Sahvage was once a member of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, but he was also guardian and last living relative to his cousin whose extraordinary powers were coveted by evil men. While trying to protect her, he found himself in circumstances where the Brotherhood and every one else believed he'd been killed, and after his cousin disappeared, he decided that staying "dead" was the only way he'd be free to keep searching for her. Sahvage has been living under the radar for nearly two centuries and now makes a living as an MMA fighter. The life of a loner suits him until a civilian female shows up at one of his fights in search of a special Book. His knowledge of this dangerous, ancient tome brings out his protective side, and he knows he cannot allow her to go hunting for it alone. When reasoning with her doesn't deter her from her mission, he reluctantly agrees to help, but their search brings them into the crosshairs of the Brotherhood's newest enemy.
Mae has lost everyone she's ever loved and now she's desperate to reverse a senseless tragedy. When her elderly friend mentions a Book containing spells that can do exactly that, she's determined to find it. She goes to the underground MMA fight, looking for Rehvenge, the fight promoter and someone her friend is certain will be able to help. There she encounters Sahvage who both intrigues and irritates her. After accidentally distracting him during the fight and nearly getting him killed, she saves his life, forging a bond between them. However, when she finally meets Rehv, he claims to know nothing of the Book. Not to be deterred, she and her friend cast a spell designed to bring the Book to them, but it's Sahvage who shows up on their doorstep. After they're attacked by mysterious shadow creatures, he tries to talk her out of searching for the Book, but Mae is stubbornly determined to see it through. As they work together, they grow closer and begin to fall for each other, but neither of them have any idea of the evil Mae has unknowingly unleashed until it may be too late.
Lover Unveiled is the nineteenth full-length novel in J. R. Ward's main Black Dagger Brotherhood series. It introduces readers to two new characters who've never been seen before. Sahvage is a long-lost member of the Brotherhood who's been living under the radar for nearly two centuries. He's currently making a living as an MMA fighter and has come to Caldwell for a match, which is where he meets Mae, a desperate female in search of the Book to save a loved one. When Sahvage realizes her mission, he goes in search of her, hoping to dissuade her, but when he can't, he reluctantly agrees to help. This puts them on a collision course with the demon, Devina, who has no intention of allowing them to get or use her precious Book. At first, Sahvage and Mae are like oil and water, but along the way, they begin to fall in love with one another. However, if Devina has her way, there won't be a happy ending for either of them. There are also a number of side-plots that tie into the main one, making this another good read in the series, though not a perfect one, which I'll discuss shortly.
Nearly two hundred years ago, Sahvage was a member of the Black Dagger Brotherhood. He was also a guardian of his first cousin, Rahvyn, who was sought by greedy humans for the magical powers she possessed, an element that's more-or-less new to this series. Many, including the Brotherhood, believed that Sahvage was a warlock as well. In the process of trying to save Rahvyn, Sahvage was almost killed and lost her anyway. She disappeared after wreaking destruction upon the men who took her, so he's been alone ever since. Because of the circumstances, the Brotherhood already believed him to be dead, so he decided it was best to stay that way to more freely search for Rahvyn over the years, but to no avail. Now he's in Caldwell for an MMA match sponsored by Rehvenge, where a female shows up and distracts him, nearly leading to him being killed again. She saves him, and because she gave him her blood, he's able to track her when he figure out she's looking for the Book, an ancient tome of black magic spells. Although it wasn't brought out very clearly in the story, I believe he went searching for Mae, because he'd had a previous experience with the Book and wanted to talk her out of trying to use it. When he can't dissuade her, he agrees to help her, especially after they're attacked by the shadow creatures who do Devina's bidding. Together, they set out to complete their mission, but Devina, of course, gets in their way. Sahvage also begins to fall for Mae, but he holds back, feeling like she deserves better than him and not intending to stay once they're finished. Ultimately I didn't feel quite as connected to Sahvage as I wanted to. He's slightly tortured but not in the same way as most of the other males in this series have been, so that might have been part of it. He's holding a pretty big secret, which doesn't get revealed until the final pages, and while it did make a great plot twist, I almost felt like it might have deepened the connection if it had been revealed earlier. At the very least, it might have given him a better position from which to persuade Mae not to use the Book.
Mae is a civilian vampire who's lost nearly everything. Her parents, who worked for aristocrats, were killed in the raids, and then her brother went missing for a time, returning home wounded and dying in her arms. When Tallah, an elderly former aristocrat and Mae's only friend, tells her about the Book and it's power, Mae decides to seek it out and use it to resurrect her brother. In the meantime, she's keeping him on ice in her bathtub, which did make her seem just a liiiitle bit crazy, although she's self-aware enough to admit this fact. She goes to the MMA fight in search of Rehv, who Tallah believes has knowledge of the Book. However, he proves unwilling to share this information. Mae also distracts Sahvage who gets knifed by his opponent. At first, Mae tries to tell herself that it's none of her business, but her conscience won't allow her to simply let him bleed out, so she saves his life. Later he shows up on her doorstep, offering his assistance, but not before trying to talk her out of using the Book. Mae is absolutely adamant that she will not lose her brother, though, so they end up fending off Devina and her shadows, while trying to track down the tome. Much like with Sahvage, I just didn't feel very deeply connected to Mae. A part of me understood that in her grief she wanted to save the only family she had left, but at the same time, even after being warned about the dangers of the Book multiple times, she still won't be swayed from her course. It's not until it's too late that she finally realizes how reckless she's been, and it's only fate's intervention that gives her a happy ending.
As is fairly typical for this series, there are a number of other characters' POVs. I'll start with Balthazar, one of the members of the Band of Bastards. He ventures out to do a little thieving and comes into contact with the Book. That combined with his previous brush with death have an unexpected effect on him. Then there's Erika, a new character who is a detective with the CPD. She's investigating a string of serial killings in which the victims were all lovers who had their hearts removed. Her inquiries bring her into contact with Balz and a definite, brief attraction flares between them. While reading, I was hazarding a guess that they might become the main couple in the next book, although in her annual post-release Q & A, J. R. Ward was being tight-lipped about whose story that will be, so I can't be sure. We also have Nate, the young vampire who was released from his lab prison by Murhder and Sarah (The Savior). He has since gone through his transition and become their adopted son. He's working on a crew to fix up an old farmhouse that will be an extension of Safe Place, and while there one night, he meets a mysterious young woman named Elyn who seems quite lost. Nate helps her and develops a serious crush on her. I was hoping for a pairing between these two, but there's a not insignificant chance that she may be destined for someone else. Rehvenge (Lover Avenged) gets a few of his own scenes, the first time we've gotten his POV in quite some time, which was a welcome addition. Of course, Devina, the demon we all love to hate is being her usual evil self, sowing chaos and destruction everywhere she goes. Possessing a kind of sentience, the Book is really a character unto itself that reminds me of the Darkhold from the Marvel universe. Last but certainly not least, we get a pretty good dose of Lassiter who was being uncharacteristically serious. He's certainly shown a more sober side before, but in this one, he doesn't even make a singe wisecrack that I recall. The final scene of the book teases a possible future for him, and the Warden said that his book is definitely on the horizon, something I'm very much looking forward to.
Overall, Lover Unveiled was another enjoyable book in the BDB series, but I didn't feel it was quite up to the same standard as some of the other books of the series. Maybe because I wasn't connecting deeply to Sahvage and Mae as individual characters, I also didn't feel a deep romantic connection between them either. Part of the issue may have been that with nearly all of the other books in the series, at least one-but in many cases both-of the main characters had been previously introduced in another book and their characterization was already being built prior to their own story. But with Sahvage and Mae, they are both brand new to the BDB world, so the reader begins knowing nothing about either one of them. We learn some about them as the story progresses, but not as much as with other characters. Also, initially Mae was rather prickly toward Sahvage, which could be somewhat amusing, but since there's limited space to build the characters, I felt like it kind of stunted their emotional connection. Even the sexy scenes lacked the special something that this series nearly always has. They don't even fully consummate their relationship until the very end and it only lasted about a page and half, leaving me feeling a bit cheated on that front. Another thing is that Sahvage and Mae both play things pretty close to the vest, so I think their reticence also factored into my disconnected feelings. It's not that I didn't feel like they belonged together or were bad characters, just that their relationship and characterizations were a little undeveloped. That said, though, the peripheral stories and character POVs helped to make up for some of my perceived deficiencies in the main characters. It all added intrigue and some tantalizing little threads that are ripe for exploration in future books, and I very much look forward to the next BDB book, whoever's it might be, as well as the upcoming new spin-off novels in the Lair of the Wolven and BDB: Prison Camp series.
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