The second from J.R.Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series is a good read but I have to say I'm not too happy with it. In fact, I find myself liking it simply because it's the second in the series and because I love the established characters and I wanted to see more of them. If this were a novel by itself and not part of a series I wouldn't recommend it.
Paranormal, Vampire Romance
To re-cap for those that maybe missed the first book, the Black Dagger Brotherhood is a society of vampire warriors who protect their kind against the Lessening Society. The Society is a group of very evil de-souled humans who are hell bent on destroying every vampire on the face of the earth. The first book focused on the vampire king Wrath. In this book we get to know more about the deadliest of all the Brotherhood warriors Rhage. If we thought Wrath was a complicated vamp with his tortured past and his I-don't-give-a-flying-fuck attitude we are in for a rude awakening once we get to know Rhage. This guy has issues and then some.
For starters Rhage is described as being so unbelievably gorgeous even vamps, which apparently are all very good-looking people, think he is out of this world in that department. His Brotherhood friends refer to him as Hollywood since everyone thinks he has movie star good looks. This from one of his friends pretty much reflects the collective attitude of everyone, vamp or human, who comes across Rhage:
"As Butch stepped into the main room, he got a load of Rhage's ensemble for the night: Black leather trench coat fell from his shoulders to his ankles. Black wife-beater was tucked into leathers. Shitkickers (boots) topped him out at six-eight or so. In the getup, the vampire was flat-out, drop-dead gorgeous. Even to a certified hetero like Butch. The son of a bitch actually bent the laws of physics, he was so attractive. Blond hair was cut short in the back and left longer in the front. Teal-blue eyes were the color of Bahamas seawater. And that face made Brad Pitt look like a candidate for The Swan."
The Swan is a US reality television show that takes some rather very ugly people and transforms them via plastic surgery. You get the idea.
As if all that wasn't enough to attract the ladies and be the envy of every male around, Rhage has a very well deserved reputation as a cross between a sex machine and a love god.
"He was also a sex legend in the vampire world, Hollywood beautiful with the drive to rival a barnful of stallions. Females, vampire and humans alike, would trample their own young to get at him."
However all is not peaches and crème. The fact of the matter is that, a long time ago, Rhage royally pissed of the Scribe Virgin (think of her as the vampire's Goddess) so she decided to curse him as punishment. Damn those pesky gods, you'd think they'd be above this sort of pettiness. Anyways, the curse is that there's a nasty beast inside of Rhage itching to get out and the only way to keep him in check is by working it out through lots and lots of violence or lots and lots of sex.
When the beast does get out all hell breaks lose putting his friends in danger since it can't be controlled. The first time we see the beast let loose was in book 1 when Rhage sees Wrath shot. Since anything from anger to high levels of stress to sexual frustration (if he can't get a woman quick enough) brings out the beast Rhage is damn tired of having to deal with the problem 24/7. All the meaningless sex gets to him since he does it not because he wants to but because he has to. A lot. He really wants to know how it would feel to have a meaningful relationship like Wraths; to have someone actually care for him and not because of what he looks like. The curse is supposed to last 200 years and, at the beginning of the book, he still has 90+ years to go. Payback is a bitch.
We are then introduced to the heroine, Mary, whom I immediately like. She is a shy, sweet plain girl who has leukemia. I felt bad for her and the fact that she suffered so much when she lost her mother to the same disease. Now she is faced with the harsh truth that the leukemia is back and she may be at the end of her line.
Mary volunteers at the local Suicide Prevention Center and it's through here she meets John, a scrawny guy who is mute and loves to call the center to hear Mary's sweet voice. John shows up one night at her house and so does Mary's neighbor, drop dead gorgeous Bella. Bella, being a vampire herself, immediately recognizes that John is a also a vampire who hasn't transitioned yet so she gets in touch with the Brotherhood and they tell her to bring the kid over. She convinces John to go with her under the pretense that she is taking him to meet some martial arts experts since he is into that sort of thing. Mary has to go along because she is the only one that knows sign language and can communicate with John. It's here that she meets Rhage and he is instantly and inexplicably attracted to her.
This has possibilities and I dove right in the book, and then somewhere along the 200th page, it started to go downhill for me. First of all let me clarify that I did like the way in which Mary handled things in the beginning. Mary is described as an average looking woman who doesn't really get noticed by men. She doesn't have anything, not hair, not eyes, nothing that stands out to the opposite sex so her reaction to Rhage's sudden interest in her is very believable. In fact, their first date is rather cute.
Mary and Rhage met back at the compound when she brought John in but they had to wipe her memories soon as she left since no human can ever know about vampires. Rhage however was too interested and asks Bella to set them up on a blind date. Mary doesn't like the idea to begin with and when she sees Rhage she likes it even less. She figures that he didn't know she was so plain otherwise there was no way in hell an absolute stunner like him, who by the way has every woman in the dinner panting as soon as he walks in, would even dare be seen in public with her. Then, when he doesn't want to end their date, she figures he is doing charity work since Bella probably told him she has cancer. This all very well done and very believable, and then Mary starts grating on your last nerve. She takes the whole I’m-not-beautiful-so-he-doesn’t-like-me and the I-don’t-understand-why-he-is-so-obsessed-to-be-with-me routines to another level of exasperation. As I said, in the beginning her reaction is exactly what you’d expect but the fact that she hardly changes her stance until almost the last minute is not. If Rhage were to come off as an ass and be a jerk or whatnot I could understand her reserve but the guy is nothing but nice to her. He even proves just how much he is into her at one point (the time he is stuck at her house during the day) so you’d think she’d lighten up. No such luck. She plays the victim/martyr role to the last possible moment. By this point she knows he is a vamp and knows about he lesser yet she is still stuck into self-pity mode. Which is fine. She has cancer and I totally understand but there’s no excuse for her idiotic behavior towards Rhage. All Rhage asks of her is that she lets him take care of her and that she trust him enough to keep her safe since there are lesser after her. You’d think she welcome the chance to be with someone, to be protected from the Society, to have someone care for her while she is at her worse but she just keeps doing everything in her power to make him feel bad. She doesn’t do it on purpose but sometimes his feelings are so damn obvious and he’s clearly shown her how he feels and she is still like “huh, what, why are you trying to help me again?” I felt like slapping her from here to eternity. Being naïve is one thing, complete and utter stupidity is another, and I’m not very high on stupidity.
The worse of it is that, the more she pushes him one away or another, the more Rhage tries to accommodate her feelings. Then she keeps changing her mind with the "I want you to touch me and make love to me" one minute and the "I want nothing to do with you ever because I don’t need anyone and I don’t know how you really feel about me" the next. This goes on until almost the very end of the book. Normally I wouldn’t feel bad when a womanizer has the tables turned and, for once, is at the mercy of the woman he loves. I didn’t feel the same way here.
From the get go we KNOW Rhage isn’t a womanizer. He hates the fact that he has to use women for sex because he has no other choice to keep the beast at bay. After all, it’s not everyday that you get to let lose on some lesser therefore the energy needs to be released. He even says at one point that he is sick of being used by women for his body and his looks. He doesn’t kiss the women because he knows they feel nothing for him and the only thing that makes it better is that he picks lose women who will do anyone. Then he wipes the memories clean from them yet he is still feeling horrible. Imagine my disgust when little ol’ Mary starts doing the same.
If she is so damn stuck on the I-want-nothing-to-do-with-you attitude then don’t sleep with the damn guy. Even worse, if the guy is telling you he needs you like a junkie needs some crack and that he can’t think straight ever since he met you then don’t try to tempt him. You said you don’t want him and you say you aren’t sure about his feelings for you well then stay the hell away. At least keep your hands to yourself. The guy is clearly suffering, a point that doesn’t escape her since more than once she feels bad for using or being angry at him for no reason, yet you continue to toy with him. Get your shit together, think it over and then decide where you stand with the guy.
She even makes him feel bad when he has to feed! I mean, the guy is clearly on the up-and-up telling her he has to feed and he wants her to be present so she doesn’t get any wrong ideas about what goes on between him and the female. (vampires can only feed from the opposite sex) Of course the female is one hell of a stunner but she can CLEARLY see how bad Rhage feels about doing this, she can see he is even thinking about not doing it yet she waits until the female pretty much has to order her to take his side so he will feel it’s ok to feed.
What. The. Fuck.
He’s a goddam vampire. He needs to feed! He’s never hesitated to feed you (which he does numerous times since he worries about her health) yet you have to stand there and think about it?!? Could it not have occurred to you that maybe if you told him it was ok and sat with him he wouldn’t feel like he is cheating on you?!?!?
That whole scene had me screaming inside my head. The way it plays out Rhage is feeling like he just slept with about a hundred women in front of her and she isn’t making it any better. Dear Lord. Sad thing is that it doesn’t stop there, or for that matter start since she’s doing crap like this even before. I tried to like her, I truly did and I even figured she would redeem herself since I loved her at the beginning of the book but she doesn’t do it for me. The entire time they are together she makes Rhage feel unworthy and as if he should feel ashamed for his past or whatever. The guy has no frigging choice unless he wants the beast to come out and eat all his friends and then some! Even if by this point she knows nothing of the beast she can still try and trust him since he has only shown his best intentions with her at all times.
I’m sorry but I honestly feel that Mary wasn’t good enough for Rhage. If he would have been some cocky, know it all, womanizing jerk then I would have say it’s good he was the one getting all thrown for a loop. Rhage from the get go is clearly none of those things and I can’t like a heroine who can’t step outside her selfishness long enough to look at the big picture and what the guy is saying. All her back and forth had me screaming for Rhage to get over her and find someone else. The fact that Rhage pretty much blames himself for everything and takes just about all of her stupidity made me scream even more. Sure once or twice he grows some balls and puts her in her place (which is when she realizes she’s being unfair and feels bad) but then they fall back in the same pattern. You’d think she’d remember she felt bad the last time she misjudged him but hey, this girl has no brains.
The Scribe Virgin is another one I’m pissed about. This is one sorry ass uber bitch with a capital B if I’ve ever seen one. The Goddess gets off on throwing her power around and she makes things way too difficult and way more complicated than she has to. You telling me she has all this power to create an entire species, etc yet one little thing and “oh my hands are tied, boo hoo?” Right. That’s a power trip if I ever saw one. I can’t say anything else because I would give a very important part of the story as well as the ending away.
S P O I L E R W A R N I N G
Then there was the ending. I get the feeling the Scribe Virgin doesn't like men much otherwise she wouldn't be such a bitch; or maybe being a virgin for so long is finally making her snap. Rhage is willing to sacrifice the rest of his days by putting up with the beast knowing Mary won't be there to control it. The Virgin doesn't think this is enough punishment so she tells him that Mary can only be allowed to live if they never see each other again and she is wiped from everyone's memory BUT HIS. On top of that, if they ever see each other she will die. If that wasn't enough for you he asks to at least have a minute to say good bye and she says no way Jose. She is a Goddess with all this supposed power yet she gets more bent out of shape when people don't address her with the "proper" respect than when they are trying to save someone. The bitch needs to get her priorities straight.
Of course I say she is a man hater because apparently all the sacrifices on Rhage's part aren't enough but poor old Mary not being able to have children is too much for the Virgin. She decides that, get this, Mary has sacrificed enough by not being able to have kids so NOW it's ok that she stay with Rhage. Again I say WTF?!?! So let me get this straight, love isn't important. Sacrificing your life and well being for someone isn't important. Unselfish acts guided by the wanting to save the person you love from pain isn't important. That a women can't have children is apparently the only "sacrifice" that's important.
I'm not denying the fact that this is probably traumatizing for most women who would love to have children of their own. What pisses me of is the fact that everything else pales in comparison according to the Virgin. Nothing that Rhage has done up to now, and he has done A LOT, seems to be of any importance. Last time I checked men couldn't have kids so holding that against them is unfair. He has sacrificed a lot and is willing to sacrifice all he DOES have for her. I gotta go with Rhage when he flat out tells her "you really hate me". She doesn't hate you buddy, she despises you.
Oh, and don't even get me started on the punishment she demanded the Brotherhood give Rhage FOR TRYING TO SAVE MARY and the way she coherced poor Zsadist to participate knowing his violent history with this sort of thing. Tell you the truth, I wouldn't be a bit surprise if it turns out that she is related to the Omega. Or that she IS the Omega as well.
E N D O F S P O I L E R
Suffice it to say it left a bitter taste in my mouth, I wasn’t happy with Mary, the damn Virgin (who btw acts more like a jealous, spurned lover than a virgin) and the ending. Mary didn’t redeem herself in my eyes while everything that Rhage does from the beginning up to the end is all for her. He sacrifices everything, and I mean EVERYTHING yet she has done little to nothing to deserve him. Again, if he would have been a hard ass that would be fine since he would be he one who had to step up but this wasn’t the case. Rhage is a nice guy from the get go. All that “misunderstanding” Mary had going on for the better part of the book was completely unnecessary and aggravating as all hell.
I’m going to come out and just say it: I give the book a 3 out of 5 only because I think it’s a good read as part of the series. I loved to see everyone and, just as in book 1, all the major characters are deeply involved here. I also really liked Rhage and was glad he got his story. Hell I even liked Bella more than I liked Mary and this book sets up the stage for the next one, which is Bella and Zsadist’s story. As a stand alone, and if it would have been any other characters I don’t care for, I would have thrown this book down the toilet. The love story had some nice parts but overall it just left me feeling like Mary used the guy over and over all while he was just trying to be nice and comforting to her.