On Bonded Males: A Review of Lover Reborn by J.R. Ward
In a recentish review, I mentioned how I'll forgive an awful lot of flaws in a book, or even a series, as long as it makes me care. Well, that turns out to be the case with J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood books. After 9 books of this stuff, I've developed a good strong Bullshit Shield that helps me tolerate all of Ward's writing...shit. The weird gangsta/fake old world speak? Bounces right off the BS shield. Mildly anti-feminist themes? Bounce. Constantly shifting POV? Bounce! Irrational and contrived relationships? BOUNCE! Tohr has to sleep with another female in order to free his dead shellan and son from purgatory?CRACK!
Damn it, Ward, you broke my BS shield! That is the dumbest, most contrived premise or plot line I have ever heard of outside of Twilight! How am I supposed to get through this book now?
But get through it I did, and you know what? It wasn't that awful. Yes, the premise is that Tohr has to move on in order for Wellsie to get to the Fade and be at peace. And somehow this gets interpreted (or possibly misinterpreted), as he needs to get with a new lady friend. He and No'One have some history, and he likes her, so they start sharing a bed, and the story goes on from there. And somehow Ward made it work, for the most part.
I was touched by the process of Tohr working through his pain and his grief. It's raw and gritty and realistic. I like the way that No'One gets him through this. She's not even fully aware of exactly how she's healing him. She just knows that she cares for him, and she's willing to sacrifice anything for him. Tohr thinks he's using No'One, but falls in love with her by accident. I thought the relationship-building was touching, romantic, and not overly sweet.
I liked the John Matthew/Xhex subplot, which basically involves Xhex wanting to continue fighting and John grappling with his instincts as a bonded male. Intellectually, he wants her to have her freedom, but he can't get past his gut reactions. That made a lot of sense to me, and I can appreciate that Ward is at least aware, on some level, that her male characters are over protective to the point where it's not healthy. I'm just wondering why none of the other couples have had this issue, but...whatever. Bullshit shield.
Blay, Qhuinn...you guys get a free pass in this book. I complained in the last one that the Blay/Qhuinn thing was getting frustratingly drawn out, and that's still true. What made the difference, I think, is seeing both of them at least begin to acknowledge what they really want, both in their relationship with one another and their lives in general. All of which I saw coming, by the way. I can't talk about it though, this is a spoiler free zone.
The Xcor subplot was the periodic endurance test of this book. It was what I had to push through to get back to the things I actually care about. I'm not a fan of Ward's villain POV habit.
Layla continues to be unlikeable. I don't hate her, but if she got shot in the face I wouldn't mourn her. The problem is, I think she's supposed to be sympathetic, and she really isn't.
Did I mention the overall plot doesn't make any sense? I can't figure out why anyone would look at the facts presented and conclude that the solution to freeing someone from purgatory is sex...or even falling in love again. Why couldn't Tohr move on independently? Why does moving on mean replacing your dead wife? Don't get me wrong, I like Tohr and No'One together, but...NONE OF THAT MAKES ANY SENSE.
It's very readable. It does not suck. It's better than the last book (which in my opinion was barely average). If you've been putting up with Ward's writing for this long, I doubt this will be the book to break you, silly though that premise is. It's very emotional, the main characters are likeable, and the story is romantic. 3.5 stars.