Lover At Last by J. R. Ward

By | 26 March 2013 | 17 Responses
Review of: Lover At Last
Author:
J. R. Ward

Reviewed by:
Rating:
4
On March 26, 2013
Last modified:January 19, 2014

Summary:

The crack is back. This book will either allow you to exit the BDB world satisfied...or suck you right back in with a vengeance.

Lover At Last by JR Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 11) - Australian editionThe crack is back. This book will either allow you to exit the BDB world satisfied…or suck you right back in with a vengeance.

Click here for a round-up of all BDB-related posts on Book Thingo.

This is the book that most Black Dagger Brotherhood fans have been eagerly anticipating ever since the Butch/V bromance turned out to be strictly platonic (if you ignore the occasional voyeurism and ambiguous moments of male bonding). I’m going to try and do this with as few spoilers are possible, but I can’t guarantee not to let details slip, so consider yourself warned.

Blaylock and Qhuinn have been best of friends even before they transitioned (the BDB vampire equivalent of puberty), but between Qhuinn’s indiscriminate and rampant sexcapades, and Blaylock’s homosexuality and unrequited love for his best mate, it’s really all they can do to be in the same room without descending into the sort of delicious angst that has made this series so addictive. Bad timing and some ill-chosen words have led them to believe that their more-than-friends feelings will never be returned by the other.

Qhuinn and Layla are expecting a baby, and Blay is in a committed relationship with Saxton, but they’re all living in the Brotherhood mansion, and they keep running into each other. At the gym. Half naked. With bulging biceps. And rampant and spontaneous erections. (People prone to stiffies shouldn’t really be going commando.) As you do. In one of my favourite scenes—because, come on, how cracktastic is this?—Blay finds the Room of Requirement and indulges his wanksting in a spectacular way. (This is what happens when boys don’t go through puberty in the usual way.)

Blay is probably one of the most well-adjusted BDB characters, so it’s Qhuinn who has to undergo a big emotional journey in this book. In typical BDB fashion, he is filled with self-loathing, mostly over things over which he has no control. Qhuinn’s issues stem from his family’s rejection of him, to the point where his brother was involved in bashing him up almost to death. His desire for a traditional family, to be a father, and his inability to reconcile this dream with a possible relationship with Blay is the biggest hurdle in their relationship.

As far as conflicts go, it’s pretty tenuous, especially when one considers that almost everyone in the BDB—from Wrath to the lowest lesser—suffers from a crisis of self-worth. This isn’t one of the things I love about the BDB, and this book delivers self-esteem issues in a big way, across different characters—more on that soon. It’s also not a conflict that is easily sustained in a 600-page book, so it’s not surprising that author J. R. Ward spends a fair bit of time developing two separate subplots—one involving drug dealer Assail, and one involving Trez—and the continuing subplot around the Band of Bastards.

Assail’s storyline is creepy in a BDB kind of way, which almost certainly means he’ll get his own book and soon. Ward sets him up with a potential heroine, who is probably one of the more assertive and independent female characters in the BDB word, aside from Xhex. Although I can see how the sparks between them could appeal to readers, their interactions are too stalkerish for me to enjoy.

Trez suffers from man-whorishness, a common BDB syndrome, which leads him to sleep with a lot of human women and, because they were willing to have casual sex, see them as fast-moving consumer goods. Ward tries to put some kind of emotional context around this, but hey, I’m on the side of the humans. He’s in an arranged marriage with royalty, but he refuses to go home and honour the commitment. He’s also set up for his own romance when he gets that whoa feeling upon setting eyes on a certain woman. We love the whoa feeling, no matter how inconvenient it is or how much of a man-whore he is. Right? I’m mildly interested in Trez but I dislike what Ward, through Trez, implies about women who sleep around, and it’s not the first time she’s done it. It may be through the characters’ eyes, but it’s an awful message about how to treat women and I find myself less and less tolerant of it in romance as time goes by.

Layla gets her own subplot with the dreaded Xcor, who…actually somewhat redeems himself in this book. Layla develops a backbone, although it’s mostly spurred by her love for her foetus, so I’m not sure it’s much of a feminist statement, but considering where she started, it’s still something. The love angst between this couple is fabulous—if you can ignore the usual self-loathing—but there are aspects of this subplot that will no doubt grate on readers.

Also, at the rate we’re going, there will be no bad guys left. And if you’re at all sensitive to the way in which women are portrayed and treated in romance, this is not the book for you. They are all there only to serve the male characters’ story arcs.

What about Qhuinn and Blay? I hear you screaming at your screen. You see how frustrating that was? It’s a bit like that in Lover At Last, with the secondary plots and characters taking up precious pages when all we really want is to see Qhuay in action. And the action? It’s pretty hot. One of my biggest concerns with this book is whether or not Ward will treat the m/m romance as well and as explicitly as she does her m/f couples. The answer is yes, it’s explicit…but not without problems.

The sexual dynamic between Qhuinn and Blay starts off fairly aggressively, and although in theory this makes for hot, furniture-moving, lamp-breaking, omg-what-are-you-waiting-for sex, as Kaetrin mentions her review, gay penetrative sex really requires le lhube (thank you, Kaetrin, for the new glossary entry!). This didn’t bother me as much, because there’s no lube in Ward’s m/f scenes either and some of them go on for ages and, well, chafing much? But some of the sex in this book was borderline violent—let’s say very passionate—so yes, lube would have been much more realistic. I chalked this down to the fact that vampires heal easily, so it should work itself out in the end, but there is, I think, a danger that readers will find the sex fetishised. To be fair to Ward, this happens in her other books, too—the BDSM in Vishous’s book, for example—so I can’t say it was unexpected. I also note the lack of rimming or fingers. All oral play was penis-oriented. Everything else was glossed over.

There are two more issues that m/m romance readers may find troublesome. The first is Qhuinn’s so-called virginity—meaning he’s never been the recipient of penetrative anal sex. Really? Slutty Qhuinn is a virgin? It’s the m/m equivalent of the technical virgin heroine—widowed but still a virgin, surrogate mum but still a virgin, had sexual relations but technically a virgin, etc. The second is Qhuinn’s inability to admit being gay or bisexual or, until the book’s resolution, admit to being in an m/m relationship. I felt this would have made for a much more interesting conflict than whoa-is-me-my-best-friend-doesn’t-love-me, which is what it was for most of the book.

Still, the wanksting (a term that Jen helped brainstorm with me) is a sight to behold. There isn’t as much tenderness as readers might hope for, and no almost-threesomes, which, let’s face it, Ward does extremely well. There is a shared feeding scene, and we all know what happens in those. (Incidentally, the Band of Bastards has one, too, and it’s a porntastic orgy.) Ward revisits Qhuinn’s history, and his past slutty behaviour is re-examined through the prism of true lurve—he had sex with everyone but Blay to keep him distant, and Blay participated to keep Qhuinn close. Well, oookay then! The two men also have very active and explicit fantasy lives, which plays out very well for us readers. That said, and although the sex scenes are on par with the other BDB books, the story is almost an anti-climax—the tension between Qhuinn and Blay was far more interesting in previous books. The last line of the book is pure romance, though, and at the risk of sounding daggy, it ends on a very sweet note.

Ward’s prose still exhibits her tendency to misuse punctuation—the question marks seem to have boycotted this book—and exaggerate to the point where it actually affects the narrative point of view. When a character thinks about ‘a human male the size of an amusement park’, the embellishment and hyperbole serve to take the reader out of close third person and into the author’s own perspective.

When it comes to world building, the best advice I can give is to forget keeping track of canon and just accept the fact that all of Ward’s rules are made to be broken. All of them. Even the ones that are supposed to end in death. Except they don’t. There are big plot twists in this story, and you won’t see them coming, because you’re still expecting the books to make sense.

I closed this book with a sigh and an ‘aww’, despite any issues I may have had with the story. And that, I think, speaks for itself.  I’m tempted to read the next book even though I said I wouldn’t do it. I wish Ward had spun off the series at the point where she introduced the Band of Bastards. It just feels like there’s no end in sight now.

Yay or nay?

This book isn’t perfect by any means, but I can’t help but celebrate that we’re finally getting an m/m romance by a mainstream author through a mainstream publisher for a mainstream audience. I thought I could read this book and say goodbye to the BDB forever, but now I’m not sure I can do it. This book will either allow you to exit the BDB world satisfied…or suck you right back in with a vengeance. The crack is back.

Who might enjoy it: Qhuay tragics

Who might not enjoy it: Homophobes

An advance reading copy of this book was generously provided by Hachette Australia.

Title: Lover At Last
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood (Book 11)
Author: J. R. Ward
Publisher: Piatkus

Lover At Last by JR Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 11) - Australian editionLover At Last by JR Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 11) - US edition

AUSTRALIA: Booktopia | Fishpond | Galaxy | Romance Direct | Other
EBOOKS: Kindle UK | Kindle US
WORLDWIDE: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Book Depository | Library

Books in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series (UK/Australia)

Dark Lover by J. R. Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 1) - Australian/UK editionLover Eternal by J. R. Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 2) - Australian/UK editionLover Awakened by J. R. Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 3) - Australian/UK editionLover Revealed by J. R. Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 4) - Australian/UK editionLover Unbound by J. R. Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 5) - Australian/UK editionLover Enshrined by J. R. Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 6) - Australian/UK editionLover Avenged by J. R. Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 7) - Australian/UK editionLover Mine by J. R. Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 8)Lover Unleashed by J. R. Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 9) - Australian/UK editionLover Reborn by J. R. Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 10) - Australian/UK editionLover At Last by JR Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 11) - Australian editionThe King by J. R. Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 12) - Australian editionThe Black Dagger Brotherhood - An Insider's Guide

Books in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series (US)

Dark Lover by J. R. Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 1) - US editionLover Eternal by J. R. Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 2) - US editionLover Awakened by J. R. Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 3) - US editionLover Revealed by J. R. Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 4) - US editionLover Unbound by J. R. Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 5) - US editionLover Enshrined by J. R. Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 6) - US editionLover Avenged by J. R. Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 7) - US editionLover Mine by J. R. Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 8) - US editionLover Unleashed by J. R. Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 9) - US editionLover Reborn by J. R. Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 10)Lover At Last by JR Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 11) - US editionThe King by J. R. Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 12) - US editionThe Black Dagger Brotherhood - An Insider's Guide

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Kat

Killer of Fairies
Kat Mayo is a freelance writer, Twitter tragic and compulsive reader. She is the editor of Booktopia's Romance Buzz and hosts the Heart to Heart podcast for Destiny Romance. Her articles have been published in Books+Publishing, the AWW Challenge blog, and the ARRA newsletter. Kat firmly believes in happy endings. She kills fairies with glee.

17 comments »

  1. Kaetrin

    What about Qhuinn and Blay? I hear you screaming at your screen. You see how frustrating that was? It’s a bit like that in Lover At Last, with the secondary plots and characters taking up precious pages when all we really want is to see Qhuay in action.

     
    Yes, This. :)
     
    Also, you said: “so it should work itself out in the end”  *snigger*
     

  2. Kelly Hunter

    I adore this review! And, um, sniggered myself silly throughout mention of Kaetrin’s le lhube.
    Off to try and load up the kindle.

  3. Mandi

    I loved it!! Even with Ward’s normal 100 different storylines, they all worked for me. And I thought she gave Qhuay plenty of page time. Their romance was soooooooo good.
     
    I even liked Layla in this one!! Never thought I would say that :)

  4. Kat (author)

    Kaetrin — The pun potential of this book–no, the series–is off the charts.

    Kelly — Thanks. Are you a fan of the series???

    Mandi — For me it was Xcor. I couldn’t stand him in the previous book, but the Layla angst got to me in this one.

  5. azteclady

    Gah.
     
    Just enough meat *snicker* to appeal to me, but definitely not enough to invest on it. I’ll wait until I can get it used or discounted–mostly because I’m one of those readers for whom the world building has to be consistent, and make some sort of sense, even if only by its own internal logic.

  6. N

    Okay people need to get beyond the lhube thing….you dont need lube for anal sex, there are otherwise to do it – like getting slippery from felatio which was mentioned or even from self lube by Quinn’s previous orgasm.  You also do not fingers to prep. Sorry crass, but had to be said.  I’m reading all the lhube comments on various sites and I’m thinking really?
    So rant over, I liked the book.  Very Ward.  I liked the m/m sex but wish it was a little more imaginative but am hardly going to pull points for what is basically a mainstream novel.
    What I really liked was the fact that everyone was in the book – it was good to reconnect.  Especially with the Shadows and am thinking iAm might be the dark horse between the brothers – who knows.
    Really like Assail.  I feel Ward pulled back with V and Rhev in that she didn’t want to alienate her audience and so she made them redeemable which messed a bit with their f%$ked up mojo which is what made them great.  However this book feels freer and she doesn’t try and make excuses for Assail.  
    I actually never disliked the band of bastards and other than Xcor worshiping Layla (I don’t like that worshiping on a pedestal thing, how can he ever get dirty with you?) I always wanted him to come good – and get the lip fixed.  Doc Jane you do plastic ?
    Was it a great book? No.  Did I want to skip bits? Yes.  Did I come away satiated.  Oh yeah.  
    However am looking more forward to reading about Jim Heron, Adrian and crew in her Fallen Angels series then the next BDB…..
     
     
     
     

  7. Kaetrin

    @N  While I’m not an expert, I am aware that there are other ways than fingers to prep for anal sex and that lube is not always necessary.  If that were the case in a book, I’d expect it to be made clear in the text.  It was not here. In fact,  there was no preparation mentioned at all.  Just thrust and there you go. 
    I’ve read m/m romances where the bottom was able to proceed on little to no preparation (and this is referenced in the text).  I’ve read books where spit was used (although this is acknowledged as being less than ideal – sometimes the parties want the sting.)  Sometimes it is cooking oil or something handy but the only anal sex (either m/f or m/m) I’ve read about which had no lubrication or preparation of any sort, was very painful.
    Without a specific reference in the text to “spit slicked fingers” or some other mechanism of preparation/lubrication, I think readers are entitled to think lube was sadly missing.  I did.

  8. Kat (author)

    azteclady — Totally understand. This is not a cheap book new!

    N — But it would be less fun if we got over every cracktastic thing about this series. That’s what we love about it! Plus, the BDB heroes always have oversized penises and harder-than-hard hard-ons, so I can see why lubrication is at the forefront of many readers’ minds. I get that sex in the BDB is always fairly glamourised, but there’s nothing glamourous about anal fissures! (Thankfully, vampires are fast-healing.)

    Glad to hear you liked the book. I agree that I thought the sex could have been more imaginative. I really wanted at least one tender, missionary-style scene. I actually find Rehv scarier than Assail. Who do you think the next book will be about—Assail or Xcor?

    I haven’t tried the Fallen Angels series. Yet.

    Kaetrin — For me it was the roughness of the scenes that made me conscious of the lack of lube. If they hadn’t been so, uh, slammin’, I probably wouldn’t have brought it up. (Heh.)

  9. N

    @Kaetrin. Abso support your entitlement to find the lube lacking.  As Kat reminds me the boys are larger than the norm ;)
     
    @Kat.  Yeah I think Rhev was (or is) scarier because he was wrestling his sympath demons so to speak.  I was sad JR made him a bit “cuddly” in a way.  I would have preferred his love for his shellan to a bit edgier if that makes sense.  Assail while ruthless is so far all business – no dark side, but he seems to be at peace with himself while Rhev struggled with it.
    I think the next book is Assail.  Which is odd that his book is being rush to as she could spend a few books fleshing him out more.  And given how much Ward has says she likes his character I thought we would savour the journey.  However I remeber reading that when she started the series she was determined to get Z’s book done and dusted in the first 3 as he was her fave and she didn’t want the series to be cancelled without getting to write him.  Maybe she is conscious of people starting to loose interest in BDB (hard to stay fresh after so many books) and wants to make sure Assail gets his story too.
    I don’t think the Xcor/Layla scene is setup enough yet and I reckon she needs to pop the young before Ward will go there – and vamps are preggers for a long time.
    Read the Fallen series….get past the first book.  The love stories don’t do much for me, but the story around the edges with Jim and the Angels is fascinating and good crack.
     
     

  10. Kaetrin

    @N  Yes, I’m curious as to how Qhuinn and Layla will co-parent.  They don’t seem to have talked about it yet.  While they are all living in the mansion it is fairly easy I guess, but if she takes off to be with XCor…
     

  11. N

     @Kaetrin. Speaking of young. I think the next book could be the Wrath and Beth crisis as this gets to a head. And Wrath now needing an heir to keep the crown – they will probably get around the “full blooded” bit as Saxon is a great lawyer.
    I am thinking Xcor is going to have to pull out something very heroic to create a “pardon” story so he gets off the treason list.
    And I am wondering if the Trez story will resolve in the next book as a secondary story or if he gets his own book. Any guesses?
    Last but not least anyone got any wishes for Saxton? I hope he doesn’t fade to far in the background and that we see a new m/m story emerging. I wonder if iAm could be the boy for it given he doesn’t seem to be too interested in the ladies…..yum would be a good combo (sorry did I just lick my lips?)

  12. Kaetrin

    @N I haven’t read all of the books so I wondered if there was something from a previous book that I didn’t pick up re Wrath and Beth – I got the impression that Wrath had somehow made a deal not to have children or can’t have children?  I don’t know where I got it from.  Possibly I imagined it! LOL  I did wonder if maybe Wrath knows that any child of his and Beth’s won’t be able to inherit and that’s part of it? 

  13. Kat (author)

    @Kaetrin — This is from the cheat sheet. :D

    Beth wants to try for a young during her first needing, which is only a couple of years away, if that. Wrath has refused for two reasons: first, many females die during childbirth and second, if his young is male, he has no choice but to become king and inherit the mess Wrath has left behind.

  14. Kaetrin

    @Kat – thx :)  I know I’d read that somewhere.  I wondered if maybe there was another reason we didn’t know yet – not that it matters to me, I can’t see myself reading on…

  15. Anna Cowan

    So I have finally read it! Well, sort of read it. I skipped every single section that didn’t relate directly to the romance, and it’s kind of hilarious because it didn’t impact the story at all. I think this says something about the broader direction she’s taken the series in…
     
    (Actually, I lie – I did read that one scene with Layla and Xcor in the car, because Angst.)
     
    The lack of lhube didn’t bother me. When you’re talking vampires who can come indefinitely? I think we’re already way outside the realms of reality LOL. Also there’s no question all the sex in these series is fetishised – it’s pure idtastic enjoyment.
     
    I found the romance way more satisfying than in the last five or six books – thank God! But I have to agree with you Kat, that so much of their best angsting was what we saw in other books. I can see why she wanted Qhuinn to do his growing up before this book, but their relationship was way more painful when he was still an immature punk. (I’m so glad he put his piercings back in! Yay!)
     
    I wanted to read this book, and I’m glad I did, but that’s me out. The BDB world just doesn’t work for me any more. Like – Qhuinn beating up Havers as soon as he came in the room to see Layla and breaking his glasses? Um, shouldn’t the first thing have been to let him see to Layla and maybe keep his glasses intact in case he needed them??? Blech. The angsty marshmallow-y-ness covered by the bravado of manly manliness is no longer for me. 
     
     

  16. Kat (author)

    Anna — I wish I could say this is my last BDB book, but I have a sneaking suspicion that I’ll be just as tempted to read the next book featuring new couples. I’m guessing it’s Assail, although the kidnapped heroine plot has been done before (Z’s story, iirc). I don’t feel this is the same BDB series as it was up to Phury’s book. The romances are independent of the external plot, and it’s obvious, given how much time is spent on characters who have already had their own books, and the fact that the next book will go back to Wrath, that Ward feels constrained by the expectations of the romance genre. It frustrates me as a reader, and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make me a little angry.

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