expressed a desire for kiddies.
Qhuinn’s struggle with his sexual orientation was another no-go for me. In the previous books and in particular Lover Mine I remember Qhuinn referring to himself as gay. Yet, it takes almost to the end of Lover at Last for Qhuinn to come to terms with his sexuality and admit he is gay… good Lord people! Yes, everyone comes out when they are ready, but it didn’t do any good for the story itself, because then it ends.
Hmmm, I didn’t think any could be found in this story with all the emo crap going on between them. It’s there, but it’s weak. Mostly found in small comments.
The sex between the two is explosive, frantic, angry and based on lies. Not every erotic scene has to be about flowers and hearts, but there was little to be found in their encounters. I understand that Ward wanted to maintain the manliness of Qhuinn and Blay’s characters, but she could have thrown us a bone. The scenes are explicit, but there is almost no mention of things below the belt. Words such as ‘penetration’ and ‘mounting’ were used. No mention of ‘cock’, ‘hole’ or any stretching going on. It is always from behind as if gay couples don’t have sex in any other position.
It’s wasn’t so much that the scenes were bad, they were just bland and unbefitting Qhuinn and Blay. The lack of details made it even more unromantic. As Ingrid pointed out to me when we talked about this book: the erotic scenes are safe. They are detailed but not so much as to scare people away who are not used to reading about gay sex. While I can understand why Ward did this, it still left me disappointed. Especially because in the other books the male/female erotic scenes were way more detailed and explicit (hell, I remember Zhadist having a conversation with his Dick) and Qhuinn and Blay deserved the same (not the conversation).
When Quinn and Blay finally make up and work things out there is no long or detailed erotic scene and it’s shame. It would have put things in perspective.
Then there was the no lube aspect of the sex between them. Erhh… ouch? Of course, maybe gay vampires are self-lubricating. Who knows as there was very little mention of things below the belt. It made me wonder if they even had cocks!
This has become a long ass review and I could go on for quite some time about the ups and downs of this book. While I’m very happy that Lover at Last is here and that J.R. Ward wrote the story, it wasn’t quite the story that I hoped for. Too many fillers, too much drama, too many lies and some unresolved issues. It was a likable story, but I’m afraid my expectations were too high and I suffered a major let down. So I leave you to make up your own mind about this story.