Butch O'Neal is an ex-homicide detective and fighter by nature, who won the admiration of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, a group of warrior class vampires, nine months earlier. He was a loner who had never known the comfort of home and family until the brothers took him in, and treated him like one of their own, making him their sole human ally. Their decision was made in part because of visions of the future which Vishous, one of the brothers, had concerning Butch. Since then, Butch has been best friends with Vishous sharing the gatehouse of the Brotherhood's compound with him, and basically living off their good graces. Being a man of pride though, he wants to earn his keep, and he finds that he wants nothing more than to fight at the brother's side in their war against the lessers, undead human slayers. Because of his human frailties though, the brothers won't allow him to do anything more than grunt work. After spending a night alone at one of the Brotherhood's favorite club hangouts, a troubled Butch goes for a walk outside to clear his head, only to come upon some lessers going after a civilian vampire. When he is not able to reach the brothers by phone, Butch decides to go it alone. He manages to save the civilian, but in the process he is captured and taken to the lessers' hideout where he endures unspeakable torture. Butch regains consciousness hours later, near death, to find the Omega, the supreme leader of the lessers, hovering over him. The Omega infects him with it's evil, and then orders him to be left for dead in the woods as a trojan horse for the Brotherhood. Because of something Vishous had done months earlier, he is able to locate and rescue Butch before it is too late, taking him to the vampire's hospital where he is placed in quarantine.
When Butch met the brothers nine months earlier, he also met Marissa, a beautiful female vampire and member of the aristocracy, who was formerly mated to Wrath, the king of the race. There was an instant attraction between Butch and Marissa, but after Marissa's brother became involved in an attempt on the king's life, she took ill and shut herself away for a time. Butch had made an attempt to see her again, but was turned away at the door by her servant. Since then, the two have spent nearly every waking moment pining for each other. Now with Butch's life on the line, Vishous knows that Butch will need Marissa's love to give him the will to live, and so calls on her for help. Marissa has been having disturbing dreams of Butch in danger, so she is not surprised by the revelation that he is injured. Eager to see the man she loves, she rushes into the quarantine room without protective gear, and ends up locked in alone with Butch for days. Marissa and Vishous both play a role in nursing Butch back to health, but once Butch is recovered enough to talk, he and Marissa spend a great deal of time holding each other at arms length. In three or more centuries of life, Marissa has never experienced the love of a man, and thinks that Butch left her because she is defective and unlovable. Butch for his part does not feel worthy of a beautiful aristocrat like Marissa and believes that she refused to see him because of their differences in both class and race. With a little help from Vishous, they eventually realize the truth of what happened all those months ago, and share a passionate reunion, but it is rather short lived. Butch fears that the evil that has infected him may also infect Marissa and once again pushes her away. Also, Marissa's brother, Havers, who witnessed the aftermath of their intimacy, angrily casts her out of his home into the lonely night near dawn.
A desperate Marissa asks for help from Wrath and his queen, Beth, who are all too happy to allow her to stay at the Brotherhood's compound, but she doesn't realize that their kindness will place her in close proximity to Butch. As Marissa comes to terms with her newfound independence and seeks out a more fulfilling purpose in life, she struggles to reconcile her love for Butch with her fears for his life because of his perceived risk taking. In the meantime, Butch senses a dark side of himself that wasn't there before, and worries that the Omega's evil still festers inside him, making him fear for the lives of his friends and the woman he loves. When the brothers put him to a test of loyalty, Butch is stunned to discover an extraordinary new ability which only frightens him all the more. Just as Butch is about to leave the brothers and Marissa behind for their own safety, Vishous realizes something about Butch that no one would have ever guessed, and which may give Butch everything he has ever dreamed of. That dream may come at too high a price though, for to realize it will place Butch in even more life-threatening danger, which Marissa isn't sure she can handle, but unbeknownst to them all, it would create a bond between Butch and Vishous that would intertwine their lives forever and could change the entire course of the future for the vampire race.
After meeting Butch and Marissa in Dark Lover, the first book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, I was intrigued by the characters and looking forward to reading their story. Unfortunately, I found it a bit difficult to become emotionally invested in the ups and downs of their relationship as presented in Lover Revealed. I think this may have been the result of a few different things. First, Butch and Marissa spent very little time together during those initial scenes in Dark Lover and it was all very sweet and innocent. They were then separated for a 6-9 month period over the course of two more books, during which their relationship was still in play, but on the sidelines, with both of them pining desperately for each other. While this alone could be cited as an indication of their deep love, I really would have liked to see their relationship reestablished before they started engaging in sexual intimacy. When compared to the previous books in the series, I thought that Lover Revealed was simply lacking in the lovely, heart-stopping romantic scenes that I really love to see. In addition, during the course of the entire book, at least one of these two characters (though sometimes both at once) seemed to be holding the other at arms length, so I found it difficult to really feel their love in the powerful way that I did with the main characters in the prequels. While these were the primary reasons for my feeling a lack of romance in this story, I also think the world shifting that was taking place was a contributing factor as well. In and of itself this was certainly not a bad thing, as a continuing series such as this would not hold up well to critical scrutiny for long if it just kept telling the same narrative of the war between the vampires and the lessers only with a different couple in the lead. In this respect, I understand the author's choice to move the story to another level, but in my opinion, these changes in many ways overshadowed the love and romance that I was expecting. Vishous was also such an important character in this book, and his relationship with Butch ran so deep that it seemed like Marissa had a difficult time getting a strong foothold in the story.
As I mentioned earlier, I went into this book liking Butch and Marissa very much, and while I did not find them to be particularly unlikable at any time during this story, I did have a hard time fully relating to them. I think this was owing to the author not digging quite deep enough with the characters emotions, particularly Marissa's, as well as the rapid and drastic changes that took place in both of their lives, which completely caught me off guard. This was definitely a good thing, as I wouldn't want the plot to be too predictable, but so many things were happening so quickly that I had a hard time adjusting to all the shifts. Marissa went from a meek and docile female to an independent, outspoken, and basically liberated female almost overnight. While there is much to be said for those qualities, I think that perhaps finding some middle ground or building these changes more slowly would have been more believable. Butch's transformation was somewhat slower, yet incredibly dramatic. Even by the end of the book, I had been so blown away by everything that happened, I was still having a hard time thinking of him as anything but the human ex-cop who had been befriended by the Brotherhood. Still it was all an intriguing turn of events that did help to propel the story and the series forward. In spite of these perceived deficiencies, there were still things to like about these two characters. Butch, like the vampire brothers, was a tortured hero, one of my favorite kinds. He had never felt the love of a family until the Brotherhood took him into their confidence and their home, and he had also never felt like he belonged anywhere until then. In this book, he was finally able to find the missing pieces of himself. Butch was also very kind and considerate toward Marissa and a true friend to Vishous, as well as completely loyal to the Brotherhood. While Marissa for her part, made some rather selfish choices out of her sense of fear for Butch's safety, she at least recognized her mistakes and corrected them in the end. At the heart of her character, she was a gentle soul which was evidenced in her work at the hospital early on, but I found myself wishing that this part of her had been explored more fully. It just ultimately seemed like her newfound independence, rather overshadowed her kind heart. I did however, enjoy the scenes of her starting the Safe House for abused and displaced females, and hope to see more of her work with the shelter in the future.
In my opinion, what Lover Revealed was lacking in it's main characters, was made up for in it's secondary characters. These were some of the parts that I enjoyed reading the most. Wrath and Beth played significant roles for the first time since Dark Lover, and it was nice to see them front and center again. Zadist and Bella shared a playfully sensuous interaction, which even though it was only one scene, really stuck with me as being very beautiful and romantic, and Zsadist was able to put in some additional time as an instructor to their new trainees. As with the past two books, I greatly enjoyed John Matthew and his continuing story. I also sensed a friendship growing between him and Zsadist which I hope to see more fully explored in future books. There were a couple of the young vampire trainees who played larger roles in this book. I liked the awkwardness of Blaylock going through his transformation, and it was great to see Lash finally get his comeuppance. Bella's brother and club owner, Rehvenge, put in another appearance, adding more details and intrigue to his character as well. There was also an interesting sub-plot involving the fore-lesser, Mr. X, and his surprising desire to be freed from the Omega, and I also enjoyed the shellans creating a sisterhood of sorts, which I felt rather mirrored the relationship that their mates share.
The strongest of the secondary characters, who was fleshed out the most though, was Vishous. In previous books, he had been pretty much an enigma. For the most part, he was merely the techo-genius who held everything together, but who obviously harbored some very special gifts. Those gifts as well as glimpses of his backstory and personality are finally explored in Lover Revealed. Vishous's deep friendship with Butch seemed to develop into something more, at least from V's perspective, but nothing of a romantic nature ever happened as a result of it. In some ways they reminded me of Zsadist and Phury with their twins connection, and it became obvious by the end of the story that Butch and V are twins of a sort, two halves of a whole, who will likely share a special connection for life. Ultimately, there was a lot of complexity surrounding their relationship, which I believe could be interpreted as symbolic of this greater connection. From what I perceived, Vishous was a male who, not unlike his fellow members of the brotherhood, has many soul-deep wounds that torment him. It seems that he had never experienced real love and acceptance in his life (either giving or receiving) until meeting Butch and his feelings concerning this are confusing to him. He also doesn't seem to fully understand the bonding of his fellow brothers to their females, but does question in his own mind what this might be like. Vishous seems to have a penchant for hard core BDSM (though it isn't played out in particularly explicit details) which normally would not be my cup of tea, but Ms. Ward has painted an otherwise sympathetic picture of V which leaves the appealing potential for a Zsadist type of story for him. I can say that the author's portrayal of V has intrigued me sufficiently to whet my appetite for the next book, Lover Unbound, in which he becomes the hero.
Although I thought that Lover Revealed could have been a little better, especially romantically, the continuing story of the Brotherhood is one that I find to be very intriguing and still difficult to put down in spite of any weaknesses that might be present. I came to the conclusion that these weaknesses are due to Lover Revealed being a bridge of sorts between the first three books and those yet to come, a book where there are major shifts in the overarching story. Ms. Ward writes with an intelligence that I greatly appreciate, often making me really think about what is happening. In fact I found myself thinking about Lover Revealed and trying to figure certain things out days after turning the last page. When an author can engage both my emotions and my intellect in such a way, they have in my opinion, done their job well. I will be looking forward to continuing with the series to see where her fertile imagination leads these wonderful characters. Lover Revealed is the fourth book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. It is preceded by Dark Lover, Lover Eternal, and Lover Awakened and is followed by Lover Unbound, and Lover Enshrined, with Lover Avenged due to be released next year. There is also a companion book to the series, The Black Dagger Brotherhood: An Insider's Guide. J. R. Ward also writes contemporary romances as Jessica Bird.
Note: Sensitive readers should be forewarned that as in the past books, there is quite a bit of strong language and violence, and the sex, due to the BDSM element is a bit more explicit than what one would typically find in an average romance novel.
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