Balthazar is a master thief and a member of the Band of Bastards, who've allied themselves with the Black Dagger Brotherhood. When he briefly died following an electrical shock, he came back from the other side with a hitchhiker. Now possessed by the demon Devina, Balz is desperate to find the Book of Spells, hoping it will hold the key to getting rid of her. While searching for it, he crosses paths with homicide detective Erika, who he'd previously met at the scene of one of his thefts. During that moment, he'd felt an undeniable attraction for her, but needing to protect the vampire race, he'd erased her memories of him. They meet a second time with the same results, but after a third encounter, he can no longer bear to mess with her mind anymore, and allows her to keep her memories. But can there ever be a future for them with her being a human?
After losing her entire family to a senseless act of violence, Erika Saunders became a cop to help other families get justice. Given the sheer volume of bizarre cases that come across her desk, she senses that there's something otherworldly going on in Caldwell. Lately she's been plagued by dreams of a mysterious man and of being chased by shadow creatures, and she's also developed something of an obsession for another mystery man who appears in security footage at the scene of a murder. She feels like there are gaps in her memory, and then she chances upon him at the scene of yet another killing. But it's not until Erika meets up with him while on the trail of The Book, where they're viciously attacked and a glowing figure gives her the power to save Balz's life, that she finds out the truth of what's really going on. Although the idea that vampires and other supernatural beings are real is a lot to take in, after they share a night together, giving in to their combustible attraction, she knows she wants a future with him. However, when Devina finally gets her wish for true love, an old enemy of the Brotherhood is resurrected, and she will stop at nothing to destroy the true love that Balz and Erika share for her own selfish ends.
Lover Arisen is the twentieth installment of J. R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood. Wow! It's almost hard to believe that the series has been going for that long and is still not finished. This one is about Band of Bastards member Balthazar who is a master thief and Erika, a homicide detective with the Caldwell PD. The two accidentally met up in the previous book, Lover Unveiled, when she caught him trying to steal The Book of Spells at the scene of a murder, but of course, he had to wipe her memories of that encounter. However, Balz can't stop thinking about Erika even though he believes nothing can happen between them. Although Erika doesn't remember meeting Balz, she does have a security video of him fencing stolen goods that she's become obsessed with watching. Fate brings them back together, during which Balz must once again take her memories. But after a third encounter, where he tries to save her life and she does save his, she knows that he's been manipulating her mind. When she begs him not to do it again, he can't bear it and fully restores her memories, which opens the door for a deeper relationship. But when Balz briefly died in A Warm Heart in Winter, he came back possessed by the demon Devina who will stop at nothing to steal his true love for her own selfish ends. Unfortunately this could also put the entire Brotherhood at risk when she succeeds in resurrecting one of their mortal enemies in an attempt to find her own true love.
Balthazar has been around for quite a while now, ever since the Band of Bastards first appeared in the series. It's only more recently, though, that we learned he's a master thief. In spite of turning over a new leaf after the BOB made their alliance with the Brotherhood, he can't seem to stop stealing things. However, he's put his skills to good use. He's apparently been robbing the rich to give to the poor, and he scaled the Brotherhood's mansion during a snowstorm to close the daytime shutters that were stuck open after a power outage, receiving a deadly electrical shock that temporarily sent him to the other side. When he was resuscitated, he came back with a passenger, the demon Devina, who's been possessing him ever since. She tortures him in his dreams so he's been trying to stay awake as much as possible, while also attempting to find The Book in hopes it will tell him how to get rid of her. That's how he and Erika met the first time, when he'd been stealing designer watches from a millionaire and stumbled upon the guy's collections of weird paraphernalia, which included The Book. He hasn't been able to stop thinking about her, so when they have a near-deadly encounter with Devina, he can't bear to take her memories anymore. As they get to know each other better, Balz discovers that Lassiter's prophecy that true love would save him really is true, but he and Erika both may die anyway if Devina gets her wish. I really liked Balz for how he treats Erika. Even though he saw the horrors of her past when he was inside her mind, he allows her the space to open up about it in her own time. He's also respectful of her career and her desire to remain in the human world, willing to do whatever it takes to make her happy. All this said, though, I still would have liked to know a little more about his background. We know that Syn and Syphon are his cousins, but little else about his family life and upbringing. And although I loved the Robin Hood aspect of his character, I also would have liked to see more of that and know what got him started down that path.
Erika became a homicide detective as a way to cope with and process the senseless murder of her entire family when she was sixteen that has left her alone in life. She has a townhouse that she's never really been able to call home, because it doesn't feel like one with no one to share it with. She's been married to her work for the majority of her adult life and spends most of her time at the office anyway. Then she met Balthazar, and although she doesn't remember him, she has the security video, which she's been watching over and over, wanting to know who he is. She meets him again at a crime scene and for inexplicable reasons senses that she can believe him when he says he didn't kill the woman in question, but once again, she doesn't remember the encounter. It isn't until they're both on the trail of The Book and Devina attacks them, leading to some assistance from both Lassiter and the Black Dagger Brotherhood that Balthazar finally restores her memories. He eventually comes clean about exactly who and what he is, which Erika initially finds shocking, but adjusts to fairly well, all things considered. The attraction between them is combustible, and after spending a night together in her basement, she knows she wants a future with him even though she fears it will never happen. And if Devina gets her way, it isn't going to. Erika is a no nonsense cop with a lot of pain in her past that she hasn't entirely dealt with as evidenced by her reaction to a crime scene at the beginning of the story. When Balthazar fully comes into her life, he offers her an outlet for her feelings and exactly the kind of support that she's needed, but never had, since losing her family. She's a strong heroine, but one with a softer side that I could relate to.
As usual, there are a number of character perspectives outside of Balz and Erika's. IMHO, Lassiter kind of stole the show. Over the last few books, he's been gradually moving away from his snarky one-liners and driving the Brothers insane and settling more into his role as the race's new deity. He's turned out to be the divine being they've always deserved but didn't have, someone kind and compassionate, who's all about protecting his charges and preserving their HEAs, and I absolutely love him for it. In this one, he proves that he'll go to the mat for all of them and selflessly sacrifice anything to make sure they're safe and that love wins. By the end of this book, though, my heart was shattered for him after all that he gave up. It made the ending a little bittersweet and made me want to jump into the book just to give him a hug. He's so broken by the end, I have a feeling we won't be seeing the happy-go-lucky Lassiter again for some time and he may never be quite the same again. At the end of the previous book, Lassiter had fallen in love at first sight with Sahvage's cousin, Rahvyn, who is a powerful being not quite like any we've seen before in this series. Throughout this book she seems a little lost and doesn't quite feel at home in this time and place. We learn a little more about her and what she's capable of, and that she apparently fell for Lassiter at first sight as well. I believe these two are destined to be together, but by the end of the book, neither of them believes it's going to happen and all seems hopeless for them. From everything I know, Lassiter's book is the next one in the series, and all I can say is that J. R. Ward had damn well better give him a spectacular HEA after all that she put him through in this book.:-(
The other perspectives we get include Nate's. He's been falling for Rahvyn, too, and although she sees him as a good friend, she doesn't have romantic feelings toward him. Some very significant things happen to him in this book that will change everything for him moving forward. I just hope that he uses his newfound power for good and that losing Rahvyn doesn't turn him evil because I really like him. Vishous is the core Brotherhood character whose POV we get when readers need to be in the know about what's going on within the group. And then there are our evil baddies. Not content to simply torment poor Balz, Devina is determined to find true love at all costs using a spell from The Book, which could have disastrous consequences in more ways than one. Throughout the Fallen Angels series and the last few BDB books she's appeared in, there have been times I've hated her and other times I've kind of viewed her as something of a joke for her obsession with appearances and her hoarding and psychoses. She's certainly done evil things in the past, but there were other times that she seemed almost misguided. However, after the things she did in this book, I've decided she's pure evil and I absolutely loathe and despise her. This bitch needs to go down posthaste! In her quest, she also resurrects an old nemesis of the Brotherhood who could end up wreaking destruction, especially with the two of them together. They definitely deserve each other, but I refuse to entertain the notion that Devina gets anything she desires in the end. I just want to see her completely destroyed. Yeah, I know I'm being a little darker than I usually am, but man, she really pissed me off. I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention The Book, which still kind of reminds me of the Darkhold from the Marvel universe. It's always been a kind of living thing, but in this book, it really becomes a character unto itself.
When I first started reading Lover Arisen, I wasn't quite sure where it would end up on my rating scale. The three books J. R. Ward published last year, left me feeling slightly disappointed. I liked them all (IMHO, Ms. Ward on a bad day is still better than many other authors at their best), but I didn't love any of them. I'm pleased to say that this one ultimately ended up rising back into keeper status for me. I still think that the author could have developed the characterizations better, particularly Balz's, as well as his and Erika's relationship. It's more of an insta-love romance, which isn't really my favorite kind, although I admit that I did feel a connection between them. I liked both Balz and Erika, but their romance won't necessarily become one of my all-time favorites. Most of the BDB books have been somewhere in the 450-500 page range, so clocking in at just 418 pages, this one is a little light, so it seems like there could have been room for more storytelling. I think part of the strength of the story, though, lies in the events that were added to the greater BDB arc. All the things that happened could have far-reaching repercussions for the future of our favorite fighters and their families. I'll also be interested to see if anything comes of the fact that the vampire and human worlds seem to be increasingly colliding. In any case, I'm definitely going to be sitting on pins and needles, waiting until next year for Lassiter to be released. This poor fallen angel deserves a true love to end all true loves after all he sacrificed in this book, and in the meantime, I hope the Brothers aren't too hard on him, given that only Balz knows the truth and has been sworn to secrecy. Alas, until then, I'll just have to console myself with the upcoming BDB: Prison Camp and Lair of the Wolven books. It's going to be a long wait...
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