Caldwell, NY, has long been the battleground for the vampires and their enemies, the Lessening Society. It’s also where Rehvenge has staked out his turf as a drug lord and notorious nightclub that caters to the rich and heavily armed. His shadowy reputation is exactly why he’s approached to kill Wrath, the Blind King, and leader of the Brotherhood. Rehvenge has always kept his distance from the Brotherhood, even though his sister is married to a member. Because he’s a sympath, his identity is a deadly secret- the revelation of which will result in his banishment to a colony for sociopaths. And as plots within and outside the Brotherhood take their toll against Rehvenge, he turns to the only source of light in a darkening world- Ehlena, a vampire untouched by the corruption that has its hold on him- and the only thing standing between him and eternal destruction.
Since the blurb on the book itself summarizes the story perfectly and if I did one it would spoil too many events and I am of the opinion readers should experience them without any foreknowledge, I am not synopsizing the book in my review. The only thing I will say is that the book comprises 4 major plotlines: of course the story of Rehv and Ehlena. Secondly the story of Wrath, then there’s the storyline of the Lessers with Lash in the spotlight and finally there’s the complicated storyline of John Matthew and Xhex. Actually thinking about this, I also have to mention the tiny but important storyline with Tohr as the leading man. These 5 storylines alternate throughout the book and are all connected and interlaced in one way or another.
I find LOVER AVENGED difficult to review. There were things I didn’t like about the book: the slang, the messy switches between POVs and storylines in the beginning, some actions by certain characters. There were things I loved about it: Rehv and Ehlena (especially on the phone), the bantering between the Brothers, the storyline with Wrath. Some things started out badly for me and improved considerably along the way: the romance element, both between Rehv and Ehlena as in some other plotlines. Elements that I disliked in other books of the BDB-series worked for me in this book: the Lesser/Lash plotline.
Nevertheless, one thing was constant throughout the entire book: my fascination with Rehvenge, a fascination I’ve sported ever since I first read about him in this series. It survived everything Ward threw at me in attempts to distract me from it and was kept intact. Without a doubt Rehv has rushed to the top of my favorite hero-list. In this book I learned more about him, his sympath side and his vampire side and every bit of knowledge strengthened my suspicions that he would be a male of worth, despite the shady life he has been forced to live. Yes, Rehv is cunning, cold, and ruthless but he is also loyal, powerful and honorable. Rehv’s character is so contradictory. One the one hand he is a hardened, opportunistic drug dealing pimp, a half-sympath with nothing on his mind but his own gain and he’s involved in a sordid blackmail scenario. But his motives for doing all the nasty stuff he has too, are not selfish, they are to protect the ones he loves and keep them unknowing and far from harm. From the start his sarcastic and cynical outlook on his life and situation comes to the surface, however, in the course of the story his motivation and reasoning is revealed, making him into the hero I was hoping he would be. He is the epitome of the anti-hero. For me his good sides outweighed the nasty ones and I must praise J.R. Ward for pulling that off.
Ehlena has had a terribly harsh life and still she takes everything in stride. She is sensible, giving, proud, intelligent and strong. She’s very grounded and quick-witted. She is realistic enough to accept certain events in her life, good and bad. And when the time comes for her to show her strength she delivers splendidly and bravely. I couldn’t have wished for a better heroine for Rehv. She is his perfect match, even if they come from totally different places and are true opposites. She is the light in his dark life. In the beginning of the book and their romance my heart broke for him because knowing who and what he is, his past and the blackmail he cannot embrace her and love her the way he yearns to. I truly loved the romance story between Ehlena and Rehv even if at first it took second place in the book which took away from the build-up but luckily it didn’t take away from the chemistry between them and I loved the way Rehv courted Ehlena despite thinking he was not worthy of her and the way Ehlena falls for Rehv despite thinking he is way out of her league.
Whatever criticism I may have on Ward’s vocabulary, the lack of focus on the romance or the way changes of POV/plotlines are picked, I really cannot say anything negative about her BDB world building. It is a mix of fast-paced action, witty sarcastic bantering and sublime multiple storylines. And I really must not forget to mention that the BDB is a tight Brotherhood again. I really missed that in LU and LEn and even knowing it’s because of the big role of Wrath’s storyline in this, it was a pleasure to see the Brothers bantering and read the nice old-school sarcastic dialogues between Wrath, Butch, V, Thor and the Brothers’ latest houseguest Lassiter.
One telling fact that this book really did something with me was the fact that the tissues, which have been laid to rest since LOVER UNBOUND, where brought out regularly during this book. Man, how does Ward come up with these heart-wrenching, cry-my-eyes-out scenes? Not only with Rehv and Ehlena but quite a few of the other characters too. Where in LOVER ENSHRINED the other storylines bothered me and took my attention away from the already little connection I had with Phury and Cormia, the storylines in this one were set up in a way that they entwined with Rehv and Ehlena’s story perfectly. All the storylines came together in one amazing conclusion that sprouted out a cliffhanger that will keep me guessing for a long while. Well, at least until the next book comes out.
This truly could have been the perfect BDB-book for me. For the first time I didn’t skip the Lesser parts to which I’m confessing having done in the early books. If it weren’t for the annoying excessive use of popular slang, abbreviations and acronyms in Ward’s writing vocabulary and the first third of the book where switches between the different primary storylines were poorly done in my opinion and therefore making it hard for me to get into the stories properly, this really could have been a 5 stars BDB book. Still, like Rehv was redeemed in the book, I will also grant Ward redemption because after two lesser (no pun intended) installments, she has managed to reel me back into the BDB and yearning for the next book. Off course the enormous cliffhanger at the end of LOVER AVENGED could also be a deciding factor in that.
“It’s simple. I don’t think you should date anyone.” Rehv moved in even closer, until he could see the flecks of gold in her eyes. “But I’m not just anyone.” (…) As Ehlena stared into Rehvenge’s amethyst eyes, she thought that was so right. In this quiet moment, with an explosive sexual vibe linking them and the scent of dark cologne in the air, Rehvenge was everybody and everything.
Lassiter to Tohr:
“So, what are we doing tonight? Wait, let me guess, sitting in morose silence. Or, no…you’re mixing it up. Brooding with soulful intensity, right? What a f*cking wild child you are. Whoo. Hoo. Next thing you know, you’ll be opening for Slipknot.”
“Man, flat ass is right,” Lassiter muttered. “You’re sporting a pair of deflated basketballs back there. Makes me wonder…Hey, I’ll bet Fritz has a bicycle pump.”