Sunday, February 14, 2010

The One Edie Asked For: Why I Loved Dark Lover

When I was young -- back in the 60s -- I used to play "WWII combat" with my brother and some neighborhood boys.  The boys got sticks for guns and I was always the nurse; we tended to stick to gender-specific roles.  After that, the point was to take strategic positions behind bushes, pretend to shoot each other, get "patched up" by the nurse and go back into battle.  What I mostly remember was a simple shoot-em-up with no real plot, very little character development and silly names.

Which is basically what Dark Lover is:  Nothing much happens, but the game is still fun to play.  And everyone has a silly name.

Wrath, Rhage, Tohrment, Vishous, Zsadist, Phury, Darius.  Uh, can you pick out the red shirt from this crowd?  The one who's not coming back from the trip down to the planet-of-the-week?  Which makes me wonder, why did J.R. Ward not name him Dhangeroush?  Okay, so not Dhangeroush.  Wilde is a playwright.  Violhent looks like a musical instrument.  Bhrutal?  I have it: Khruel.  (Still reminds me of oatmeal, but let's move on shall we?)

Okay, so we know Darius is going to kick it pretty early on, and sure enough he dies almost immediately.  He kinda sorta bequeaths his daughter to Wrath, the leader of their happy band of brothers.  I don't have all the subtleties of their vampire civilization down yet.  We have a monarchy of sorts based on both bloodlines and a version of divine right; we have an aristocracy of sorts, and of course there's gobs of human money -- I must say vampires seem to be uncommonly good at making and saving scads of money; I'm pretty sure I could live to be a thousand and I'd still be worrying about whether I had enough money to live on.

Darius's daughter is Beth, a newspaper reporter who doesn't actually report on anything because she works for a sexist pig and thus can be better used copyediting the poorly-written articles by the MALE reporters.  (See?  More gender-specific role play!)  But even though she's not allowed to write anything, she's really working those police connections and being sure to be first on the scene when crimes happen.  Crimes like the father-she-never-knew blowing up.  An over-the-top brutal cop (which is to say a guy who would be a hero if only he weren't human) is attracted to Beth, but then everyone's attracted to Beth.  Supposedly each of his colleagues on the police force (regardless of marital status? or are they all single?) would "give his left nut just to hold her hand."

Wrath is so angry and distractedly focused on the lessers (the baddies, whose origin stories are truthfully even less interesting than the vampires) that he has no interest in Darius's verbal requests with regard to Beth.  All that changes when Darius is killed -- Wrath is now really angry but miraculously able to multitask: get Darius's killer and stalk save Beth.  That Wrath (nearly 7 feet tall and dressed entirely in black and leather, including his XXL boxers -- no tighty-whities for this vamp) is scary enough that she is understandably terrified when he breaks into her apartment.  He wipes her memory (ahh, it occurs to me now that the ability to wipe memories could assist in the acquisition of obscene amounts of human wealth...) and has to come back to try again.  Hmmm . . . human female is terrified, so I know, let's use the "red smokes," cigarettes that are supposed to be relaxants but which have the mysterious effect of making Beth super super horny.  Which she's never been before.

Now, just to review the bidding:  Wrath is King of the Vamps (good guys), Darius was a princeps (some sort of nobleman), Beth is half human but half vamp and is about to undergo an excruciating transition into a vamp as well as inherit all of her vamp lord father's property.  Developing a relationship might be a tough act for Wrath & Beth, but Ward has that wrinkle easily ironed out.  There seems to be a suggestion of a magical romance connection that works like Velcro:  when two vampish people who are meant to be mated come together, you can just about hear the schhlurrrp as they connect and let no one tear them asunder.

Vamp Velcro is a very convenient romantic device.  No dating, no awkward revelation of one's short-comings, no discussions about "where is this relationship going?" . . .  And best thing about the Vamp Velcro effect is that it has instantaneous character-reforming effects, particularly on the guy.  Wrath before the Vamp Velcro: loner, contemptuous of female sensibilities, not even that horny.  Wrath after the Vamp Velcro: devoted partner, tender and considerate lover, and eager to be a dad. 

From that point on, it's a race to the finish line, which of course will be at a spot where the heroine is in danger (but not completely useless), the hero shows up in the nick of time, and -- well, I won't say any more just in case I am not the only person in Romlandia who hadn't previously read this book.

Now -- I loved it.  I read it lickety-split (many thanks to my husband for doing more than half the drive to Boston so that I could read in the car) and loved it.  The scene that clinched the deal for me was where each member of the Brotherhood falls to one knee and they slam their daggers in a perfect pattern around Wrath -- geddit: the Black Daggers for which the Brotherhood is named.  A wonderful image, even if we know that getting these guys to work in sync is going to take some time.  I'd say five more novels' worth of time.

Dark Lover was fun the way playing "WWII Combat" was fun when I was a child.  It's escapist with the happy certainty that nothing real is on the line.  Trust me, for all that Wrath is Alpha Male wrapped in Bad-Ass with a sprinkling of Dangerously Violent on top, we know that love will tame him, he won't actually kill anyone who doesn't deserve it (only the baddies do that), and all the rough sex is consensual.

9 comments:

  1. Okay, be gentle with me. I'm new to the vernacular for praising (dissing?) the Black Dagger books.

    Oh {light dawns on Marblehead}. . . I'm guessing I read a sexxoring scene too fast, hunh? Yes, well, if Vamp Velcro gives these guys a taste for uh, peaches . . . that is just one more reason to praise the powers of Vamp Velcro.

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  2. I came late to this series and devoured the first six books. Despite their flaws, they're compulsively readable. The first three are my favourite, and 'Lover Awakened' is one of my all-time favourite romance books.

    I wasn't blown away by the most recent book in the series, 'Lover Avenged', although it still had enough good bits in it to keep me turning the pages. While I probably won't buy the 8th book in hardback, I'll definitely get it when it's released in mass market.

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  3. That rocked Miss M!
    I love the Vamp Velcro!

    Thanks Miss M!
    Edie

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  4. Sarah -- There's a lot to be said for writing something that's compulsively readable. Hats off to Ms. Ward! I will look forward to #3 in particular. It's a shame they can't keep getting better and better, but I bet's that's tough for all authors to do.

    Edie -- I probably wouldn't have written this without your prodding.

    So. What do I write about next, then?

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  5. You have explained perfectly why this book in particular and series over all works so well, and why I'm still reading the series even when I'm completely annoyed by it.

    I may have to reread this one--LOL

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  6. Tara Marie -- Thanks. I knew when Sarah praised Ward's books over at Monkey Bear that I'd have to read them, but when I started Dark Lover at a friend's house I thought, "Meh." Once I bought it, and Edie requested (demanded?) a review, I had to follow through. I'm glad I did: after a slow start, it revs up and takes off.

    A bit like marshmallow or meringue: not a lot there, but just too yummy to resist. And like all sweet foods, there is such a thing as too much.

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  7. Vamp velcro! LMAO!! nice.

    When I first read Dark Lover I couldn't stop rolling my eyes because Wrath would hang outside Beth's window like a peeping tom wearing his sunglasses.

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  8. Katiebabs -- There's something weird about the blindness issue. He can't read but he can move stealthily around a darkened landscape? I assume he doesn't have bat-like echolocation, but who knows. Unlike the Balogh in the next post, Dark Lover is not a book that repays a careful consideration of the text!

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