After being disowned by his aristocratic family, who were later killed in a lesser attack, Qhuinn was left alone. The only person who was always there for him was his best friend, Blaylock, but ever since Blay declared his feelings for Qhuinn, their relationship has been strained. Because of his traditional upbringing, Qhuinn has never quite been able to come to terms with his own complicated feelings toward Blay. All Qhuinn has ever wanted is a family to love and accept him, so when his friend, the Chosen, Layla, went into her needing he offered to service her. Now Layla is pregnant with his young, but complications with the pregnancy have left him wondering if he will ever have his heart's desire.
Blay has loved Qhuinn for as long as he can remember, but after being pushed away by the other male several times, he finally gave up and moved on. For the past year, he and Qhuinn's cousin, Saxton, have been lovers, and while they have a comfortable relationship, there's still something missing. Realizing it's not meant to be, Saxton breaks it off, leaving Blay wondering where he goes from here. Not knowing that they've broken up, Qhuinn misconstrues Saxton's night out on the town as him cheating, and finally realizing that Blay is the only person he's ever loved, offers himself up to the other male for revenge sex. He'll take any part of Blay he can get, even if it's only for one night. Faced with finally having the one man he's always wanted, Blay can't resist, but neither can he bring himself to believe that it's going to last. He knows Qhuinn's track record, and until the male faces the demons of his past, Blay cannot risk his heart.
Lover at Last was yet another novel of The Black Dagger Brotherhood that left me with a contented sigh and a smile on my face. Qhuinn and Blay have been there since the early days of the Brotherhood when they were both pre-trans in training to become warriors. They were the very best of friends and even though they'd drifted apart more recently, there was still an unbreakable connection between them. It was so good to finally see everything come together for these two males and for them to get their HEA ending. This book had so much going on though, besides the core romantic relationship. There's a lot of forward progression of the overall story arc, and while it wasn't the least bit difficult to keep up with all the sub-plots, I did sometimes find myself wanting to hurry through them to get back to Qhuinn and Blay. I laughed, I cried, and as always, I had a great time reading this latest installment.
Qhuinn is every bit as tortured as all the other members of the Brotherhood, and for the first half or so of the story, it still seems like he can't quite catch a break, which only seems to solidify his low opinion of himself. The opening flashback scene to Qhuinn's past in his parent's house was heartbreaking. He was treated lower than dirt by his aristocratic family who couldn't abide any imperfection in their offspring, even one as small as having mis-matched eye colors. As a result, Qhuinn rebelled and became as different as he possibly could be, and then, when he saved his friend from a vicious attack, resulting in injury to another aristocratic vampire, his family disowned him all together, even sending an Honor Guard to beat him nearly to death. He was left all alone except for Blay, his best friend in the whole world, but when Blay admitted he was in love with him, Qhuinn couldn't handle it. He was taken in by the Brotherhood and fights alongside them, but is still pretty much a loner. Blay moved on with his life, taking another lover, and Qhuinn's other best friend, John Matthew is already mated, leaving Qhuinn kind of floundering on his own, but his life is finally about to change for the better. After what Qhuinn did to save Wrath's life in the last book and what he did early in this book to save Zsadist's life, the Brothers are beyond impressed with this guy. He's smart, brave beyond measure, and a leader when he needs to be. Qhuinn truly is a male of worth, something his family never recognized. He didn't in any way, shape, or form deserve all the crap they put him through, but I can't think of anyone who is more deserving of the honor the Brotherhood bestows upon him. In the last book of the series, Qhuinn serviced Layla through her needing and now she is pregnant with his young. I love how he tenderly looks after Layla, and what he did to Havers for the way he treated the female was priceless. When Qhuinn talked to his unborn young it was such a sweet moment. As for his relationship with Blay, Qhuinn has finally realized that he wants the other male so badly he'll take any piece of him he can get, but in some ways, getting what he's wanted for so long leaves him even more broken and vulnerable than before. I rejoiced right along with him when everything finally worked out. All Qhuinn ever wanted was a family to love and accept him, and now everything has come full-circle, giving him more than he ever could have hoped for. I'm so happy for him.
Blay is the solid rock who's always been there for Qhuinn through thick and thin. He was the one who got him through all the nastiness with his family and gave him a safe place to stay. Blay has loved Qhuinn since they were pre-trans, but when he finally revealed his feelings, Qhuinn immediately shut him down. Since then, their relationship has been strained to say the least, and when Blay became lovers with Saxton, it only distanced them further. Even though they haven't been close for a while, deep down, Blay still loves Qhuinn, but when Qhuinn finally offers himself up on a silver platter, he can't quite bring himself to believe that it's going to last. Blay intimately knows Qhuinn's sexual history and doesn't want to be just another notch on the guy's belt, but after all the times Qhuinn pushed him away in the past, he thinks one time is all they'll ever have. Because of this fear, he ends up allowing Qhuinn to believe some things about him that aren't true, which was a tad frustrating, but I understood where he was coming from. In contrast, to Qhuinn, Blay has loving, supportive parents who also have loved Qhuinn for years and hate what his family did to him. I adored Blay for how sweet and gentle he was with Layla, understanding how very much the young she's carrying means to Qhuinn. What Blay secretly did for Qhuinn and Layla was incredibly generous and unselfish. Blay truly is a gentlemale who has always been there for Qhuinn when it mattered the most, and I'm so glad to finally see them happy together.
As a couple, Blay and Qhuinn's chemistry is off the charts. Right from the beginning, all the pent up longing and desire between them is so thick you can cut it with a knife. When they finally unleashed it on one another, it was amazing. I knew that first love scene was going to be good, but it even exceeded my wildest expectations. It was beautiful, intense, passionate, raw, powerful, emotional, and smokin' hot. It left me weak in the knees and breathless and sent a shiver down my spine. Whew!;-) Then they did it all over again a few chapters later. Unfortunately, they both harbor uncertainties and insecurities, which makes the aftermath of their love-making rather awkward. A part of me wishes these scenes could have ended differently, but what happened made sense. When Qhuinn finally started to open up to Blay emotionally, it was a very touching moment that reminded me why these two were best friends, and when they finally allowed themselves to enjoy their love-making, it was very sweet and poignant. In spite of that, they still struggle with their feelings for one another, with Blay being afraid of getting hurt and Qhuinn being afraid of who he is. This lasts right up until the final pages, which was also a little frustrating, but what occurs in those pages is so romantic it made the wait completely worthwhile.
As with all the Black Dagger Brotherhood books, there are lots of secondary characters and sub-plots. I'll start with Layla, because she was probably the most important supporting player. As I mentioned earlier, she is pregnant with Qhuinn's young. During the early stages, she's very much alone in her pregnancy. She and Qhuinn haven't told anyone about her going through the needing and him servicing her, so she's trying to keep the pregnancy under wraps. Unfortunately, she experiences complications that end up making that impossible, but in the meantime, she goes through a lot on her own. Qhuinn is very attentive to her, but she knows his affections lie with Blay and she's trying not to be burden. I felt really bad for her during this time, because she's struggling to be independent and not being treated very well by Havers and his staff when they find out who she is. Layla is such a sweet person, I really enjoyed seeing her get assertive with them. It was funny how she yelled at them and blackmailed them in order to protect herself and her young, but still remembers her manners and thanks them when they comply. What she did to protect Qhuinn from Phury was really cute too. Layla is a truly wonderful character who deserves to be happy with someone who'll love her to distraction, and it looks like that someone may be Xcor. She can't stop thinking about her encounter with him, even though she feels guilty for caring about an enemy of her king.
Xcor is another warrior in this series who seems to have been brought to his knees by a little thing called love. He spends the entire book pining for Layla, and her sweetness and gentleness have spoiled him for any other female. I loved the way that Layla has made Xcor go all gooey inside and want to protect her, but I also respected him for not acting on his instinct to try and take her from the Brotherhood, knowing that he can't give her what she needs. Deep down though, he knows he's not worthy of her which really tugs at the heartstrings. He's never known real love, only the harsh reality of being a warrior, but in his heart of hearts, he really wants to be loved and doesn't believe that will ever happen for him, not only because of his disfigurement, but also because he knows he's a bad boy. I haven't forgotten that Xcor tried to assassinate Wrath and is still trying to dethrone him, but I also can't help feeling sympathetic toward him. I'm now convinced that he can be redeemed. I'm just not sure how or what would have to happen, but I look forward to finding out.
The Band of Bastards are all still backing Xcor up. All five now have names which is pretty cool. As a group, they're out fighting lessers every night just like the Brotherhood, but behind the scenes they're plotting with Xcor to take the throne from Wrath. Even though they do need to pay in some way for what they did to the king, I don't really want to see anything too bad happen to them.
Wrath continues to work with Saxton on the old laws, moving forward with exactly what I expected him to do at the end of the last book, while Beth spends a lot of girl time with Layla, talking about babies and such. Beth really wants to have a young, but the prospect scares Wrath to death. I do believe that the author is foreshadowing a future little one for this couple who are slated to be brought back to the forefront in the next book of the series, The King, which is scheduled for release in Spring 2014.
Saxton finishes his work for the king and stays on at the Brotherhood mansion as Wrath's personal solicitor. I couldn't help feeling rather bad for him. Even though he never intended to fall in love with Blay and knew that theirs was a limited love affair, he did fall for the other male anyway. I have mad respect for the guy though, for bowing out extremely gracefully, while still maintaining a friendship with Blay. I hope that perhaps he can find an HEA in a future book.
Rehvenge's former right hand men, the Shadows, Trez and iAm, return for more action. They both continue to run their respective businesses, but things really start hearting up for Trez. It seems he has an obligation to his race which he is not fulfilling and is trying to avoid the high priest who is looking for him. Trez desperately doesn't want to have anything to do with what his people have planned for him, and perhaps as overcompensation for it, has turned into a man-slut. He has sex with virtually every woman he meets, sometimes several times a day, and the implication is that he has a sexual addiction. In the midst of all this craziness though, he meets the woman of his dreams, a female who has been on the canvas for a very long time. I'm looking forward to seeing where things go for these two.
The lessers are still around, but are only one of several villains in this story. There's a new fore-lesser in town, Mr. C, who is trying to rebuild the lesser army to it's former greatness. In an effort to do this, they form an unholy alliance with a vampire. There also appears to be some kind of "new and improved" lesser that we don't really get to learn much about, and in a major plot twist, the Brothers discover something important the lessers have been hiding for a long time.
Last, but not least, are the vampire, Assail, and a new female character named Sola. I'm not entirely sure where J. R. Ward is going with their storyline, but sadly, it was the only one I never quite warmed up to. The fact that she set these two up in a dance of desire makes me wonder if she's planning a prominent story for them in the future, but if so, I think she's going to have to dig a little deeper to get me to connect with them. Assail has helped the Brothers in some ways, but ultimately, I couldn't quite get past his drug-dealing, drug use, and arrogance to see him as a hero type character. I can't help feeling that he's really loyal to no one but himself, and his attraction to Sola is more lust that love at this point. Sola was an interesting character. In the realm of private investigations and security, she does a little bit of everything, including some illegal stuff, to make a living for herself and her elderly grandmother. I have to admit that I like her style. What she did to get back at the Benloise brothers when they stiffed her on payment for services rendered was very fitting. Assail and Sola's story was my least favorite sub-plot in this book though, which is the main reason I bumped off the half-star. It just didn't hold my attention well, which is unusual for this series. However, it did end on a cliffhanger which makes me a bit curious as to who Sola's enemy is and how Assail finds them.
Otherwise, Lover at Last was a great book that was a pleasure to read. There may have been some parts that moved a tad slowly, but most of it held my attention throughout. The scene with Qhuinn and John Matthew at the drugstore in the first chapter cracked me up, and the plot twists near the end certainly woke me up. All the Brothers are here as well as some of the shellans. Payne has a small but very pivotal role to play. I might have wished for just a little more Qhuinn and Blay action, but all their scenes together were awesome and the ending left me with a sweet sigh. Overall, Lover at Last was another solid read in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, and I'll be eagerly waiting on the edge of my seat for more Wrath and Beth action in The King. Trying to be patient for the next book is always the thing I like least about this series.:-)
Note: This book contains quite a bit of strong language and explicit scenes of sensuality between two males, as well as a M/M/M/M/F menage between five supporting players, all of which may offend some readers.
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