Book Review: Dark Lover by J.R. Ward

Dark Lover
J.R. Ward
Signet, 2005
ISBN 0451216954
Mass Market Paperback

This isn’t your Twilight tween-vampire-romance. In fact, this book shouldn’t be read by anyone under the age of 21 or at least 18! And don’t let the word “romance” turn you away so fast.

Take everything you know about vampires: fangs, feeding on blood, regeneration, turning to mist or bats, immorality, steaks to the heart, turning to dust in the sun, turning humans into vamps etc… put it all in a box and set it aside because J.R. Ward’s vampires aren’t your run of the mill vamps. Ward’s species includes warriors and the civilians and Doggen they protect.

Now, think big… like 6’9 with shoulders and thighs that would put Conan to shame, think leather and steel-toed boots… biker, not 80’s hair band. Picture long black hair, wrap around shades, and the most ticked off, mean expression imaginable. Now you have just seen Wrath, the King of his race and the last pure-breed vampire, the leader who refuses to lead and only continues to live for vengeance. Oh, and he has no use for humans… at all.

Let’s return to that box and see what Ward’s vamps have. Fangs- check. Feeding on blood- check but only on vamps of the opposite sex. Human blood just isn’t strong enough for them to live off of. Regeneration- check for the warriors of the race, not so much for the others. Turning to mist/bats- no bats here but they can dematerialize to travel. Immortality- not really. All vamps can be killed almost as easily as a human, though the warriors are a bit tougher. Think slow aging as opposed to being immortal. Steaks to the heart- check or any other mortal wound would do it. Turing to dust in the sun- check, these vamps still can’t go out during the day. Oh and turning humans into vamps- doesn’t happen. You’re either born with the vamp blood or not.

Now, think pale… as in albino but without the red eyes, think undead…as in soul-less, not the roaming zombie kind and lastly, think of how babies smell after a bath… yes I said babies smell… as in baby powder. You now will recognize a Lesser if you see (or smell) one.

Since the beginning of time, the Lessening Society (i.e. Lessers) has been hunting the vampire race at the bidding of the Omega, whose sole purpose is revenge against his sister, the Scribe Virgin. The vampires are her creation and are losing the war, soon to become extinct as the number of the race’s warriors, aka The Black Dagger Brotherhood, has dwindled to just six after the lessers most recent attack.

The war is raging on in present day Caldwell, New York, unbeknownst to the humans that live there. Doesn’t sound very ‘romantic’ huh? Well, imagine a tall woman… 5’9 with legs that don’t want to end. Think supermodel attractive with long black hair. Now you’ve seen Beth, a reporter for the Caldwell Courier Journal and a half-breed vamp whose about to transition into a full blow vampire, though she doesn’t know it yet. In the latest attack by the lesser, Beth’s warrior vamp father, Darius was killed before he could make her aware of her heritage. His dying request to Wrath was for the King to help Beth through the transition (by sharing his pure blood), which many half-breeds don’t survive. Since Wrath owed Darius, he set out to fulfill the request. Little did he know he was going to find his mate in Beth.

Dark Lover is full of action as the Brotherhood and the lessers wage their war. The romance between Beth and Wrath is woven in amongst the battles. However, readers should be aware that the bedroom scenes are very graphic and contain strong descriptive language. Don’t let the word ‘romance’ stop you from enjoying this different take on vampires. If you’re a vamp fan, action fan, or even a romance fan, you will quickly fall in love with Dark Lover.

Reviewed by Brenda Cothern, November 2010.