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
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.