******************** SPOILERS ****************************************
3 1/2 stars...
I think I have figured out why I was both very happy with this installment and very unhappy. First, I wasn't invested in Payne and Manny the way I have been with other characters, I didn't really know much about them. We have caught glimpses of both of them in previous books but, haven't really gotten to know them or got caught up in their stories. If this was a stand alone book the love story between them would have been more satisfying. I think alot of the three star reviews over this being "their" book is because we are more interested in seeing the book for Qhuinn and Blay or maybe Tohr or maybe even some resolution with Layla. Ms. Ward seems to be back to more of an Urban Fantasy novel than straight romance, which is okay with me as I love Urban Fantasy. I was also okay with Payne and Manny's romance because in my mind the over all story arc was moved along and some questions we've had about certain relationships have been resolved.
What made me very happy with the book was some resolution to the cube (I would say love triangle but there are four people) of V, Butch, Jane and Marissa. After V's book and even Butch's book I was a little upset with how, in my opinion, V and Butch got shafted in the love department. I've always felt that they might love their shellans but they really, truly were IN LOVE with each other, and their story kind of felt like it was in a to be continued... mode. Although we don't see Marissa much in this book we do get to know Jane better and there is kind of a climax to Jane, V and Butch's relationship that made me content. I was glad to see the scenes dealing with V's feelings about his Shellan, his past and what he needed to do to be able to be a whole person.
Which moves me to what really upset me.... there isn't much of Qhuinn and Blay in this book, and no interaction between the two. I was thrilled when Qhuinn finally admitted he was in love with Blay to someone other than himself. I was like.. fist pump... YEAH!... then we get to a scene where he has this "vision" of a girl with Layla's face and his mismatched eyes and my heart just... sank. WHAT IN THE HELL IS WITH THAT? For at least a year we've heard on the blogs and such that Qhuinn and Blay are confirmed HEAs which made waiting for their story to play out much easier... then this is thrown in the mix. I can't stand the thought of Blay and Qhuinn not getting their happily ever after. I don't care if some of the readers don't care for m/m relationships, it would be heartbreaking if they didn't get some happiness together at the end of all this angst between the two.
...................okay, I'm calm now........................
So on Payne and Manny's part in the book 3 stars
V, Butch and Jane's part 5 stars
Qhuinn and Blay's part 1 star
Last thoughts: I wish we knew who the next book was going to be about... there is literally no guessing who it might be. I was glad we got to be introduced to Vek who is to be the main character in the next Fallen Angels book (Envy is the title i think). He seemed interesting and I was glad to get a little background before that book is released later this year.
WOW!! I think this is my favorite next to John Matthews story. There is so much going on in this book. Vishous/Jane, Payne/Manny, Vishous/Butch, and Quinn/Blay. And new characters are introduced. There are plenty of unanswered questions in this story, the war with the "lessers" doesn't progress much, and there are the new characters to whose true purpose is unclear. And this story has a whole lot more sex going on....with everyone. I have read the other reviews, and I don't agree with them at all, but Angela has some valid points. I was hooked into this story and couldn't put it down. JR Ward is a great story teller, and I'm fatally attached to her series.
Kind of disappointed.
Overall, this was an OK contribution to the BDB compendium. There was a LOT of story about Vishous and Jane, for half the book overtaking the Payne/Manny story. I'm not complaining. One thing I really like about JR Ward is that she continues the stories of the other Brothers even after their main story is over.
The best thing about this book was the lack of story about Lessers. Hooray. Thank you JR Ward for finally realizing the Lesser-breaks were just wasting paper. But instead of Lessers, now we read about some guy named Veck who, at the end of the book, never had one single thing to do with the BDB or the overall story being told. I read that Veck is to be a character in another series. It is understandable that Ward wants crossover to get us interested in her other series, but I felt like she was wasting my time.
And speaking of time-wasters, does anyone else cringe every time Layla enters the scene? I wish the un-mated females in this series were as strong as the males. They're either almost-men or completely subservient spineless people with no real compelling character traits. I get that Ward likes her boys, but love stories only work if we love both characters.
Manny and Payne are a good match, the story was good although not as angst-ridden as other BDB books. I was kind of expecting Payne to be Xhex part 2 but she was more like Marissa part 2. OK but a bit too simpering, which is a weird thing to say about someone who can kick the king's ass. And the love scenes between M&P get short shrift, that is a disappointment. Hot scene between hooker and two random males, but pretty much just a shower for Payne and Manny. And there is a break-up between them toward the end that seems contrived, not really character-driven, just to create an excuse to separate them. But I liked their chemistry and Manny is a good addition to their world.
The biggest disappointment was the lack of progress in the Qhuinn/Blaylock story. I guess I was the only person believing this book would finally put them together. I read online now that Ward will supposedly write a novella about them but there is no publication date. I would say that means the publisher is reluctant to publish a "gay" story. Ward even includes this "vision" had by Qhuinn that would strongly suggest that he winds up with Layla! It makes you wonder if Ward's taking too much flack from her publisher or bigoted readers and caving in to a more "traditional" story.
I love the brothers. They feel like family. I love their relationships, their partners, their loyalty, courage - you name it. I love the way the WARDen writes. So why only three stars? I feel the series is slowly losing its heart. J.R. has always pushed the gritty envelope but lately it feels like it's being pushed to the point that we are losing the very thing that makes this series beloved and that's the good to counteract the harsh. From dialogue to action, everything dark was magnified, everything light was diminished.
Think for a minute back to our original couples. Wrath and Beth, Rhage and Mary, Butch and Marissa, Z and Bella, Vishous and Jane, Phury and Cormia, Rehvenge and Ehlena - what do they all have in common? The guys are hardened, gritty, world-weary warriors until they find their true mate. The women they find are inherently good: Kind, caring individuals that add the perfect counterbalance needed to the darkness in their lives. That is what works so beautifully and makes us believe in their possibilities. It is also what makes us love them. One lifts the other, giving them a reason to be better, making their life worth living, so that the world is once again a worthy place to be and fight for. We can accept all the grime from the various story lines because there is a light, a lifting influence that we know will ultimately prevail. Sigh.
In "Lover Unleashed" that thread is so thin, it is almost nonexistent. Ms. Ward spent so much time with the dark, seamy underbelly of emotion - not just in a couple of the plot lines but in every single one that the reader finds it hard to pull oneself up and out of it long enough to discover the emotions that would make us believe. Even the journey between Manny and Payne, although ending beautifully, was starved for emotional richness while flooded with the physical.
Does no one else wish for some goodness to shine through a little brighter? Does everyone else prefer drudging through the dregs for 400 pages just as long as everyone is happy in the end. Did no one else miss the humor, the touches of lightness that were sprinkled in her previous books? Please don't get me wrong, I understand it's the darkness of the brothers that define BDB but am I the only one who felt like I had feasted in the underbelly then left with too small a towel to clean up with?
Seriously, I am speechless by the positive reviews of this book. I am a huge BDB fan, but, this book was terribly written. Way too many story lines going on at once, and just overwritten on top of that. I found it tedious in the extreme.