Lover Unleashed by J. R. Ward

Lover Unleashed by J. R. Ward
Lover Unleashed by J. R. Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 9) - Australian/UK edition
Lover Unleashed by J. R. Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 9) – Australian/UK edition

A book for those already invested in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. Prepare for more darkness than usual and don’t expect all your questions to be answered up front.

It’s not going to surprise anyone to read that I approach a new Black Dagger Brotherhood book differently to any other book. I scribble notes as I go along and I started reading Lover Unleashed with a mental checklist:

Is there anything written on the inside cover in the Old Language?

No, but there are crossed daggers, one black hilt, one white. Symbolism?

Are there any new words in the glossary?

Lhenihan – ‘A mythic beast renowned for its sexual prowess. In modern slang, it refers to a male of preternatural size and sexual stamina.’ Hmm, interesting.

New characters?

Xcor and his band of bastards: Throe, Zypher and the three cousins, as yet unnamed.

Who could the hero of Envy be?

I won’t answer this here, but when you read the book, it becomes obvious.

The threesome

Um, probably not with who you would expect it to be, but overall a very good scene and one that was necessary for the development of one or more of the characters involved.

V and Butch

One of the hints J. R. Ward dropped was that something would happen between V and Butch. I would have been more open to the idea before they both bonded with females, so I was concerned about what was going to happen.

But aside from its inherent darkness given V’s state of mind throughout most of the book, I had no problem with that scene and not just because Ward made sure to show that the shellans were OK with it, too. I’ve always enjoyed the connection between V and Butch and their relationship was convincingly able to develop further without detracting from their relationships with their shellans, much to my relief.

Xcor (pronounced Cor)

Maybe it’s his ‘evil’ motives combined with his leadership style and refusal to join the twenty-first century that bother me, but I’m not sure I like him. His parts were typically not my favourites in the book and I read them mostly out of curiosity. Having said that, he makes a splash and also has opportunities to show honour to balance out his apparent lack thereof. I have to admit, I haven’t always liked Rehvenge or Xhex, but I enjoyed their books. (Don’t take that to mean I’m saying Xcor is getting a book, but obviously nothing can be ruled out yet.)

Throe was one of the bastards to actually be named in Lover Unleashed and we were given some of his back story. I enjoyed reading about how he ended up where he did and to be honest, I’m more interested in reading the bastard scenes for him than Xcor because I find him more likeable.

Xhex and No’One, Tohr, Murhder

There was no room for Tohr (who only got a brief mention), Murhder or Xhex and No’One, but I’m confident they will appear in later books.

Back to the review…

Lover Unleashed by J. R. Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 9) - US edition
Lover Unleashed by J. R. Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 9) – US edition

Lover Unleashed was not the easiest book to read because it was quite dark and didn’t have as many humorous lines and moments as the earlier books. I will always want to read about V and I’m glad he had such a large role in Lover Unleashed, but at the same time, it was hard to read about him falling apart again. Having fallen in love doesn’t make him less difficult to deal with, nor does it erase the unhealthy emotional defences he formed over the centuries, and this creates conflict between him and Jane, which is compounded when she is forced to put her patient’s needs above her hellren’s. Even though I’d read hints that Ward had given in the lead up to Lover Unleashed’s release, I still felt unprepared for where the story would take me.


If I’ve made Lover Unleashed sound like it was as much Lover Unbound Part 2 as Payne and Manny’s book, well, it kind of was, actually. There was no way Ward could exclude V’s reaction to finding out he has a twin when she could soon be dead or crippled, or avoid reopening his wounds caused by his relationships with his parents, but honestly, I read the book more for V than for the main couple. I’m not sure how Ward could have equipped the Payne and Manny plot to compete with V/Jane/Butch for my attention since Manny was appropriately relegated to the human world outside the Brotherhood’s milieu, and Payne was trapped on the monotonous Other Side, where there were few opportunities for her character to develop.

Manny surpassed my (admittedly low) expectations and was a worthy hero for Payne. I think that readers who perceived Marissa as a weak heroine in Lover Revealed will be more satisfied with Payne’s strength. She is clear about what she wants and doesn’t take her issues out on Manny, but she is more subdued and less aggressive than we’ve seen her in earlier books. Manny is very much focussed on Payne’s needs and tries to enable her to find her own way and be herself without changing her, which is what Payne needs most. He still has the balls to stand up to the Goateed Hater, but doesn’t have the overblown masculinity suggested by the name MANny MANello.

Payne and Manny’s HEA and development seemed incomplete and, without spoiling anything, some parts of the plot relating to Manny will only become clearer over time. Maybe Ward should consider more epilogues like the one she wrote at the end of Lover Awakened, where we saw a much more stable Z with his loving daughter and his shellan still very much alive.

I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that Payne will be the first female Brother, because Ward let that cat out of the bag in 2006, but I was hoping that her induction would have been a part of Lover Unleashed. It’s also safe to say that Ward’s approach has changed since she wrote the first three books she was contracted for. Her endings were more complete and there were fewer loose ends, with those remaining being part of the series arc. Now, each book is more like a slice of Brotherhood life in general, with a couple getting together by the end. I both like and dislike this. I like that my favourites will make appearances in later books, but sometimes it feels like Ward relies on being able to return to her characters in later books, or maybe there are too many concurrent events for her to jump ahead in time to close off major plots for that book’s main characters. Sometimes it gives the impression of expectations raised without being met. It’s hard to know if we’re going to find answers in a later book or be left hanging. Maybe this would be easier to handle if we were getting a new book every six months instead of every year.

But the plus side of this is that I’ve become more invested in secondary characters before they get their own book, like I did with John Matthew over the course of the series from Lover Eternal onwards.


Qhuinn’s character is forced to develop as Blay is happily cohabiting with Saxton (while now oblivious to Qhuinn) and he has to examine whether he most wants to be with the best friend he loves or the Chosen who can bring him the respectability he’s secretly always wanted. We’ve seen Qhuinn act as a male of worth in earlier books while creating a persona and lifestyle for himself that keeps people, particularly Blay, at a distance, but in Lover Unleashed he’s waking up to the fact that he can be a better male.

Interestingly enough, while all the other plot arcs can be connected to either V or Payne, the Qhuinn/Blay/Saxton triangle stands on its own within the book, but having it share the dichotomy of love and freedom that is explored in other relationships argues for its inclusion in Lover Unleashed.

A book of parallels

Lover Unleashed is a book of parallels (the themes of inequality and not belonging in Payne and Manny’s relationship compared with the same in Butch and Marissa’s, or the twin relationship with one trying to save the other) and reversals (where Qhuinn is on the outside looking in while Blay is doing his own thing, or Butch looking after V, even if it’s not for the first time).

This all serves to demonstrate that Ward’s head is still very much in the game, so it’s hard for me to say whether the bits I didn’t like so much were to do with Ward and her book or me as a reader. I think the fact that I have a mental checklist (let alone one that includes V and Butch, but not Payne and Manny) indicates that I have expectations about what the book will hold. It’s not that I believe that I can or should predict everything that happens (and how much fun would it be to read if I could?) but it’s hard not to expect, maybe not for things to be handled a certain way, but for some things to be explored to a certain extent and in a particular time frame.

Yay or nay?

Lover Unleashed is not the book for new readers to begin with, and the books are becoming less and less self-contained. By now, they’re written more for the readers who have made enough of an investment in the series to have read this far.

Even though the series and Ward’s current approach are not perfect, I’d still recommend Lover Unleashed, especially to readers who feel as though V didn’t get enough air time in his own book or that Marissa disappointed in the vampire female-human male dynamic.

I experienced the same reading hangover after Lover Unleashed that I do after every new Black Dagger Brotherhood book. But just be prepared for more darkness than usual and don’t expect all your questions to be answered up front.

Title: Lover Unleashed (excerpt)
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood (Book 9)
Author: J. R. Ward
Publisher: Hachette Australia
C format: 9780749955601 (April 2011)
Hardback: 9780451233165 (March 29, 2011)
Ebook: 9781101513477 (March 29, 2011)

Where you can buy this book

AUSTRALIA: Booktopia | Fishpond | Galaxy | Romance Direct | Click here for more bookshops
EBOOKS: Books On Board | Diesel | | Kindle UK | Kindle US
WORLDWIDE: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Book Depository | Or check your local 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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Decadence's fascination with vampires can be blamed on Anne Rice and although she reads urban fantasy, historical romance, romantica and crime, her first and undying love is paranormal romance. She works in a bookstore and gets no sympathy for the sheer volume of work she brings home, not to mention the TBR mountain that will never be surmounted. Her guilty pleasures include (in no particular order) chocolate, pizza, sleeping in and Alexander Skarsgard and she is a final assessment away from holding a full pistol licence.


  1. Anna Cowan says:

    okay, I’ve finally read it!

    I think I pretty much agree with your assessment. I feel like I had to force myself out of the BDB world so that I could deal with waiting for this book and not go crazy, so I giggled a bit more this time round at all the silly language. I still think it’s fun to read, but I was a little more sceptical…

    I was definitely more invested in V’s storyline that Payne/Manny, but I kinda felt the same way with Brother Mine – Blay/Qhuinn totally stole that book (although I was more invested in JM/Xhex because we’d seen so much of their development and build-up).

    I totally loved what happened between Butch and V – though I was a bit snitty until the scene where they cuddle for hours. I definitely needed that. When Butch called Jane, I was like – huh? I will still always feel like Butch and V are each other’s true soul mates, and nothing’s gonna change my mind :-) (Come on, V’s a sadist – the ultimate sex for him is not having sex.)

    I still just don’t get the connection between him and Jane – definitely not in comparison to his connection with Butch. I liked that he acknowledged how he’d been closer to Butch, though, and I also loved watching him pass the hurdles of trying to be more open emotionally. It made his turnaround much more believable.

    The verily stuff got pretty old pretty quickly.

    One thing I really liked was that the conflict was mostly internal to the situation, rather than being driven by the lessers. Xcor’s plans are gonna make for some interesting tension as well – a good thing!

  2. Decadence says:

    I think that if V was a real sadist, he’d be picking people who didn’t want what he has to offer. Sadists don’t like masochist because masochists like pain. There’s more sadistic pleasure in inflicting pain on someone who doesn’t want it. The sex he used to have was more about control, namely his, than anything else. He needed to push his subs and for it to have any real impact on him, they had to essentially be stronger and even more hardcore than him to be able to take it. The bit that makes me think he’s not a real sadist is that his subs’ pain stopped being much of a release for him.
    Trust me to pick a V point to start with ;)
    I blame Payne and the band of bastards for all the verily stuff. They gave us a double dose. Ward also loves the word resplendent, have you noticed?
    I think the bastard plot where it concerns Wrath’s kingship could be very interesting, especially Throe’s role in it. He’s loyal to Xcor, but doesn’t always agree with him, so I think there will be a conflict between them brewing.

  3. Kat says:

    Not sure I agree with your analysis of sexual sadists. How would you get consensual sex between partners unless you had a sadist and a masochist (hence sadomasochism)? The kind of sadist you describe sounds like the psychopathic kind of sadist as defined in, say, crime novels.

    However, what almost makes me think V was a psychopathic sadist and not a sexual sadist is the fact that he didn’t take care of his subs after sex. If nothing else, that’s just rude. I say ‘almost’ because they apparently consented.

    And then Jane’s magical (and now ghostly) Hoo Ha cured him.

  4. Decadence says:

    I think I argued two points at the same time without being all that clear that they were separate. V’s not a psychopathic sadist because he was safe (if not sane — I think both he and his subs had issues for consenting to the arrangement they had) and consensual, but he doesn’t completely fit the definition of the sexual sadist either because it seems to me that it was the control he exercised over his subs rather than the pain he inflicted in and of itself that worked for him.
    I think the lack of after care didn’t necessarily make him sadistic, just deficient in the Dom department, if I can get away with saying that. I don’t think it was a matter of him enjoying leaving his subs in that state, it was more that he just didn’t care. Yep, it was pretty bloody rude and I think after care is part of a Dom’s responsibilities.
    I could also argue that Jane’s hoo-ha wasn’t magical enough if he could shut her out and needed Butch to mindfuck him. Maybe that’s part of why there are so many readers holding onto a Vutch romance. I might have been one of them if Butch hadn’t fallen so hard for Marissa in Dark Lover.

  5. Anna Cowan says:

    I think I side with Decadence on this one actually, after thinking it through a bit more. Considering Butch was only hurting him as a favour, and it was difficult for Butch to do, that does not speak to me of sadism, but much more of the need for control/lack of control. That being said, pain is definitely his trigger. I don’t really know enough about Sadism, I think…

    Also agree the lack of aftercare is just V being out of touch with his emotions :-)

    Yeah, Marissa and Butch convince me a lot more than Jane and V – partly because Butch is drawn as this simple manly man who would never have had the kinds of complex feelings he does if someone as complex as V had never entered his life. So the blonde virgin totally makes sense for him. I guess I don’t doubt that Butch could be happy without V, but I also don’t doubt that he’d endanger his relationship with Marissa for V. Always.

    For me, Marissa and Jane are in the story so that Butch and V can have their non-threatening male romance. I know you guys disagree, but I will never be persuaded otherwise! :-) All the “then V looked at Butch and Marissa, and how happy they were, and everything was perfect” is just overkill. And the shellans being so okay with Butch Dom-ing V… yeah.

    Also that line about how V sees how much his pain hurts Jane and that‘s when he knows he still loves her – that rang totally false to me. All I got out of it was – oh, he admitted to himself that he doesn’t love her? The weird thing is, I think those two characters really work as a couple, and I love the way she describes them as these two really strong individuals walking side-by-side, but I’ve never gotten a sense of them actually having a meeting of the minds and actually falling in love.

    Throe’s loyalty to Xcor is going to be really interesting after they come into contact with the Brotherhood.  

  6. Kat says:

    TBH, my main issue with V’s sexual practices is that I don’t think Ward really understood what she was writing about. Therefore, it all sounded a bit contrived and inconsistent to me.

  7. Anna Cowan says:

    I’d agree with that, Kat. I kind of realised in my last comment, as I was trying to define for myself what he is, that I had no idea. A friend of mine who identifies as Sadist read the scene and her main comment was just, “Er, wow, there are a lot of elements!” Like, he uses a ball gag, AND a mask, AND a corset-thingy, AND restraints etc. Her thing would be – one element, and not the thing you wanted. I don’t really know enough about that kind of sexuality to comment, but I’m kinda getting the same feeling as you, that neither does Ward…

  8. Decadence says:

    I have to admit, I was fooled into thinking V and Jane’s relationship had progressed more than it had because in the Insider’s Guide, there was something he’d change about her and it was revealed in a chat that she works too much, which has a different context when he gets ribbed on the boards for actually wanting to spend time with her. I just figured he just doesn’t express himself in a sappy way and she is also reserved enough not to want that. But yeah, there was a bit too much distance between them. I used to just think this was how they were and what they both wanted. But it wasn’t until V brought up the lack of mating ceremony that Jane realised that something was missing. I think that was because she hasn’t really done the relationship thing enough to know there could have been more. They’re both loners in their own ways.
    So when V saw how much his pain hurt Jane and realised he still loved her, I don’t think that meant he actually stopped loving her, I just think he was too overwhelmed and disconnected by what was going on with Payne and how close he came to losing her to see his own feelings for Jane.
    As far as the muddle over V’s pseudo-BDSM, I think it is a mix of both Ward’s lack of knowledge in the lifestyle, but also V just taking the elements that worked for him. It’s also a bit of hyperbole that V is so hardcore he needs the restrictions of the corset, gag and mask, but could also be taken as a sign of Butch’s inexperience too, which could have been dangerous for V if it had affected him too much.

What do you think?

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