Lover Eternal by J.R. Ward
(Signet, $6.99, R) ISBN 0-451-21804-3
Upon cracking open the spine of Lover Eternal I encountered a four-page glossary. This of course should immediately tip the reader off that she’s entering into series territory, and indeed Lover Eternal is book 2 in Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series. While it does stand-alone fairly well, it is at its heart a series book and the sum of its part do not always add up to a satisfying total. However this should only add more fuel to the fire for Ward’s growing base of admiring fangirls.

In Ward’s world, vampires are good and the guys who hunt them (lesser) are bad. The Black Dagger Brotherhood is an elite warrior class of vampires who protect vampires and humans against lesser. The Lessening Society wants to eradicate vampires. Vampires do not actively use humans as a blood source, instead feeding from female vampires. Frankly I had a hard time making this add up. So why are vampires seen as bad exactly? And why would anyone see the need to exterminate them? Oh well, maybe the author covered it in the first book, Dark Lover.

The vampires all have dopey sounding names like Wrath, Zsadist, Phury and Vishous. There’s a human among them named Butch. They’re sort of like a paranormal romance version of the Village People. They also go around talking really weird, saying things like “my brother,” “you feel me?” and addressing women as “females.” Put it all together and you get, “We’re not brothers because we were born of the same female.” It’s amazing how long it takes the heroine to figure out something isn’t exactly normal about these guys.

Lover Eternal is Rhage’s story. Once upon a time Rhage ticked off the Scribe Virgin. Think of her as a God-like Queen of the Vampires. Anyway, Rhage did something bad, so she possessed him with a Godzilla-like beast. When Rhage gets overly emotional, he transforms into the beast and goes on a rampage. So to keep the beast in check he gets in brutal death matches and has a bunch of meaningless sex.

So basically the beast is a convenient excuse for the hero to act like a jackass.

Mary Luce has just found out that her cancer has come back. So she’s a little bummed out about that. Then she befriends a transient young man who happens to be a vampire nearing his age of maturity. That’s how she comes in contact with The Brothers, and that is how Rhage becomes deeply infatuated with her. Basically it’s love at first sight on his end, but Mary takes some time to get used to the idea. Rhage is a god in the looks department, and she’s certainly nothing special. Plus there’s that whole cancer thing. Bummer.

The plot meanders around a bit, but essentially Mary falls under the radar of the Lessening Society, so Rhage wants to protect her. But how can they be together when Mary is a sick human and an uncontrollable beast possesses Rhage?

There are some very good moments in Lover Eternal – most of them coming after Rhage discovers he’s “bonded” with Mary. He goes from macho wounded warrior to love sick puppy and it’s kind of endearing. There are stumbling blocks though, and when he fails her, it makes the characters more interesting and real.

Ward has built her series around hot, Alpha warrior vampires, which explains why the series already has a devoted following. Unfortunately, next to these guys, Mary pales in comparison. She suffers her cancer bravely, but she’s too good to be true. She never gets angry at life. She never gets cheesed off. She never pumps her fist in the air and starts cursing. She smiles serenely and waits on the sidelines while the boys have all the fun. Really, she’s a bit on the bland side and I couldn’t help thinking that Rhage needed someone with more fire. Ward tries to paint Mary as strong, but this reader was not convinced.

Lover Eternal took a long time to grow on me, and with a book clocking in at over 400 pages that is a big strike against it. There is a certain entertaining camp factor to it though, and despite my best intentions, I found myself intrigued by some of the secondary characters. The romance of Rhage and Mary never really adds up to much, but the world building and atmosphere add some punch. Fans of the series will likely stay fans, but interested newcomers should probably think about book 1 before book 2. As for me, I wasn’t totally immune. Zsadist’s story is up next, and I’m curious despite myself.

--Wendy Crutcher

@ Please tell us what you think! back Back Home