We could argue over which Black Dagger Brotherhood member is the most lusted after. We have argued over which of the series’ females are truly of worth (still hate you, Marissa). But each time I read J.R. Ward’s Lover Awakened—and, yes, I adore the book enough to have read it more than once or twice—I’m struck by the overwhelming rightness of Zsadist and Bella together.
Whether your most obsessive points with the series lie with other brothers or even the Scribe Virgin, I don’t think anyone can deny the power of Lover Awakened’s story.
Like all the brothers, we met Zsadist in Dark Lover. However, he was the only member of the Black Dagger Brotherhood that could scare the reader. The other members didn’t completely trust him. Rhage may turn into a beast, literally, but the rumors about Z had the other brothers on edge. Word was he took what he wanted from human females: blood, sex, and life.
So when Bella sets her sights on him in Lover Eternal, everyone wants to jump in and say, “Oh, you’re too good for him.” They suggest she needs someone gentler.
The thing here is, Bella sees Zsadist. She sees past the slave band tattoos on his wrists and neck. She doesn’t notice or care about the vicious scar dividing his face. She isn’t about to heed rumors. She knows there is more.
Zsadist was so sure Bella was just looking from some strange. She just wanted the guy who would piss off high society the most. He was sure of it. When she went missing, though, he had to find her. He cleaned her house, fed her fish and interrogated every Lesser he could find. Because, honestly, Bella was the first person to see him, and he wanted to save her, even if he didn’t believe he could redeem himself.
Bella was kidnapped by a Lesser. Instead of using her for information, he pretends she’s his wife. He emotionally and physically abuses her, leaving her in a pipe while he’s gone. She spends every day wishing Zsadist would come for her.
And he does.
The other Brothers don’t get it. Hell, Zsadist especially doesn’t understand, but Bella wants no one but him to be near her. She feels safest in his room, near him. She won’t take blood from anyone else, and when her needing comes she will accept none other than Zsadist. (J.R. Ward makes Zsadist’s first kiss romantic, despite the revelations surrounding it.)
The difference is everyone else wants Bella to forget, to pretend none of it happened. Zsadist knows better. His past as a blood and sex slave has twisted his interactions with everyone, the way he sees himself and his outlook on sex. In order to help her cope with the trauma, he opens up to her. Explains his hesitation with sex, tells her secrets no one else knows.
That’s the beauty of Zsadist and Bella’s story. These two push each other forward. He may have saved her from the Lesser and aided her in coping, but she brought him back to life. She gave him a reason to live, a reason to care about his health and encouraged him to see some worth within himself.
No one had done that before.
There’s often a special bond among those with shared traumatic experiences. There are certain things one can’t understand if they haven’t been through it. Bella and Zsadist’s shared survivorship brings them closer, allows them to become truly united and elevates their relationship from lust to love to soul-deep connection.
The journey in Lover Awakened is heartbreaking, harrowing and complete with chest-gripping love.
While Chelsea Mueller runs Vampire Book Club, she won’t turn down a sexy werewolf, demon or faerie. (Her husband often reminds her that she’s taken.)