In a 2-part discussion (part 2 will be up tomorrow), Kate Nagy and Rachel Hyland talk their differing levels of interest in J.R. Ward's forthcoming Black Dagger Brotherhood novel, Lover at Last, which will focus on the relationship between Qhuinn and Blaylock (Qhuay).
Let me begin by saying that I really like the idea of J.R. Ward’s lovestruck vampires Qhuinn and Blaylock finally, finally getting their joint act together in the forthcoming Lover At Last. I don’t have the least problem with the idea of two hot male vampires getting it on, and I don’t actively dislike either character. (Although Qhuinn was walking a mighty fine line there at one point.) And, as I’ve noted before in Mainstreaming M/Male Romance in the Black Dagger Brotherhood, the prominent depiction of what promises to be a committed gay relationship in a popular mainstream romance series is, culturally, huge. Good on J.R. Ward and good on her publisher for agreeing to it.
And yet…and yet. I am not excited about Qhuay. I can wait quite easily for Lover at Last to drop. In fact, I may have been known to refer to the two, upon occasion, as “Blah” and “Qwhine.”
OUCH! I can feel all those shoes you’re flinging in my direction, and I can hear your outraged voices: What in the world is my problem?
Well, it’s not an insurmountable problem, but in a nutshell: At the end of the day, I really don’t find Qhuinn or Blay particularly compelling as characters, and I don’t find their romance more than mildly interesting.
Yes, I said it. Oh yes I did. Why? Let us review:
Blaylock and Qhuinn met as trainees of the Black Dagger Brotherhood. Qhuinn, a member of the glymera whose mismatched eyes made him an outcast, was a bit of a man-slut, and indeed one with a truly impressive breadth of taste. Blaylock was a smoldering redhead who was the first among his tight circle (himself, Qhuinn, and John Matthew) to go through his transition and become a mature male vampire. Blay realized he was in love with Qhuinn, but Qhuinn feared the reaction of the glymera, whose approval he craved despite their mistreatment of him, and spurned poor Blay. Blay, reasonably enough, moved on with urbane lawyer and fan favorite Saxton.
Qhuinn promptly fought like hell for his man–-no, wait a minute. Actually, he went on a hunger strike. He pouted in his room. He glowered a lot. He pined like a Victorian virgin for his Love That Was Tragically Never To Be. Blay hinted that there was still a chance. Saxton—-Saxton! more or less told him and Blay both that he knew the score and that he was okay with Blay hooking up with Qhuinn. Did either man take him at his word? No. Blay “knew” that Qhuinn would never accept him. Qhuinn “knew” that Their Love Could Never Be.
So then, Qhuinn serviced–-there is no better word–-his good friend Layla when she went through her needing, and she became pregnant. His day of passion with Layla seemed to awaken something in Qhuinn, and we last saw him gazing at Blay in Saxton’s arms—and Blay gazing back—both aware that it was time to fish or cut bait. “That’s right, buddy. Our future has come,” mused Qhuinn somewhat smugly.
My problem? Simply put, apart from chronic emotional immaturity, I’m not seeing any real obstacles here.
One of the things I’ve really appreciated about the Black Dagger Brotherhood is that Ward throws some truly heavy stuff in the way of her pairings. Rhage fell in love with the human Mary right before she learned that she was terminally ill; his devotion earned him a beat-down from his own sworn Brothers, as “fraternization” with humans was very much against the rules. Jane had to actually die before she and Vishous could be together. Zsadist had a dark history of physical and sexual abuse. Rhevenge had a talent that made him anathema to most other vampires, AND he was screwing his own sister to boot. Heck, even the oft-reviled Phury was a drug addict.
Qhuinn? Has multicolored eyes, craves acceptance, and…is really, really young for his age.
Other potential obstacles on the path to Qhuay’s HEA:
Saxton? Unless we see a completely different Saxton than we’ve ever seen before, things will be awkward and Saxton will be hurt, possibly bitterly so, but he’s not going to be a match for Qhuinn in any realistic sense. He’s been watching this train come down the tracks at him for too long. Plus, there’s someone out there for Saxton, I just know it. He’s too awesome for there not to be.
A m/m relationship among vampires? The glymera may not like it, but Qhuinn’s already an outcast and anyway, the Brotherhood are the ones who really matter, and they seem pretty open-minded about the whole thing. Recall that Blay and Saxton have been openly carrying on a relationship for some time without repercussion, and that when Saxton first visited Wrath’s mansion ball all the way back in Lover Avenged, Wrath intuited that Saxton wanted Vishous and didn’t especially care. (Then there’s V and Butch–-another 1,000 words right there, true.) It’s just possible that the Scribe Virgin will suddenly take an interest in the two and be all, “Seriously, guys?” However, there are ways and ways around the Scribe Virgin. Ask Rhage. Or Vishous. Or Payne. I’m not too concerned about her, in other words.
Layla? Layla’s known the score from the get-go, and in any case Layla has bigger problems: She’s in love with Xcor, who has vowed to bring Wrath down and whose second-in-command, Throe, is in love with her. She’ll be a sympathetic ear for Qhuinn, but I don’t see her standing in his way with Blaylock–-even if Qhuinn chooses to be an active participant in his young’s upbringing, which he should in any event. But a gay vampire and his partner co-parenting with a beautiful young miss who happens to be in love with an outlaw? That’s not an obstacle. That’s a sitcom plot. And while I would totally watch “My Vampire Baby Has Two Gay Daddies,” I’m not convinced that this is enough to hang a full-length novel on.
It’s true that if anyone can pull this off, it’s Ward, and she may yet surprise me. Possibly Qhuinn and Blay will be secondary characters in their own novel, similar to Phury and Cormia in Lover Enshrined. Maybe the lessers will kidnap Blay–-like Xhex in Lover Mine—-and the entire book will be a rescue caper. Or maybe she’ll find another way to bring me back into the fold. I hope so. Otherwise, I will forever think what I can’t help but think now–-that the best thing about Lover at Last is that once it’s over, I won’t have to read about these guys any more.
Kate Nagy is Editor at Large of Geek Speak Magazine.