Paradise, blooded daughter of Abalone, First Advisor to the King, is tired of the strict societal rules placed on her by the glymera. Although she knows that many are expecting her to wed her best friend, Peyton, she has no desire to become a demure shellan who only hosts parties and looks good on her hellren's arm. She wants to experience life, and although she has no real designs on becoming a soldier and fighting the war with the lessers, she does want to learn how to protect herself and those she loves. To that end, Paradise applied for the Brotherhood's new training program, as soon as she heard they were accepting females. She has no idea what's in store for her, but if she fails it will be on her own terms. Beginning the program is both nerve-wracking and exciting and only made more so by a handsome young male recruit. She met him at the audience house where she worked as a receptionist before entering training and hasn't been able to stop thinking about him ever since, but he's naught but a commoner of whom she's certain her father, and most especially the glymera, would never approve. Paradise struggles between the proper comportment she knows is expected of a female in her station and the passionate feelings the male arouses in her, but in her heart, she knows that if she allows the opportunity to experience a relationship like this to pass her by, she'll regret it for the rest of her life.
Craeg entered the Brotherhood training program with only one goal in mind, to become the best soldier he possibly could so that he can someday ahvenge the family he lost in the raids. He hates the glymera and will do anything to make them pay for allowing his family to die. He's more the type of guy to take a quick roll in the hay with a willing female when the urge arises, but he thought he'd tamped down his sexual desire to focus solely on his mission. That theory flew out the window the minute he met Paradise. She's everything he could want in a female, but he senses that she's an innocent and therefore totally off limits. Craeg knows that Paradise isn't the type of female he can have sex with only once and then leave, but he doesn't have time for a serious relationship when so much is at stake. Yet, somehow the beautiful female keeps getting under his skin at every turn until he can no longer resist the temptation to possess her as his own. Little does he know, though, that Paradise is a member of the aristocracy he hates so much. Not to mention, the murder of a mysterious young female seems to be leading back to the trainees and Paradise may unwittingly know more than she should, putting her life in danger.
Blood Kiss is the first book in J. R. Ward's new Black Dagger Legacy series which is a spin-off of her Black Dagger Brotherhood series. To be honest, it didn't feel any different than a BDB story, except that instead of advancing the overall series story arc, it focuses more fully on one new couple plus one of our original Brotherhood couples. I know that prior to it's release, Ms. Ward said this is what she hoped to accomplish with this new series, and I think she's done so beautifully. Blood Kiss is reminiscent of the early BDB books in that the romance is more front and center, rather than part of a much larger story. I know some fans have gotten frustrated with the broader story arcs in the BDB series that sometimes feel more like urban fantasy than romance. I'm not one of them, but for those who are, I don't think you'll be disappointed with this book. There's plenty of romance and the steamy sex scenes for which the Warden is known, along with a little mystery on the side. It has more the feel of a New Adult romance, because the main characters are on the younger side, only a few years past their transitions. I have a feeling this was the author's and/or her publisher's way of tapping into this hot new market, and IMHO that's great. I loved this first book in the BDL series and can't wait to read more.
Paradise is a daughter of the glymera. Her father is First Advisor to the King, and up until this book opens, she'd been working as the receptionist at the audience house. She knows what's expected of a young female in her position, but she doesn't really want any of that. When she heard that the Brotherhood were reopening their training center and that they were accepting females, she decided to apply. It's not so much that she wants to go fight in the war with the lessers, but she does want to know how to protect herself and those she loves. Paradise is a very intelligent young female, who is also much stronger than anyone, including even she herself, realized. The Brotherhood puts her and the rest of the recruits through an extremely intense initiation on their first night at the training center that was meant to weed out those who couldn't survive the program. Through it all she was a trooper, who really impressed me. What I liked the best about her is that she's a kind, caring female. She wouldn't leave her best friend, Peyton, behind even though she was mad at him right before the initiation started, and she stood up for Craeg too. In general, she can't seem to resist helping people, which I loved. At the same time, Paradise is rather lost, not knowing who she really is. Entering the Brotherhood's training program completely shakes up her quiet life as a glymera "princess," and she quickly finds herself being pushed to do things she never thought she would or could. This leaves a lot of distance between her and her father, because she doesn't want to worry him by telling him the full extent of what her training entails. That chasm only gets wider when she makes the decision to fully be with Craeg, because she knows that as a commoner, he isn't someone who her father and most definitely the glymera would approve.
I really liked how, in The King, the author revealed that there's a hierarchical structure within the vampire world, just like there is in the human world. Aside from the doggen, there are also ordinary vampires who aren't part of the Brotherhood or the aristocracy. They're just every-day laborers like most people are. Craeg is the first of these commoners at whom we get an up close look. He's the son of a floor-layer, but he lost his entire family, father, mother, and sister, in the raids. Since then he's basically turned into a penniless loner, barely surviving, until the Brotherhood reopened their training center. He couldn't even afford Internet service, so he went the audience house to get an application and that's how he and Paradise ended up meeting for the first time. Craeg is strong and determined to be the best recruit in the program to the point that it almost seems like he's trying to prove something. At first, I thought he was doing it because he had few other options and it was his best shot at a decent life, which is probably true, but then we discover later that he's doing it to ahvenge his family, which made a lot of sense.
I love an intelligent hero, and I have to give Craeg a lot of credit for being smart. First of all, he could have gone off half-cocked and bent on revenge after things started to settle down from the raids, but instead he did the right thing by getting training first. Secondly, I thought he was incredibly intelligent and observant to figure out what the Brothers were doing during the initiation and how to get around all of the obstacles they put in the trainees' way. The way Craeg was analyzing everything so quickly reminded me of Jason Bourne, who I have a major crush on.:-) The thing I really loved, though, is how he keeps looking out for Paradise, even though he keeps trying to tell himself he's not, yet at the same time, he respects her as an equal in the training program. I absolutely adore a hero who can be protective, but also fully respect a woman's abilities. Craeg doesn't really want or need the distraction of a female to take his focus away from the single-mindedness of his training and his mission, but I love how Paradise keeps getting under his skin anyway. It's so cute how Craeg adamantly tells Peyton there's nothing going on between him and Paradise, while Peyton is saying, uh-huh, bonding scent, fangs, sure dude, you keep telling yourself that. It cracked me up, because this type of behavior is so like one of the Brothers.
Paradise and Craeg's relationship is equal parts sweet and sexy. Paradise doesn't tell any of the trainees who don't already know that she's a member of the glymera, because she doesn't want to be treated any differently. This leads to some trouble in paradise when Craeg learns the truth. Despite not knowing Paradise's origins for most of the story, Craeg can sense that she's a female of worth and doesn't think he's good enough for her, yet he can't seem to stay away either. He fights his feelings for her for quite a while and exercises some admirable self-control when it comes to not fully taking her virginity. She practically has to seduce him into it after carefully considering the consequences to her own status. In the meantime, they share some extremely sexy moments anyway, creatively skirting around the issue.
Our focus Brotherhood couple in this book is Butch and Marissa, whom we've seen on occasion, but not too much of them together since their own book. I liked getting a peek at Marissa's work at Safe Place. She and Butch have a rocky path to navigate, as they feel somewhat distant from one another. When a beaten and bloodied female shows up at Safe Place and later dies, Marissa is reluctant to tell Butch about it because of what happened to his sister. For Butch's part, he's placed Marissa up on a pedestal for far too long and keeps certain things from her, not wanting to sully her with the darker, seedier side of his life, which frustrates her. They also have to face the revelation that he had sex with Xhex before they were mated. I loved seeing them work through these issues and come closer together in the end, as they investigate the female's murder as a team. Butch was very much in his element as a former homicide detective, and I can't help feeling that this may lead to some additional changes in the vampire societal structure. This couple also got some pretty steamy scenes of their own.
Overall, Blood Kiss was a great start to this new series and an awesome addition to the BDB series. I personally wouldn't recommend reading the Black Dagger Legacy without reading the BDB first, because you won't have a good understanding of the core Brotherhood characters otherwise. Also Paradise, Craeg, and Peyton were first introduced in the most recent BDB book, The Shadows, where you'll get a greater understanding of who she is and where she comes from. It kind of remains to be seen whether the BDB can be read independently of the BDL. I have a feeling that at least to some degree, the characters and story lines are going to intertwine. As for future stories in the BDL, there are several new trainee characters to choose from, all of whom are compelling in their own way. I haven't seen any news on who the next main couple will be, but if I had to lay odds, I'd guess it's going to be Peyton and Novo. I'm equally interested, though, in seeing more of Axe and Boone too. I'm also eager to follow the recruits through their training, and especially excited to get more of the core Brotherhood couples' continuing stories.
I'll finish off this review by mentioning my favorite scene from Blood Kiss, which is the Brothers' reaction to finding out that the ladies are watching Magic Mike XXL. I don't want to ruin anything by giving any more details, so let's just say that it's classic Brotherhood behavior that had me in stitches and grinning from ear to ear. If you want to know more, you'll have to read the book yourself, and if you're a fan of the Brotherhood, I think you'll love it.:-D
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