Feb 1 2012 10:35am

Felled by Poultry: Christopher Morgan Meets the Black Dagger Brotherhood in Dark Lover

J.R. Ward’s Dark LoverThere’s this show that is a total guilty pleasure. I love Spartacus—yes,  the original too, but for the sake of this article I’m referring to the Starz Network TV Show. If you haven’t see it, it’s a bunch of very buff guys stabbing each other and then going to an orgy or two, and nobody does orgies like the Romans did orgies, let me tell you.

You see, I have a big weakness for the action movies of the 1980s and 1990s. Showing Commando at midnight? I’m there. Want to watch all the Conan movies, (two with Arnold and one with Khal Drogo)? Sign me up. Hell, I’ve been known to chain watch anything starring Kevin Sorbo, including Krull. So when I started reading J.R. Ward’s Dark Lover I got that same old action movie/Spartacus feel, and I’ve got to say I liked it. Am I ready to call myself a BDB fan-girl fan-boy? Let’s just say, I’m not ready to call it my new crahck, but it was a hell of a lot of fun.

Before I go on, I want to get something out of the way. Wrath. Lord of the Vampires. Unmatched warrior, merciless killer, and leader of the feared and respected Black Dagger Brotherhood was defeated within the first 100 pages by a roast chicken and a fork.

This guy can dodge bullets, hit a man walking behind him in the throat with a ninja star, and also cut a bra off a woman (while both she and he are very aroused, mind you) with his razor sharp teeth without even nicking her, he could probably even do all three at once, but he can’t eat a chicken.

I know, I know: “But Chris, it’s showing how, despite his strength, he is weak and insecure." I call BS. I started thinking that way, too. That it was like that scene in Beauty and the Beast where Beast tries to use a spoon so Belle wouldn’t feel awkward.

But then they used the phrase “fine-motor skills weren’t his strong point,” and I lost it.  This blind-man carries a gun and multiple weapons designed around precision throwing, uses all of them quite admirably, but then can’t eat a freaking roast chicken with some rice. I don’t buy it.

OK, I’m done now. Seriously, though? Kind of liked Wrath. Not as much as I liked Rupert Carsington, but he is definitely a second in terms of favorite Romance heroes so far. His talk about being a warrior and honorable got a little tiresome. I mean, you don’t see Ned Stark running around talking about how great it is to be a true warrior.  I wouldn’t have mind seeing Wrath live it a little more instead of always thinking or saying it. It’s like the guy has a one-track mind. But by and large I liked him.

Which brings us to the love interest. Beth. Where Wrath was one of my favorites, Beth is by far my least favorite. She gives up all her agency in the drop of a hat just to be with the guy. All the other ladies I’ve read so far have put up a fight in terms of reconciling feelings of lust and love and the consequences there of. But Beth seemed to take the Bella Swan approach to guys and fell head over heels pretty damn quick. I tend to like my ladies stronger and more independent; Beth just didn’t give me that vibe.

And then there where the people I felt were treated unfairly. They were two relatively minor characters that I did like and felt that they got shafted pretty hard.

The first was Marissa. OK, she is just like Beth in that she is completely lost without a man to take care of her, but Wrath treats her like a whore, and that just ain’t cool. The girl obviously cares for him and he never even tries to explain anything to her. He just says, “peace, found me a brunette,” but only after using her only for blood. Dick move, Wrath. Dick. Move.

I mean, I can fully sympathize with Havers at this point. Had my wife just died and I found out the guy that my sister has been obsessed with, who also didn’t have the testicular fortitude to break things off even though he wasn’t interested, just tossed said sister to the side, I’d be pretty pissed—like,  homicidal kind of pissed.

Then there is Butch. This guy is living his life to make things right. In a way, he sees more darkness than any of the Brotherhood ever could dream of, and okay, he’s damaged. But as a wise man once said, you can’t stare into the abyss without it staring back, and then there was something about fighting monsters and becoming one…but I digress. Beth totally blows him off and feels good about it! He risks his life to save her, and instead of helping him out when he is lying on the ground, barely breathing because Wrath didn’t like that Butch was doing his job as a cop, she runs off with the 6’6’’ barbarian. I mean, come on! And then, after she left him to die in an alley, he still helps her, even though she is knowingly aiding and abetting a “person of interest” in a murder case AND he has lost his job defending her honor.

Noooo, can’t have Butch, he’s suicidal, I’m going to go with this guy that kills people for a living and has verbally warned me that I will be/am a target of his enemies if/when they find out he cares for me. He’s a good guy, but not a vampire… Sorry, bit of a soft spot for those plain old humans in UF/PNR. We always get the short end of the stick versus all these things that go bump and such and need someone to look out for us.

Other than those not-that-important things, I really enjoyed the book. It was over-the-top, riduculous fun that made for a quick, fun read. The action was well paced and I’d probably rec this to my buddies that read UF or Robert Howard, because Wrath? Yeah, he’s right up there with Conan and Soloman Kane in my book. Hell, he’s Conan, John Carter, and Soloman Kane all wrapped up and thrown back at the reader.

Thanks to Coleen K for the rec. Thoughts on what’s next? For the sake of fairness I should prolly stick to the cycle, so I’m thinking historical or contemporary.


Christopher Morgan works for and He lives in New York City, and finally understands the BDB fantasy castings!

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1. ChelseaMueller
So, Chris, a two important questions:

1. How recently have you watched Beauty and the Beast?

2. Will you read any of the other BDB books? Sure, you're not a fan boy (yet), but the heroines get better and the heroes are more often felled by internal turmoil than chicken.
Christopher Morgan
2. cmorgan
@Chelsea I MAY have seen it in 3-D. I mean no one drinks like Gaston afterall.

I wouldn't mind. Megan told me that Butch has a book, which I'm curious about. Also really liked Thorment, but I hear that his story isn't a happy one. Didn't much care for how emo Zsadist was, he was a tad annoying. Haven't decided about the other two.
Victoria Janssen
3. VictoriaJanssen
How about a Laura Kinsale? She has some humor in her historicals. Also heavy angst, but you made it through a BDB novel...
4. LisaH
...huh...well you certainly did point out things I never noticed before. Dang she really is like Bella Swan. :( but that still doesn't mean that i will give up the reading the series. :]
Natasha Carty
5. WickedLilPixie
Major props Chris! For contemps I'm thinking you need something funny, try The Bro Magnet!
Christopher Morgan
6. cmorgan

I really enjoyed this book. I enjoyed the relationship between the Brothers and how they all got along. Like I said about, it reminded me a lot of the interaction of the gladiators in Sparticus. Just didn't care for the heroine, but she didn't seem to take up much page time, so it wasn't a turn off.

Overall it was a ton of fun.
Carmen Pinzon
7. bungluna
Time for a contemporary. How about "Agnes and the Hitman" by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer? It's funny and the body count is high.
8. Rebe
I agree with Nat and bungluna's recs for contemporaries - The Bro-Magnet or Agnes and the Hitman are hilarious.
Candice Burnett
9. SleepyVamp
BDB is Sparta all over - in fact there is a whole bit in Dark Lover when Wrath gets all goo goo for Beth for finding some Tums for Rhage after he goes cursey and cannibalizes some baddies. Love me, love my brothers - standard warrior code. Beth is a wuss, she should have been all With Your Shield Or Upon It if she wants to fit in with the BDB, but maybe Wrath needs a sub to feel manly.
Christopher Morgan
10. cmorgan

Can I just say that I love that you said that? Had Beth just said something remotely close to "With your shield or on it" She would have won me over for life, and I would have no problem calling myself a fan-boy at that point.
Pamela Webb-Elliott
11. Spaz
BRAVO!!! I thoroughly enjoyed this post, and commend you for reading it and reporting back. More posts like this, please Chris!
12. Marq
Haha! Love your take on Marissa and Havers. It's nice to get a new, fresh perspective on Dark Lover. This is my favorite book of the series and your are totally right about Beth. I never noticed how badly she treated Butch. I hope you read the rest of the books in the series and post your thoughts.
Synde Korman
13. SyndeKorman
Chris or rather CHRISZ (since you already have an H in your name we'll add a Z for your BDB name) I loved this post, you made some super valid points. I love the books partially beacause they are ridiculous..
Your point of view was quite refreshing. I suggest you read Vishous' book Lover Unbound. I think it's a better read, but it's still you know Ridic..
hugs..Synde (SINH)
14. Lege Artis
I'm a John Mathew girl, but Rupert Carsington is a whole new category... Wrath can't compare with Rupert. Period.
I'm with bungluna- Agnes and the Hitman is hilarious!
15. tootsieandem
Beth didn't just give up her life for Wrath, she became a vampire herself. Little tough to carry on a human life while endangering her own life and everyone elses. Don't knock her unless you plan on continuing to read more about her in the series!
Christopher Morgan
16. cmorgan
@ tootsie While I don't know for sure whether or not I'll continue the series at the moment, I do plan on returning next time I'm looking for a fun read. I understand that Beth needed the vampires or she would have not survived the transition. She just wasn't what I look for in a heroine.

She seemed to fall really hard really fast for Wrath. Where in Butch she was relived that there wasn't a spark between them because of the darkness within him, she saw no qualms whatsoever with falling for a warrior that is very honest about his way of life, which includes shotgun wounds in the middle of the night and kidnappings mind you.

I like it when the heroine waffles a bit and weighs the pros and cons of a relationship. I think it adds another layer of tension. Yes you know things will work out, but it's fun to watch them go back and forth. I'm very curious to see Thorment's book, really liked him, and though he was my least favorite brother, I wouldn't mind seeing how they handle Zsadist's transition from psycho to lover.
Toni Horton
17. Tonidh69
Chris that was sooo interesting to get a different point of view! Loved it! You definately pointed out some little points that we sometimes overlook. I'm like that with tv, "that would never happen!" or "that does not make sense"! I AM a big BDB fan...some books more than others. Love Rhage, Z, and of course V. Really love them all...except maybe Rehv...and Fury. But the world is pretty cool and different. Definately UF! Keep up the journey!
Christopher Morgan
18. cmorgan
@ Tonidh69 I totally agree. The world is very cool and different. I keep seeing things about this legendary Bromance between Vishous and Butch which I got to say I'm intrigued by. But loveed how much JR Ward spends developing the relationship between the Brothers.

I know I had a little fun at the characters expense, but don't let that make you think that I didn't throughly enjoy the whole experience. It was a ton of fun reading it and I devoured the thing in a weekend, which is always a good sign.
Toni Horton
19. Tonidh69
If you are looking for something funny, check out Shelly Laurenston Magnus Pack and Pride Series. Shifter series that is laugh out loud hilarious and very clever...after you read BDB of course!
Marian DeVol
20. ladyengineer
Chris, I have been considering trying the BDB series. As a fellow action flick/TV series addict, I am completely sold by your review of Dark Lover. It has been added to the TBR pile.

If you would consider an older historical, you might try Georgette Heyer's These Old Shades. There is action, humorous dialogue, a feisty strong-willed heroine, a dastardly villain, and an almost Machiavellian, omniscient hero.

Although Heyer, writing in the early to mid 20th cent. (1921-1974), does not include graphic sex scenes as is the more modern practice, there is a reason her work has continued to stay in print all these years. Next to Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer's work is the Gold Standard by which all other historical romance is judged.
Cristina P
21. krissapl
It's always a pleasure getting your point of view. I remember nothing about chicken in Wrath's book. I might have to go back and see what you are talking about. I also thought Marissa was treated badly by Wrath. However, unlike Beth, Marissa grows up very sheltered, so I can understand why she is such a soft presence. I liked her.

Anyway, in regards to recs, I stand by those I gave in the comments of the Demon Moon article. I just wanted to mention that Suzanne Brockmann, in her Navy Seals books, also creates strong connections between the members of the Seal teams. Those guys care a lot about each other.
I also thought, since you read a funny contemporary (close to chick-lit), you could now go a different way and choose a suspense romance book. Or, if you want to stick with plain contemporary, you could try Susan Elizabeth Phillips (it's hard for me to choose one book of hers, I like so many of them for different reasons).
In historicals, I still love Julia Quinn, Lisa Kleypas etc.

Looking forward to your next article!
22. Melissa F
Chris....Loved your review and although I have to agree about Beth, Butch, and Marissa; I must completely disagree about the chicken. Yes, the chicken… roast chickens are inanimate, they don’t move or breath or create anything else to mark their location in space. Yes, I know what you are thinking and I am completely serious. I have a friend who is legally blind and she can tell me when her cat is feeling sick on another floor of her house because she can hear his rough breathing,but manages to trip over every matchbox car her son leaves laying around. I swear the lady has almost dolphin-like sonar echolocation for anything that moves, breathes, or produces even the tiniest bit of sound, but inanimate objects that she didn’t personally place there, big old blank spot in a void for her. So for me the chicken made sense, but I must admit that I didn’t see that as his show of humanlike weakness or fallibility, for me that came from the judgment errors that you rightfully labeled as his Dick move.

I have read all of the books in this series and they actually get better from here. I could tell you had some characters that interested you more than others, but let me warn you if you do decide to read further… read them in order. Plot arcs and character development are cumulative throughout and since the stories build on each other you can’t skip around to certain character's books no matter how much you might want to, however that does mean that each book gets better as the ongoing storyline gets richer.
Christopher Morgan
23. cmorgan
@Melissa Well madame, I stand corrected and apologize. I've never known anyone visually impaired myself, always just thought the hightened senses was a bit of an urban legend. Though to be honest, it's not the first time I've placed foot firmly in mouth, nor will it probably be the last.

When I do continue, please take comfort in that I will follow the series, I can not abide reading something out of order. No matter how much I dislike a POV character in a series, which happend in one of my personal favorite series, I soldier through, because otherwise it just isn't fair to the author.
24. QuirkyReader
After you finish reading the BDB series (hint, hint), try the first four books in Julia Quinn's Bridgerton series. The first book is "The Duke and I," (featuring the funniest wedding night scene in the Regency genre) and is followed by "The Viscount Who Loved Me," "An Offer From a Gentleman," and "Romancing Mr. Bridgerton."
Tori Benson
Wonderful post Chris. Dark Lover was not my fav book in the series for pretty much the reasons you listed. I thought Beth was a whiner and Wraith an arse. In fact, I think he's still an arse. I wish Darius had stayed alive. *sigh*

Have you read Susan Elizabeth Phillips? OMG her characters are so freaking outradgious you can't help but laugh.
26. Kate L.
Love your post! And yes... you have to read Vishous... if you've enjoyed Wrath you will love Vishous... and let us know your oppinion! Pleeeeease!
27. Melissa F
@ Chris....No problem, I just had to laugh to myself when I read that part because of previous discussions I've had with my friend. Just so we're clear though, although she definitely cues into things that the rest of us ignore as background noise, I'm not talking Daredevil like abilities here and I wouldn't want her chucking any knives or attempting to shoot an apple off my head. So you are right in the sense that if he can manage that level of awareness, maybe the chicken shouldn’t have been such a chore for him. That is the part of the heightened senses storyline that has always bothered me, yes sure they can hear people moving around and know where they are, but in the heat of battle when all the players on both sides are moving around in close proximity to each other, how on earth do they toss their knife/star/etc. in Mr. A, B, or C's direction instead of Brother V or Z's direction. I guess some things are just better enjoyed if you suspend disbelief for a while.
Christopher Morgan
28. cmorgan
@ Melissa, I fully agree, sometimes it's just better to sit back and enjoy the ride. Though I am kind of sad your friend isn't Daredevil...that would be pretty awesome, ain't going to lie.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
29. tnh
Chelsea Mueller, why do you ask about Beauty and the Beast?
30. Gigi-83
hey there, I have to say Dark Lover was not my favorite book. I liked Lover Eternal, but had a hard time with how Mary made back to Rhage. Really,that was how it had to be? I really loved Zhadist and Butch, the whole Darius/John Mathew keeps you reading,too. A lot of things don't get answered, there's this type of Vampire, but their are Doggens, Civilians selectively bred to become Soldier and Warriors(brothers), then there are Sympaths( uh? just where did these folk come from?) I really would like a better explanation of these species/races. Payne's book and lover and butch just one bigh happy family... meh, Now Fallen Angels and Tohrment Book to look forward to.
31. Asfandancer
Thoroughly enjoyed your post. I am such a rabid fan of vampire lore in most any form: except the teen angst nonsense of the Twilight series. I heard about the BDB from a SVM blog and have been forever grateful. The books are such a hoot. I just take the improbable things for what they are since the very idea of vampires is total fantasy. Not a super fan of Wrath, but oh my Rhage and Vishous and their books are the best.

@25 Torifl in a sense Darius did survive, but as John Matthew too much teen angst.
32. steamkitty
Just thought to mention the marvelous Chelsea Quinn Yarbo's Comte Sainte Germaine character. Excellent historical accuracy and research, hang-on-by-your-toes adventure and action. Marvelous series.
33. ChelseaMueller
@tnh - Because Chris references a plot point from Beauty and the Beast in his article. Just a surprisingly reference from the Disney Princess universe for our lone male writer at H&H.
34. Teri Anne Stanley
Great review...I always kinda thought Beth gave Butch short shrift, too, and she's totally not my favorite of the BDB heroines...but I guess I'm not reading them for the heroines!

After I got over how cheesy the names were (Zsadist, really?), I love the series (and Zsadist is now one of my faves--he's just so darned damaged).

Also a huge Spartacus husband dragged me into the series and, in spite of the Mr. Winky removal episode, I love it.
Christopher Morgan
35. cmorgan
@ Chelsea

*ahem* for the record, and proudly being a guy who spent his formative years in the 90s, I watched any and all disney films, and to this day Jasmie remains the best princess and MY Robin Hood and Marion will always be foxes. I mean who doesn't want a girl that has her own tiger and a Little John that is a Bear?

@ Teri - Yeah that was a painful episode to sit through. I'm behind on the newer episodes, looking forward to seeing how the new sparticus is.

I am a sucker for well-researched history, I'll check her out. Of the contemporaries mentioned I'm leaning towards The Bro-Magnet ay other suggestions out there?
Joani Sheaffer
37. Jkrowyn
I just have to say that the comment nobody drinks like gaston had me snorting my tea on my laptop!! Too funny!! I actually watched that a few weeks ago for nostalgia's sake, my son is now 23, but it was exactly how I remembered!
38. ChelseaMueller
PS. I wasn't hating on you referencing. I love that you admit your Disney Princess love. My husband he knows it all, too, but isn't much for holding a Belle/Ariel/Jasmine conversation. :)
Faye Lim
39. Faye101
If you're into the whole brotherhood thing, I recommend Tara Janzen and her Steele Street boys (like I did when you finished Welcome to Temptation). Great love-on-the-run, road trip in a hot muscle car with a hot muscley guy adventures.
Christopher Morgan
40. cmorgan
I'll look into it, thanks Faye! Not sure where I want to go yet on my next one. Kinda in the mood for a laugh/dramatic comedy. Like Welcome to Temptation or Mr. Impossible.
Cheryl King
42. leeking
loved your review and made me laugh out loud! and btw-I'm a huge Spartacus fan too, and ironically my husband hates it and won't watch it with me. hmm, maybe not so ironic... anyway, now that you've read the first BDB book, you really must read them all! The first book in a series is always the most tedious; setting up the whole world, letting us know who's a dick, who's emo annoying, who the psychos are, etc., etc. After that first book, things really get rocking and rolling and just better and better. And I def want to hear your thoughts on the Butch/V Bromance, True?
Christopher Morgan
43. cmorgan
I keep hearing about this bromance. It has to be epic! I may have to skip to V and Butch's books just to see it more in action. Well that and See Marissa again, have a soft spot for her.
44. tinpants
First, props for daring to read just about any genre with regards to romance. I don't know a single guy who'd be caught dead reading a book with a half-naked man on the cover on the subway.

Anyway, I have a list of recommendations for you- stuff that isn't too fluffy or gushy with a decent male and female protagonist. But I'm sure people have been throwing recs at you left and right so I'll keep the list short:

Historical Romance:

(1) Silk is For Seduction by Loretta Chase

Yes, another Chase book, but this in my opinion, is one of the best books she's written. Cheesy title aside, both hero and heroine are well-rounded three-dimensional characters with enough spark between them to get a small fire going. And... they're dead funny, which is just about the best part. The story don't suck, for one, and the plot is definitely fresh and stands out from the plethora of kidnapping/arranged marriages/marriage of conveniences in the current historical romance market.

(2) Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Which is the authentic historical romance to begin all romances, isn't it? Enough females will parrot the beauty of this book to you, so I shan't overwhelm you with the details.

Anyway, good luck!
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