Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Dark Lover by JR Ward – POTENTIAL SPOILERS
A lot of talk about this book. A lot of rallying behind it.
I’ll admit right up front that I read Dark Lover with a lot of preconceived notions. On the one hand, I expected to be blown away. So many readers I trust have been nothing less than feverish about this book, this author. Hence its place on my TBR list.
On the other hand, I expected to be tossed out of the story by references to paint roller abs and men with tits—neither very appealing to me. I was also turned off by the idea of a menacing hero and unredeemable secondary characters. These references from two other trusted readers.
So I read it.
And enjoyed it.
The earth didn’t move.
Nor did bile rise in my throat.
I just found it an enjoyable—if slightly confounding—read.
JR Ward’s Dark Lover did draw me in. I was captivated early on and enjoyed the pace of the action. I was a bit daunted by the glossary of terms at the beginning of the book, but realized fairly quickly that she explains everything easily—without disrupting flow—within the confines of the story. No need to study up before going in.
Once involved in the story, the characters grew on me. Ultimately, I have to say I liked them. But I say it grudgingly. I typically prefer characterization that is better balanced. I’m not opposed to characters that are initially unappealing, or constructed with two sides. I’m not against letting characters do things that appear out of character—at first blush. I’m not even opposed to characters presented as outright freaks of nature. However, I do have trouble when the author fails to assimilate all of it—description and actions—into a character true to himself and the reader.
And that is where I stumble in this review. Honestly, I can’t tell you if Ward brought it all together or not. When I turned the last page, I still thought the bulk of these characters were a bit too outlandish, too freakish. Their actions, personas didn’t add up; didn’t come together with any semblance of clarity.
But I can also say that when I turned the last page, I was smiling and felt genuine affection for Ward’s characters. So my response to these characters didn’t add up either.
Here is some of what bothered me. First, why would Wrath let Beth go without constant supervision—knowing she was going to go through the change any minute? Didn’t make sense given his fierce desire to keep her alive. Second, how does a woman, near-raped the night before, go ape crazy for sex with a complete, not to mention menacing, stranger? Even Wrath is confounded by her reaction to him, admitting that he used no aphrodisiacs to subdue her? How does a good cop—Jose—just “let ride” his concern for a good friend’s safety while simultaneously ignoring his duty as a cop? And I still did not like the paint roller abs imagery. It didn’t throw me out, but it did make him less appealing in what should have been a sexy scene.
Here is some of what I liked. The immature, adolescent banter. The world(s) Ward created and the balance of power therein. The butler. And at least one moment that made me laugh out loud—that moment when Beth is writhing beneath Wrath and he can’t figure out what the hell happened. Ward says he was “struck stupid”. Loved that line. And think it is representative of what did keep me in the story—Ward’s humor.
At least I hope it is Ward’s humor. This is where I may stumble again. Throughout Dark Lover, my biggest challenge as the reader was balancing the serious against the absurd. Very dark, driven characters (of the Brotherhood) who drive a flashy Escalade and listen to rap music. Ward delivers the absurd moments with a straight face in this book. A face so straight, I was beginning to think she was serious. Serious in thinking that rap music and tattoos just add to the dark mystery of her Brothers. In the end, I decided that Ward was perfectly aware of how immature her boys were. (Still dark and powerful, but pure adolescents.)
Overall, given that I was drawn into the story and more than compelled to finish it, I'm not sure if the point of characterization matters much. I guess you could say I was captivated by the story but found it difficult to take the characters as seriously as I might have liked.
Finally—in this review that is sounding more like a rebuttal—I have to say that, I didn't find Dark Lover teeming with sexual tension or eroticism. The romance was strong—emotional, binding and very beautiful in the end. The sex was sexy, yes, but nothing that would set it apart from its peers.
So, preconceived notions aside, I had a good time reading this book. On the whole, these characters—and their actions--were no more outlandish than some of Evanovich’s Plum folks. And the see-sawing between darkness and dorkdom not so different than what I saw in Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Dark Lover was quirky (albeit in a very dark world) and, chalking those confounding moments up to its quirkiness, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
I’ll read Eternal Lover when I can pick it up. And this will be a set of characters I will follow. In the same way I’ve kept up with Stephanie, Buffy and Angel.
And yes, I know. Stephanie, Buffy and Angel all enjoy a cult following. And now I’ve lumped the Black Dagger Brotherhood in there. So even though I cannot for the life of me tell you what all the fuss is about, I somehow find myself a “fuss-ee”, the newest member of the Brotherhood’s cult following.
My thanks to JR Ward for an enjoyable read.