Vishous is arguably the most powerful member of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, but also one of the most tormented. In addition to being a genius, he has the gift of second sight and can hear and manipulate the thoughts of others. He also has a glowing hand that can be extremely dangerous but serves many different purposes. Yet to Vishous, these gifts feel more like a curse. He spent his childhood growing up in the warrior camp of his father, The Bloodletter, where his life was spent in a day to day struggle for survival. Instead of appreciating Vishous' talents, his father despised and feared them, which led to Vishous being tortured, branded and banished from the camp not long after his transition. Except for his eventual involvement in the Black Dagger Brotherhood, V has led a solitary existence ever since. Until V met his best friend, Butch, no one fully understood him, not even his brothers. Unfortunately, this led to a host of confused and unrequited feelings for V. On his 303rd birthday, Vishous' chaotic emotions collide head-on with the revelation of his mother's true identity, sending him into a tailspin. Looking to quell his anger and aggression, V goes trolling for a fight with a lesser, and gets his wish. After a prolonged but successful battle, a shot rings out from the other end of the alley, sending V's world into utter blackness.
Dr. Jane Whitcomb is a brilliant human surgeon and the chief of the hospital's trauma unit. She has known the deep pain of loss and rejection in her own life, and so puts every ounce of her skill and compassion into doing her very best for every patient that comes through her ER. One night a strange giant of a man is brought in with a gunshot wound to the chest. As Jane works feverishly to save his life, he nearly codes on her operating table, but her authoritative voice somehow brings him back from the edge of oblivion. As Vishous awakens from the surgery, the mere sound of that same voice and her intoxicating scent, leave him with the startling thought that he has found his mate. When the brothers come to rescue him a while later, V can't help but insist that they take Jane with them, leaving her with the shocking realization that she is being kidnapped.
Once back at the Brotherhood's mansion, it doesn't take long for an intelligent woman like Jane to figure out that these guys are not mere humans, but vampires. The scientist in her cannot resist the desire to learn all she can about this other species, while the woman in her is irresistibly drawn to her handsome patient. Jane has always been very physically plain, but V seems to appreciate her on a level that no man ever has before. As they match wits and exchange personal stories, the fires of passion burn hotter than either has ever felt before, but both of them are certain that the bliss they have been experiencing cannot last for long. Jane has a position in the human world that she has worked all her life to achieve and that V could never ask her to give up, and V has been ordered by the Scribe Virgin to become the Primale of his species to ensure the continuation of their race. Even if these obstacles could be overcome, they both know that a relationship between a human and a vampire is fraught with danger and complications, which may only lead to more heartache for both of them.
I had read and greatly enjoyed the first four volumes of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, but after seeing many negative ratings and reviews for Lover Unbound, I procrastinated about reading it. Admittedly, it's predecessor, Lover Revealed, had probably been my least favorite of the series thus far, and somehow I allowed all the low ratings to influence me into thinking that Lover Unbound was the worst book in the series to date. Well, after finally reading it, nothing could be further from the truth in my opinion. Lover Unbound is now in a virtual tie with Lover Awakened for my favorite book in the series. I readily admit that for sheer heart-stopping romance and passion, Lover Awakened and some of the other earlier books are superior, but for it's well-rounded story and advancement of the overall vampire world, Lover Unbound was absolutely spectacular to me. It is true that the romantic scenes and relationship building between the two main characters of this novel was somewhat scaled back when compared with the previous books in the series, and the love scenes are generally shorter and less descriptive as well. In spite of this though, J.R. Ward managed to create a deep bond between Vishous and Jane in a very short time that was both intellectual and emotional, and which I found to be very beautiful. Even with the more abbreviated scenes, they connected with each other and me as the reader in a way that some characters fail to do when the entire novel is all theirs. It is a very rare occurrence for a story to move me in such a deep and compelling way, but I found myself not just tearing up, but actually crying more than once throughout the book. By the same token, the occasional sharp, sarcastic humor make me smile or even laugh, though this definitely is still a very dark read. For it to elicit such emotional responses from me, I know that it was very well-written.
I positively loved V and Jane. They are one of the most perfect, made-for-each-other couples I have ever read in a romance novel. It is probably because I am a geek married to a geek, but I felt connected with both characters on a very personal level. Vishous, like all of his brothers, is a wounded and tortured hero, but in a more extreme way than everyone else except Zsadist. Like Z, he has suffered unconscionable abuse, but at the hands of his own father, because of choices that his mother made. Add to that his absolute genius and his powerful gifts that in many ways are far more like a curse, and he is a truly misunderstood soul. Then, Jane came into his life and understood V in a way that no one else ever had except Butch. Jane is a brilliant woman in her own right who possesses many wonderful gifts as well. She is physically plain, but connected to V on the intellectual and emotional level that he so desperately longed for. It was like she intuitively knew exactly what he needed, as well as when and why. I completely adored Jane, because she was an incredibly confident and cerebral woman with a deeply compassionate side, which is pretty amazing considering how her family treated her growing up. Even though her talents had rightfully earned her a position as chief of the trauma department, she maintained a degree of humility by not thinking it beneath her to care for a patient's more personal needs, such as giving V a sponge bath, and she was always ready with a kind word or a gentle touch. In my opinion, these things made for a wonderful combination, giving Jane status as one of the most perfectly rendered heroines I have ever read. I especially enjoyed V and Jane's lighter moments of sharp-witted banter, but in whatever capacity they were interacting, I found them to be a superbly, ideal couple.
While I would have liked even more scenes with V and Jane, the cast of secondary characters was so fabulous, I can hardly complain. It seems that Ms. Ward is moving in the direction of beginning the development of relationships before those characters become the focus of their own book. Such was the case with Phury and Cormia, who are the hero and heroine of the next book, Lover Enshrined. Phury has always been the controlled gentleman of the Brotherhood, but he has slowly been coming unglued. In spite of that though, he not surprisingly still makes a huge sacrifice for V and the Brotherhood in general. Even though Cormia is first introduced in this story, I have already found her to be endearingly innocent, while also being curious and strong-willed. It will be interesting to watch her hopefully come into her own in the next book. I also enjoyed watching John Matthew grow and change in more ways than one. He had some really wonderful scenes in this story. There is a tentative connection developing between him and Xhex, as well as a deepening of his friendships with Zsadist, and with Qhuinn and Blaylock. It was really nice to see John starting to make connections and build a little confidence, even though he still feels like a freak. It was also interesting to learn a bit more about the history of the Scribe Virgin and the Chosen and their world on the Other Side. I have to admit to never having much of a liking for the Scribe Virgin in previous books and throughout most of Lover Unbound, I liked her even less. She has just always seemed rather selfish to me, but she did begin to redeem herself by the end in my opinion. In addition, all the remaining members of the Brotherhood, most of their shellans and some other secondary characters from past novels in the series make an appearance in some capacity giving this story a very extensive and well-rounded cast.
I know from all the low ratings that there are many things which some readers disliked about Lover Unbound, but there was very little that bothered me. Though I am not certain of all the specific complaints, I believe the ending was one of the biggest. I, however, had no real issues with it. While it was certainly not traditional in any way and I admit may take some getting used to even for me, it was definitely a happy one. I imagine that when an author is dealing with vampire/human relationships, there are only so many ways that the issue of a human's much shorter life-span can be addressed, and I thought that the way Ms. Ward approached it in Lover Unbound was a rather creative one. I also thought it was rather ingenious that she dropped subtle clues throughout the story as to where it was leading. The only thing that would have improved the ending for me would have been one more long romantic scene between V and Jane. One other thing that was not quite to my liking was the BDSM element, which simply isn't my cup of tea, but as it did not permeate the entire story and I understood the "why" behind the one scene that was played out more explicitly, I wasn't overly bothered by it. One element that I particularly appreciated was a spiritual/philosophical thread on pre-ordination versus free will, running throughout the story which culminated with some heavier rumination at the end. I really like books that make me think and Lover Unbound, due in part to this thread, certainly accomplished that. I also really enjoyed learning more about the vampire history and the key role that Darius apparently has and will continue to play in it, as well as all the changes that are afoot in the entire vampire world, which seem to be leading to something truly big in the future.
After reading Lover Unbound I find myself in awe of J.R. Ward's writing skills. It has definitely earned a place on my keeper shelf. In my opinion, this book and the Black Dagger Brotherhood series in general is a literary gem. It is apparent to me that Ms. Ward has an incredible imagination and that great thought and care has gone into the creation of each book. Every chapter adds a new piece to the puzzle and the much larger myth that J.R. Ward's fertile mind has created. Each new book seems to be an even greater intellectual feast, which leaves me pondering over this fantasy realm long after the last page has been turned. I can't wait to read the next book, and greatly look forward to seeing where this inventive and riveting story leads. Lover Unbound is book #5 in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. It is preceded by Dark Lover, Lover Eternal, Lover Awakened, and Lover Revealed, and is followed by Lover Enshrined with book #7, Lover Avenged due out sometime next year. J. R. Ward also writes contemporary romances under the name Jessica Bird.
Note: Sensitive readers should be forewarned that this book contains strong language, as well as explicit violence that includes torture and explicit sexual content that includes some BDSM.
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