My thoughts: Lover Unleashed
Lover Unleashed is the ninth book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. It takes place immediately where Lover Mine (swoon.... John Matthew and Xhex.....) ended. Payne, after sparring with Wrath in the Sanctuary, suffered a life-threatening injury and was sent to the human world for help. When Doc Jane realizes she cannot help Payne herself, she goes back to her former life to contact Dr. Manny Manello and bring him into the vampire world, for what was supposed to be a short time. However, upon meeting Payne, we see that the Fates had other things in mind for the patient and her healer.
Thoughts and possible spoilers:
I love the BDB world. J.R. Ward has done a fascinating job with these books. When I first picked up Dark Lover, the first of the series, I knew by the end of the chapter one that this would be one of the best series I've ever read. In LU, I was a little apprehensive going into the story, wondering how the Warden would bring the daughter of the Scribe Virgin and a human surgeon together. Most of the story, however, was not focused on the two of them. Vishous, Payne's twin brother, realized at the end of LM that he had a sister and that their mother, the Scribe Virgin (and the creator of the vampire race) had hidden it from him, and kept her chained up for hundreds of years. Much of the storyline evolved around V and his shellan, Jane (a ghost), as well as his best friend, Butch (half-breed turned vamp).
See how this can get confusing if you didn't start from the beginning of the series?
The V-Butch storyline played out a lot like I thought it would. Butch knew what needed to be done to bring V back from the edge, and the underlying feelings of the two males was brought back to the forefront. Jane, although I never cared much for her - she always seemed so cold and distant - made a convincing portrayal of a woman fighting for her marriage. V, the ever-complicated character, has been one of my favorite brothers since the beginning. I always go for the tortured soul, and while Zsadist is the epitome of that label, V has his own demons, ones that are constantly trying to break out and take over.
Another, somewhat interesting storyline in the book, is that of the vamps from the Old Country. Xcor seems like he will be the next nemesis for Wrath, bringing more focus to internal fighting among vampires during the next book (which I heard is to be Tohrment!!!) Perhaps the next book will continue to have less of a focus on lessers (evil beings who are dead set on destroying all vamps)? One member in Xcor's band of fighters is a vamp named Throe. I kind of have the feeling that based on his history with Xcor, combined with his fearsome desire to want to protect women, we may be seeing him switch sides later on and join with the Brotherhood. Just a theory.
One of my favorite non-brothers, Quinn, realized something about himself and decided to make some changes, not so much to win the heart of Blay back (yes here are the m/m couple of the series), but to bring peace to himself. (Again with the tortured soul....) The Warden has said that originally she saw Quinn and Layla getting together, but she has since changed her mind, and Blay and Quinn will get their HEA, although probably not their own book. Blay's relationship with Saxton was further described, and although I never liked Saxton, my heart went out to him when was was talking to Quinn towards the end of the book. (To paraphrase: I am his lover, not the love of his life.) The twist about Quinn seeing a child that looks both like Layla and himself was a twist I can't quite figure out.
Payne and Manny were the final piece of this puzzle. Each book always has the HEA, so in that way, each book is predictable. But the vampire/human storyline always makes you wonder how they will eventually be together in the end. So far, we've had vamp in dormant state go through the change (Beth), being granted eternal life by the Scribe Virgin (Mary), and a half-breed go through a rite of passage and see if he lives (Butch), human die and be brought back in ghost form (Jane) ((not the best idea)). What I do enjoy though is not every book is vamp/human, but some are vamp/vamp, or in one case sympath/vamp, which makes the reader feel that it is not the same storyline over and over again (cough, Christine Feehan, cough).
The scenes between Manny and Payne were heartbreaking towards the end, when you realize all that he is throwing away he is doing not really for her, but because of what she does to him (read: how Manny will be able to live a long, healthy life). At least until he realizes he is taking the cowardly approach. I was glad it wasn't another Bella or Xhex kidnapping scene, although how Payne gets out of her capture situation is a little hard to believe. The ending, where the reader is shown that V has actually gotten a glimpse of a happy future and not one of death, makes me wonder if his visions will change for the better in future books.
It's my blog, so I could ramble on all day about the brotherhood, true? This is the one series I get upset about if interrupted while reading (like say, the lunch break when my husband called me 3 times to 'chat'). Another year to wait for the next book, which the warden said on facebook will be Tohrment. It will be interesting to see how Tohr continues to deal with the devastating loss of his shellan (that scene in the office still brings tears to my eyes), and his new HEA, which seems like it will be No'One. Perhaps we will see more of John Matthew. My one complaint of this series is once a Brother gets his HEA, we only see glimpses of him and his shellan in future books. Other than that, I highly recommend this series, and this book.