Dark Lover by J.R. Ward

Dark Lover by J.R. WardSeveral people recommended J.R. Ward so I figured I’d give her a try, but when I first started Dark Lover: A Novel of the Black Dagger Brotherhood I thought I’d already read it. The beginning feels a little generic and I almost stopped, something I would have regretted. Rather quickly, the tough guy beginning changes into a fascinating story.

Ward puts together a complicated tale with an alternate look at vampirism that has significant unique elements. What drew me in was not so much the vampire romance, but the culture because honestly, despite my recent reading list, it’s the authors, not the subgenre that I enjoy. J.R. Ward is now on that list.

As the title promises, this is a story about finding love in a place of darkness. Wrath is a hard man, or rather vampire as they’re a different species, with his own troubles and his own secrets. Beth Randall thinks she’s human, and an orphan. Neither is completely true.

How they come together and find comfort in each other is fun and fraught with tense moments, especially as she’s a darling of the police force and of one not-so-controlled police officer in particular.

However, while the more traditional elements of this genre are well drawn, the society and structure of the world is to me the stronger aspect. The culture is complex and fascinating. In this novel, I was introduced into a place where religion has a firm grounding in reality, though not in the way you might expect. There is a balance between the non-humans, again not in an expected way, and both sides are compatible with humans in one way or another, yet again counter to genre traditions.

I’m trying not to give anything away. The story builds beautifully, with each piece opening the door another crack until the reader learns more of what is going on and the significance of things that already have meaning but which mean much more as well.

I can tell you it begins with a favor, one repellant to Wrath and easy to deny right up until the friend who asks becomes a casualty in a war that is slowly eliminating the vampires. That same event brings the police force into the middle of the conflict, though they don’t understand what’s going on at all.

Dark Lover is much more than a love story, but it serves that part admirably. It’s also about hidden societies, finding faith, and the responsibilities that come with loyalty even when faced with unsavory situations.

I plan to pick up the rest of the series if only to see what happens next. This is the first step into a multi-layered world that, while coming to a satisfying conclusion on its own, is rich enough to raise expectations of more to come.

Note: Fair warning, the love scenes are rather explicit.

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