Thursday, 19 April 2007

Lover Awakened by J R Ward

This novel was built up as the story of Zsadist, the scary vampire of the Black Dagger Brotherhood. And Bella the beautiful vampire aristocrat. Bella actually first met Z in Lover Eternal. As far as I could tell, Bella is attracted to Z because of his scarred face, his scary aura and the fact that he seems to be the ideal candidate to give her a bit of rough sex. Because Bella is essentially a bored vampire PAP. At the end of LE, Bella is kidnapped by the Lessers (vampire enemy).

Towards the beginning of Lover Awakened Bella is basically being regularly humiliated by her captor. Poor girl. She has to play along with his sick twisted games of verbal abuse and domination. Because she looks somewhat similar to his dead wife. btw Mr O and all the Lessers are impotent so there is no danger of Bella getting raped. Well her captor, Mr O, is enjoying himself so much he kindly brings along another vampire captive for Bella to drink from. And then O is interrupted by an associate who is outraged that O is keeping a female vampire to himself. So O has to kill this associate and while he is doing that, Bella frees the other vampire. Does O then move Bella to another safe house? No, he prefers to physically torture her. He carves his name on her stomach and sews her eyelids together. Well, the escaped vampire of course immediately notifies the BDB of Bella's whereabouts and they rescue her. The BDB could have searched forever and a day and they wouldn't have found Bella. Because tbh they don't have a lot of brains between them.

In order for Bella to recover she wants to be with Z. But Z is, to put it politely, a almost complete fuck-up when it comes to sexual relations. For the readers 'entertainment' the author provides flashbacks of Z's time as a blood-and-sex slave to a female vampire. It seems he was raped by men and women. Part of the reason Z was abused was because he was a very handsome vampire with large genitals. (according to the author) He received most of his scars during his rather messy escape from his escape engineered by his twin brother Phury. So now Z avoids drinking from other vampires, basically dislikes sex and generally hates the world. Oh, and he has scary black eyes.

Although Z generally tries to offload Bella, particularly onto his twin brother Phury, she rather persists in trying to get him to make love to her. And eventually she succeeds. There are some incredible cringemaking scenes written into this romance. For instance. Z needs to feel pain in order to ejaculate, so Bella has to twist his gonads for him. Later when Bella is initially in her 'needing' (which the author says means that for about 24 hours a female vampire has to have lots and lots of sex) Z fetches a washcloth to wipe his ejaculate off Bella's body because he believes it makes her dirty. (And did I mention that when Bella is rescued by the BDB she is taken, not to her family home nor to the local vampire clinic, but to Z's room at the mansion where she is given a gynecological exam in the presence of at least 3 of the BDB). So anyway. By the end of Bella's 'needing' Z is much more at ease with his sexuality. (He even manages to masturbate himself to come with Bella's encouragement and under her watchful eye)

I'll say this for Z. He never loses his manners with Bella. He is immensely grateful to her and always gentle. But although she's also thoroughly satisfied she still hasn't got what she originally wanted. Which is rough sex with Z. All the sex between Z and Bella in this novel is genuinely 100% consensual as far as I could tell.

Aroundabout here the author inserts a chapter where Bella returns to her own house where she was originally kidnapped by Mr O. Ostensibly Bella wants to collect a few of her things and say goodbye to her former life but the real purpose of this chapter is for Z to give Bella a small gun to use for protection.

So the reader is thinking. Well. Now we can build on a good beginning. But no. Almost the very next chapter Bella says something insulting to Z in the presence of the other brothers and he rejects her again. I have to say that came as a genuine surprise. Mainly because its such a old-fashioned romance writers device. And quite rightly despised by many readers. Normally I wouldn’t dream of reading a romance with a BIG SEPARATION in the middle. But none of the reviews gave even a hint of its appearance. Which is one of the reasons I am writing this complete spoiler of the novel.

A big issue in this novel about vampires is who drinks blood from whom. Bella, after 6 weeks captivity, needs someone to drink from and she wants it to be Z. Z thinks he’s too dirty for a vampire princess to drink from so he pushes her onto his twin brother Phury who is more than willing because he would really prefer it if Bella was in love with him. But Bella insists on using Z. That’s one of the first ways their relationship grows. However Z still refuses to drink from female vampires. (Because his abusive mistress forced him to drink her blood through pain.) But because he only drinks from humans Z has become emaciated. Which is how Bella accidentally insulted him. She said he would be too weak to fight the enemy without drinking her blood. But she said it in company and that made Z look pussy in his eyes. Anyway to underline the fact that he thinks Bella is too good for him Z drinks from a hooker in front of Bella. So that’s one rejection too many for Bella and off she goes to stay with a friendly vampire called Marissa for a while. For some reason I can’t remember later on Bella allows Z to persuade her to let Phury drink from her. This has very important repercussions but at the time Bella just feels humiliated.

While Bella’s been fornicating with Z at the BDB mansion, her former captor, Mr O has been searching for her. High and low. But unlike the brothers he uses some brains. He kidnaps a vampire from the street and tortures him about a missing female vampire and where she lived. Then Mr O goes to Bella’s home to stalk around for a while. His image is caught on the CCTV Bella’s brother has installed and he is recognised as a vampire enemy. Bella’s brother evacuates his home and calls Bella to warn her to stay away. By an incredible coincidence who should come visiting to Bella’s mother at that moment but Wellsie the pregnant wife of Tohr (accompanied by a young female friend). Mr O shoots Wellsie dead and captures young Sarelle.

Another dumb fuck device. Ok, Wellsie was a goody-two-shoes. But she cared about John Matthew, she was a good wife to Tohr, and was organising within the local vampire community to restore some traditions. So why kill her? It’s just a means to an end so that Mr O can torture Sarelle to death to get the e-mail address of the brotherhood. Tohr is of course devastated and disappears in grief for the rest of the novel. But he isn’t liked by the author anyway. In previous books a couple of the brothers have been complaining that Tohr was imposing too much discipline on the brothers. So this is a way of getting rid of him. But Bella, who is actually a drug-dealers sister living off the money he makes from selling H, who has never done a days work in her life, remains the heroine. As for her father-killing, dealer brother, Rehvenge, I do not give a shit about him. And I won’t be reading his pussy story when it is published.

So. Mr O contacts the scarred brother who stole Bella away from him. (Towards the beginning of the novel, O saw Z driving away from O’s little prison towards the mansion but didn’t realise at the time that Bella was in the back of the vehicle) O tells Z to come alone to a rendevous if he wants to save Sarelle. Z agrees. But before he goes he obliquely says goodbye to all his BDB brothers because he strongly suspects he won’t be coming back. But his twin Phury aint so dumb and realises what’s happening. He can’t have it that Z will die after his terrible life as a slave. So Phury sneakily injects Z with a drug that puts him out like a light and goes in his place. Phury also shaves his head and cuts himself in the face so that he looks like Z.

After a couple of hours Z comes round. He asks the other brothers to help him find Phury. But the enemy is surrounding a house of vamps and the brothers go off to help them. So this is what Z does. He goes to where Bella is staying. Z asks for her help. Because Phury drank from Bella she can psychically locate him. Which she does and tells Z of the location. Z goes to rescue Phury. He agrees Bella can come so long as she stays well away from danger.

Meanwhile poor Phury’s been beaten to a pulp by Mr O and poor Sarelle is long dead. Z bursts into Mr O’s secret cabin prison and fights him hand to hand. The trouble is because Z is emaciated from drinking only from humans he is slowly losing this fight and Mr O is just about to stab him to death (somehow) when Bella walks into the cabin. ‘Come here’ she orders Mr O. And he does because he’s obsessed with Bella. Then Bella shoots Mr O with the gun that Z gave her at the beginning of the story and then takes Z’s knife and stabs Mr O through the heart which makes him go poof just like all the daimons in the Dark-Hunter books. So basically Bella has saved Z’s and Phury’s lives. She then guides the two heavily injured men to a nearby truck and drives them to the local vampire hospital. Vampires always recover from most wounds if given time and rest.

It takes Z only a couple of days to recover. He goes back to the mansion and finds that Bella is collecting her stuff to leave permanently. She would like Z to ask her to stay with him but he doesn’t. But she does get her original wish because they have ‘angry desperate’ sex with most of their clothes on. Afterwards Z says thank you to her. And she says she regrets being with him. (because he’s made her so sad) Then Bella leaves.

Two months later Bella returns to the mansion with some important news for Z. To her astonishment he’s put on a lot of bulk, smartened himself up and is learning to read and write. (Having missed out on an education when he was a blood-and-sex slave) And suddenly he’s got articulate too. And generally turned into a limp pussy. This chapter is quite emotional. Z tells Bella maybe they could date and start over again. He writes some words for her to read. He’s written ‘I love you.’ So Bella gives him a big hug and tells him she loves him back. Then she tells him she’s expecting his child. At which point Z COMPLETELY WIMPS OUT. He faints and starts crying. Because for the first time in his life he feels happy. Something like that.

Then Z takes Bella to her home so that he can ask her brother for permission to marry her. That’s when the reader and Z discover that Bella’s brother is a drug-dealer. Bella however remains ignorant of this fact which as far as I'm concerned is the only flaw in her character. (That is apart from her obnoxious forelock tugging to Rhage in the previous novel Lover Eternal) And that’s the main romance.

There are a lot of other story lines in this novel. Not all of them are relevent. And sometimes it was hard to keep track of all the little snippets of information that make up the main romance.

A relevent part of the story is the relationship between Zsadist and his twin brother Phury. Phury is good-looking and elegant. He is what Z would have been if he hadn’t been enslaved. The reader is meant to believe that Phury feels irrationally guilty that Z was kidnapped as a baby and sold into slavery. (Z only became a blood-and-sex slave after puberty though. I really do not know why the author had to give him an unnaturally big dick) Phury spent many years searching for Z. He eventually found him chained up in a dungeon because slavery was illegal even for vampires apparently. But it was a messy rescue resulting in Z receiving his disfiguring facial scar and Phury having to shoot his own leg off because it got caught in some rocks when Phury jumped over a cliff holding his whipped unconscious brother in his arms. When Phury shot his leg off the brothers fell into salt sea-water which is why Z’s scars didn’t fade and why Phury wears a prosthesis on his leg. So now the brothers are both free but there is still something unhealthy about their relationship. For some reason Phury is fixated on Z. Phury feeds Z’s neuroses making him more of a fuck-up than he already was. And towards the end chapters Z recognises this and tells Phury to stop doing this. The author tells us that Phury is celibate and Z doesn’t like sex. But actually Phury sounded jealous of Z a lot of the time and was all too happy to see other people be wary of him. There’s this really weird scene in the book where Bella screams at Z as he comes near her. But Bella cannot see Z because she has lotion over her eyes where the doctor took the stitches out. She screamed because she was in a nightmare and thought that her captor was approaching her. But Phury immediately assumes Z is about to sexually assault Bella. While we the readers know Z wouldn’t dream of doing that because Z is basically in total awe of Bella. Not very supportive is Phury. Phury is also a borderline junkie who hates his life. Even Z wasn’t that negative. But the story needs Phury to sacrifice himself in place of Z.

Other things that happen. Bella’s brother Rehvenge is introduced. He is an empath who hypnotises Phury and supplies his drugs. Rehvenge keeps his special abilities at bay by injecting himself with some drug. There is a completely irrelevant digression in the book where Rehv goes to wait for Mr O at his house. And then changes his mind and drives away. Why does this guy have an ‘h’ in his name when he is not in the brotherhood? Also Rehv drinks blood from Marissa. Vischous scams Butch into drinking some of his blood. John Matthew prevents Phury from moving from skunk to H. But generally there is too much about John in this book. So what that he is Darius reincarnated. Was Darius someone special? No. Mr O dies but Mr X still lives. Z volunteers to help with the trainees now that Tohr has disappeared. I don’t think there is any point to Butch being in this novel but I could be wrong.

One of the nice emotional moments was when Z’s black eyes change back to their natural yellow colour after his marathon sex session with Bella. The other very short scene I liked was when Bella asked Z if he had had any loving relationships and he snarled back "What the fuck do you think?" Z does give Bella some idea of the reason why he's so fucked up but he doesn't go into the gory details. Generally though there is not much intentional laughter in this book.

I quite like the hip speak the brothers use. Nor do I have a problem with the product name dropping. What I don't understand is why these modern guys call their trainees 'son.' It immediately ages them about 20 years and doesn't even sound like its the voice of the female author writing the story. Very strange.

I read this book about 2/3 times in the course of a couple of days. At times I wished I’d never read it at all. Mainly because Z was such a pitiful miserable mess that I felt I intruded on his privacy!

But in the end what I resent is how little there is of Zsadist and Bella in this novel. Out of 40 chapters only about 5 involve the main couple. And to be brutally frank it was difficult to see where the romance, as opposed to the gyno, was. Essentially this was a 'hero marries pregnant heroine' romance. You know, like all the crappy series romances back in the 1980s. That's a bit old-fashioned for me to appreciate. I like a bit more common ground between the main couple for their HEA. I also do not like the story telling techniques on display. There are so many parallel stories. Some of them are dropped between the books. Some of them are dropped within one book. There is even some discontinuities in a character between books. Its laziness or a sign of a novel planned or written by a group imo. Suddenly the BDB is beginning to look even worse than the Kenyon saga and looks to have the potential to turn into another Anita Blake debacle. I don't think this type of thing occurs in Nora Roberts books ie the Eve and Roarke saga.

Genre; paranormal erotic; movie rating 18; murder, male and female torture and mutilation, extreme violence, profanities, male rape, pre-marital and oral sex, use of hookers, profound psycho-sexual issues, substance abuse, use of knives.

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