**Spoiler Free** and 5 big stars
Opening Line: "Xcor saw his father killed when he was but five years past his transition."
Ah yes, how sweet it is to be back with the Black Dagger Brotherhood. It was with some anticipation (understatement) that I cracked open the 489 pages I’d waited almost a year on, and it was with baited breathe that I began. Wondering exactly what direction JR Ward was going to take this 9th instalment in? Well I can tell you that with this one she does not disappoint, giving us fans exactly what we've been waiting for and then some.
Starting where LOVER MINE left off and with her usual flair (the first 4 words will have you smiling) we get; multiple POV’s, evolving story lines, ass-kicking action and major injuries to most of the Brotherhood. We revisit past characters while being introduced to new ones, including (among others) the intriguing ‘Band of Bastards’. This group of 6 is around to stay and with them comes an endless supply of future story possibilities.
-Band Of Bastards
With blasts of tension, humour, romance and way erotic love scenes we witness a couple of characters fall apart, see unrequited love, get major hints of things to come, and while laughing with Rhage and Fritz in the billiards room we also worry about the future of the King. Even though our main love story here is not as dominant as in past books, I have no complaints as Ward manages to include and give us moments with each and every member of the Brotherhood mansion in one way or another. And while I ached for Qhuinn and Blay, then there was V. And oh the V. True?
As much as this is pegged as Payne and Manny’s book LOVER UNLEASHED really belongs to Vishous and isn't it great (understatement) to be back in his, intricate, messed up, dirty lil mind. Along with Butch and Jane this trio goes to some very dark places, taking us right along for the excruciating ride and finally putting to bed (so to speak) Butch and V’s relationship once and for all. I loved revisiting V and through him, hearing from the Cop again as well as getting to know Jane better-who has at last stopped feeling like a ghost ( I may forgive Ward yet for killing her) And in the afterward, those quiet moments spent between Butch and V well … in his words, “I have no words. Sixteen languages, but no words.”
All this awesomeness has of course been wrapped up with Ward’s unique style of writing although this time there’s a different vibe to it and it took me a while to put my finger on what it was. The multiple f-bombs, rap references and Wardisms are still here but she’s managed to tone the product placement and riddle filled sentences (i.e.“A gust of wind went Nike across the flat landscape" Making this feel more like one of the original books from the series then the urban fantasy-ish instalments of late.
We also don’t jump around as we did in LOVER MINE with Ghostbuster storylines and Old Country flashbacks, plus with less 'Lessers' to contend with here (much like in LOVER UNBOUND and with them operating without a visible leader the entire story flows better and you don't find yourself grumbling, wanting to skip ahead.
Regarding Payne and Manny; I enjoyed this couple, verily I did. I’ve loved Manny from the first time we met him and enjoyed getting to know him here. His interactions/revelations with Butch are hilarious as is his discovery of Jane and the whole BDB world. Payne wasn’t as tough as I was expecting although she does manage to rescue herself while spending a considerable amount of time paralyzed. Manny’s method of healing her is...very Marvin Gaye and although their actual HEA is kinda corny I liked how Ward found a way to keep them together.
In the end Ward leaves us smiling with contentment (although I had been hoping for a mating ceremony and not the one you’d expect) and with events wide open for future stories that I can't wait to discover. I just wish it wasn't so far away because after spending just a few days with the BDB I'm not ready to let them go yet. See ya next year boys, stay safe. True. Cheers