Ever since Tohrment returned to the Brotherhood compound, he has been living half a life. Even though he has been able to recover to some extent, he is still deeply grieving the loss of his beloved shellan, Wellsie. Every night Tohr fights like he has a death-wish, and he continues to refuse blood, making him weaker by the day. He has vowed never to love another female, but the gentle, unassuming No'One stirs something deep inside him that he thought had died with Wellsie. Still he cannot bring himself to give her his heart, but when he begins having dreams of his dead shellan and their infant son in a dank, desolate place, he discovers that in order to save them and allow their souls to pass unto the Fade, he must find a way to let go.
Throughout the last several books in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series I've watched as Tohr nearly self-destructed over the death of his cherished shellan, Wellsie. Then I trudged through the almost unbearable pain and grief right along with him, but rejoiced as he very slowly began to make a come-back. Now in Lover Reborn things finally come full-circle for this beloved Brother who has been there from the very beginning of the series.
When Lover Reborn opens, Tohr's grief is by no means over, not by a long shot. In fact, his pain is still so intense as to be heart-breaking. He also continues to harbor a death wish, constantly taking huge risks while out in the field fighting, but is trying his best to live for his adoptive son, John Matthew. When No'One, Xhex's mother and the female who had committed suicide with Tohr's own dagger centuries ago, comes back into his life, he gradually begins to feel things that he thought had died along with Wellsie. Unable to bear the thought of taking sustenance from anyone else, Tohr has been starving himself for blood. When No'One, at Lassiter's prompting, offered to feed Tohr, he not too surprisingly only succeeded in frightening her which he felt terrible about. After that though, he kept a very tight reign on his self-control, and as a result, was very tender and gentle with her. I've always loved the fact that Tohr was a virgin when he married Wellsie and has never been with anyone else. I think this sweet side of him made him the perfect mate for No'One, especially after all she had been through in her life. They each could understand the loss the other had suffered. I admired that although No'One gave Tohr permission to call up his memories of Wellsie when he was with her, that he always remained present in the moment and fully knew who he was with, and I loved that he wouldn't allow No'One to hide her scarred leg from him and thought her beautiful no matter what. Tohr was definitely very stubborn about giving No'One his heart though, and after a pivotal moment in the story, he was even downright hurtful toward her. However, once he was able to finally let go of Wellsie, it was an intensely emotional time that brought tears to my eyes more than once. Ultimately, Tohr was a kind and passionate gentlemale who I think was the perfect person to help No'One through her own fears and self-reproach, and he has definitely earned a spot, not only among my favorite Brothers, but my favorite romance heroes in general.
No'One begins the story believing she is only worthy of serving and has a hard time with the idea of being an honored guest at the Brotherhood's mansion. Deep down, she wants to have a mother/daughter relationship with Xhex, but it's an awkward and scary prospect for both of them. I really enjoyed watching though as the two of them slowly build a bond between them. No'One really seems to understand Tohr's grief. With good reason, she got angry with him when he treated her rather rudely, but instead of letting it fester, she realized that it was a product of the intense sadness that had made him a different person than the one who had taken such good care of her all those centuries ago. She was very generous in wanting to feed Tohr, thinking it would pay him back in some small way for the kindness he showed her in her previous life. It was very sweet how No'One subconsciously began to feel pangs of protectiveness and jealously toward Tohr. It was just too cute when she stood up to Vishous and even let out a little growl at him when he questioned who would be feeding Tohr when he was injured. No'One is incredibly loving and patient with Tohr, willing to accept whatever he is able to give her and sometimes being surprised by him offering more than she was expecting. She was very supportive of Tohr through all the pain he suffered and forgiving of his shortcomings. In the end, she went through a transforming process of her own that, in my opinion, made her a very worthy mate for Tohr.
Together Tohr and No'One made a very lovely couple. It was kind of funny how, early on, the pair both vehemently deny any attraction to one another. To my way of thinking, it was definitely a case of them protesting too much, almost like they were trying to convince themselves. When they finally became intimate for the first time, it was so utterly beautiful, two souls giving freely and trusting one another implicitly. Even though Tohr held back his heart from No'One, their interactions still didn't seem like they were just about the blood and sex. In my opinion, Tohr's every action toward No'One (even the angry ones) showed that he was indeed slowly accepting her into his life and falling for her in the process. He couldn't possibly have been that tender and loving with her if he wasn't. The whole naming scene was really wonderful, and I thought it very fitting that Tohr got to be the one to do that. Even though Tohr had a beautiful relationship with Wellsie and I was shocked and saddened by her death, I couldn't help wondering if Tohr and No'One might have been destined for one another if she hadn't killed herself all those centuries ago. After all they seemed to admire and respect each other and had become an odd family of a sort. Perhaps she simply needed to learn some important lessons first to make her a good mate for him. Ultimately, I think Tohr and No'One were able to teach each other a great deal about true love and passion.
Lover Reborn has some wonderful story advancement for the secondary characters too. I'll start with Lassiter, Tohr's sarcastic sidekick through the grieving process. Without Lassiter, Tohr never would have survived, but I've wondered all along exactly why he became Tohr's "guardian angel." It seems Lassiter started this quest for rather self-serving reasons, but in this book begins to have some misgivings about that. He's been with Tohr so long now that he's becoming attached to his charge, and what he did for Tohr and No'One in the end showed what a big heart he really has. I have a feeling that one day Lassiter just might get his own book, or at least, I certainly hope so. He truly deserves an HEA of his own.
J. R. Ward has started a trend of revisiting one of the previous couples in the current book, and this time it was John Matthew and Xhex. I loved having these two front and center again, but hated seeing them having strife in their mating. Being the tough, independent woman she is, Xhex can't stand the thought of not fighting with the Brothers, but after loosing Wellsie and watching the torture Tohr has gone through, John understandably can't stand the thought of possibly loosing her. This conflict led to some pretty intense moments where I could almost smell John's bonding scent wafting off the pages as his protective instincts came out in full force. Initially, their differences may have kept them apart on some level, but it didn't seem to cool the sexual heat between them. This pair actually get the first several love scenes in the book and let me tell you, they're hot, hot, hot! As the friction continues though, things begin to cool down until it almost seems like they won't make it. In the end, it was John who made most of the concessions (not unlike in their own book), which didn't seem quite fair, but once they started to reconcile, I couldn't really find fault with that decision. They both seemed happy with the outcome, and it was obvious that they had never stopped loving one another. Just like any other married couple, they simply needed to find a way to get through their difficulties.
The Band of Bastards are now an integral part of the overall story arc. Their leader, Xcor is a very bad boy who has every intention of usurping Wrath's throne, but at the same time he is a walking contradiction. One minute he's doing some seriously messed up stuff that made my stomach turn and the very next, making me feel sympathy for him. He can torture lessers, and then moments later, have mercy on a prostitute who is frightened of him. He can betray his second in command and then exhibit a shocking display of self-loathing. He can try to assassinate Wrath and then treat the Chosen, Layla with infinite gentleness and tender regard. I began the book believing that Xcor was irredeemable, and ended it feeling that there might be hope for him after all. He certainly isn't the first male to be thoroughly screwed up by the Bloodletter, and he certainly wouldn't be the first male to be seemingly unreformable. In J. R. Ward's masterful hands, I know I could buy into Xcor being transformed into another of her damaged heroes, and in fact, would welcome it.
Throe and the rest of the Bastards back Xcor up all the way. We get to learn a little more about Zypher, and another of the Bastards, the sniper, Syphon gets a name. I've always thought that Throe was too nice to be hanging out with the likes of the Bastards, but it seems that maybe his past as a gentlemale is exactly that... the past. Not that he doesn't still seem to have more of a conscience than Xcor, but the Band of Bastards appear to be a "bad habit" he can't quit, not to mention something of a family of sorts.
Much happens for the Chosen, Layla in this installment. It seems that she has finally stopped pining for Qhuinn and begun to think of him as more of a brother or a best friend. She now understands his love for Blay and fully supports him in seeking a loving relationship with the other male. When Layla and Throe first met, I thought for sure a pairing for them was in the works. Throe was instantly smitten with her, and I don't believe it was merely lust I was sensing, but a true appreciation and adoration for her gentleness and beauty. However, once Xcor entered the picture, everything changed. Not only was Xcor attracted to Layla, but she instantly fell for him in a way that is similar to what she felt for Qhuinn, only much stronger, which leads me to think these two may be destined for one another. There is a major plot twist near the end for Layla that also involves Qhuinn which I never saw coming, but that explains a big question I had at the end of Lover Unleashed.
Qhuinn is a completely changed male. He has left his man whore ways (and many of his piercings) behind, but one thing that hasn't changed is his deep love for his former best friend, Blay. They are still very awkward around one another, but I did feel like things were inching forward for them to some degree. I just wish that they would finally get past the constant dancing around each other and pining from afar to simply accept what is, and I think that Qhuinn made an important step in that direction. In the meantime, he acted in an incredibly heroic manner on behalf of the king which may garner him an incredible honor in the next book.
All the other Brothers appeared in Lover Reborn in some capacity, and I'm constantly in awe of how much of a family they truly are, real brothers, indeed, who prove every day that you don't have to be related by blood to be a family unit. The way they all came together (including the pets) to sit vigil over Wrath showed how incredibly loyal they are to their king and when they also all came together to help Tohr say his final goodbyes to Wellsie, it was an unbelievably touching moment that showed their loyalty to their fellow Brother in need. It was very fitting that Lover Reborn brought things full-circle to reunite Tohr, No'One, John Matthew (Darius), and Xhex, this time as a real family, showing what an incredible storyteller and masterful plotter, J. R. Ward really is. There's not a single thing about this book that I would have changed. I loved every minute of reading Lover Reborn, and can say without reservation that it has become one of my all-time favorites in the series. My only complaint is that there isn't any more left to read, and I have to wait another year for the next one. In the meantime, I've been dying to learn who the next main hero and heroine will be, and just heard through the grapevine that it is actually going to be two heroes, none other than the beloved Qhuinn and Blay. Can't wait!
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