Mar 4 2012 4:00pm

The Great BDB Reread: J.R. Ward’s Lover Enshrined

Lover Enshrined by J.R. WardFor many Black Dagger Brotherhood readers, J.R. Ward’s Lover Enshrined made them turn off the series for good. Why? It’s easy to see: Phury and Cormia’s romance is totally subsumed in the greater plot advancement, and honestly, the two of them together are just not that hot.

This is the book that puts the Black Dagger Brotherhood on the Urban Fantasy side of the equation rather than a traditional paranormal romance. If you were expecting hot’n’heavy Brother-crunching action like you had in previous books, you’re not gonna get it. Cormia spends almost as much time hanging out with John Matthew, for goodness’ sake!

 But—of course there is a “but”—let’s try to persuade Enshrined-haters why this book needed to play out as it did. It’s not for the romance but for the ongoing threads of plot that—eventually—get untangled, hopefully with a leelan and a shellan on the other side of that bit of tapestry.

First up are the two main protagonists of Enshrined: Phury and Cormia.

Phury, as someone mentioned on Twitter, is an addict. A full-blown, self-medicating addict. His pain is totally believable, his hatred at himself and his actions completely devastating. His journey to the bottom is really a no-holds-barred trip, and if you’ve ever known someone addicted to something, this really rings true.

Up to and including now, Phury has lived for others—trying to fill the void left when his twin Zsadist was taken, stepping up when it was Vishous’s turn to be the Primale, burying his parents knowing he was never enough. The voice inside his head hates him worse than he does (and is British, of all things), and Phury’s addiction and need to actually do something for himself besides get high on red smoke is a crucial part of his character growth.

Plus taking a vow of celibacy? Listening to Puccini? That gorgeous hair? 

His mate, Cormia, is equally messed up—she is overwhelmed by the Brotherhood’s world, what with all its color and TV and food, and she develops her own therapy by making tiny little architectural models using toothpicks and peas. That is just weird. She values Phury for his commitment to others, and falls in love with him almost before she knows it. She is strong enough to handle it when he is falling apart, and renouncing her, even if her response is to sequester herself as a scribe. Eventually, however, she does realize she, too, has to live for herself, and it turns out she is the only one who can get Phury through his detox.

Meanwhile, as Phury is getting wasted and Cormia is getting her OCD on with those peas, Qhuinn, Blaylock, and John Matthew are solidifying their bromance. This is the first time we really see just how deep in love with Qhuinn that Blay is, and we know how messed up Qhuinn believes he is. Qhuinn’s family is off-the-charts assholes, too, and again, Ward’s writing reveals the poignancy of bad family and self-doubt. Your heart hurts for all involved. 

Wrath is lying to his shellan about being out in the field, which opens up the possibility that not all HEAs are perfect, a trope that plays out much more in Lover Unleashed. That Ward takes her characters beyond the HEA and shows the potential for trouble is a brave piece of writing, again something that makes this series quite different from the usual PNRs. 

Tohr is back—broken, but back—and John Matthew is equal parts pining for Xhex and longing for the father he’d had in Tohr. But Tohr is too damaged to provide that now, and Xhex is—well, she is a hard ass. A loyal hard ass, but still not someone you want to fuck with. Unless you’re John Matthew. 

There’s movement and strength within the lesser community as well, and it’s kinda cool to see personality—albeit loathsome personality—with this group that’s just been all albino and baby powder heretofore. Plus apparently Mr. D can cook—bonus!

When Phury makes his decision about not following in line with what has been decided for him, it signifies a radical change in the world-building—the Scribe Virgin’s way is not immutable, although she is still the final say in the world, even beyond Wrath, who makes a lot of kingly gestures and statements here.

Holy. Shit.

He’d just blown apart the whole spiritual fabric of the race. As well as its biolgoical one.

Man, if he’d known where the night was going to lead, he’d have had a bowl of Wheaties before getting off that bedding platform.

Phury and Cormia’s HEA is as weird as their courtship was—they live together with some other women from the Other Side, but thankfully Phury only has to service Cormia, since he is no longer the Primale. He’s been kicked out of the Brotherhood, is going to NA, and is hoping for forgiveness, for the chance to—literally—hear Zsadist’s voice again.

When he does, it’s the epitome of the cheesiest reconciliation scene ever, complete with a full complement of Brothers, Zsadist singing, news of a baby, and lots of manly unspokenness:

The hooting and hollering and back slapping of the Brotherhood cut off the rest of what he was going to say. But Cormia got the gist, He’d never seen any female smile as beautifully and broadly as she did then while looking up at him.

So she must have known what he meant.

I love you forever didn’t always need to be spoken to be understood.

So as much as Lover Enshrined can be viewed as an Urban Fantasy, it can also be seen as a category romance, with the hero happy to give up his power, position, and standing in his family to be with the heroine.


Megan Frampton is the Community Manager, Romance, for the HeroesandHeartbreakers site. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband and son.

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1. Darlynne
Meanwhile, as Phury is getting wasted and Cormia is getting her OCD on with those peas ...
Love that.

Yeah, Enshrined didn't touch me as the others prior to it did, because it was primarily a vehicle for advancing the plot, filling in some blanks, getting Tohr back, etc. I didn't hate it (oh, no, that would be reserved for Unleashed), but for all that Phury was such a favorite of so many fans, his story so eagerly awaited, maybe nothing could have lived up to what people hoped it would be.
2. Rose In RoseBear
Oh, every time I reread the series, I have to force myself to read this book ... and, when I do reread it, it's just to read the non-Phury-and-Cormia parts.

I just can't stand Cormia. Every time she's in the scene, I am just repelled. I can't help but compare her to the other shellans who have been thrust willy-nilly into this vampire world, and Cormia comes up lacking at best, trifling at worst.

Beth, who thought she was a human before she turned into a vampire, was accepting tribute from the Brotherhood a few hours after her transition. Mary, a human, spent maybe eighteeen hours in Rhage's room before she was hanging with Fritz and co-hosting parties. During said party, Bella ran Z to ground in his own room the way a lioness runs down dinner on the veldt. Jane, kidnapped and fighting off Stockholm syndrome, could still gear herself up to fight her way out of V's room with a straight razor.

Cormia spends five months in a room, screwing around with toothpicks and peas. Oh, my stars and garters!

Before this book, I totally felt for Phury, and I wanted him to have a shellan that was a soft place to fall, a bulwark of love to fill some of his gaps. What he got was a trifling twit who sashayed around naked in front of three unmated vampires just to crank him up. His own underlying decency was the driving force behind his reformation of the Chosen system, and Cormia did not help, did not participate in any meaningful way ... just did her bobble-head thing on the sidelines while the big strong man took care of business with the Scribe Virgin.

Oddly enough, the problems Wrath and Beth were having helped redeem the book in my eyes. Same for the Power Trio --- JM, Qhuinn, and Blay. And the UF plot advancements were great. The book is very readable, if I skip anything to do with Cormia.

I hope there's something down the road that redeems Cormia ...
3. Rose In RoseBear
@Darlynne: And, see, I can reread Lover Unleashed over and over! Love-love-love the clashing emotions of medical crisis, and the scenes with Manny and Jane! Not to mention the whole Jane-Butch-V thing!

Hmmm ... Lover Enshrined is the next book I should read ... but I have a yen to read Unleashed again. Choices, choices, choices ...!

And, somehow, Unleashed is on my Kindle's screen ...!
Diane French
4. Diane DF
Sigh. Phury was/is my favorite. It just broke my heart that he never got a book. As far as I'm concerned, his book was a prequel to Rehvenge's. I know you can't tell an author what to write and create, but I wanted the good guy to get a romance. Yes, I get that JR and her fans LOVE the bad boys, but I have a soft spot for the heros that do the right thing, that sacrifice their own happiness. And I wanted Z and Phury's relationship and reconciliation to be a major chunk of the book. So I still read the series. But I totally agree that it is urban fantasy now not PNR. And that incredible high when I first read Dark Lover and realized that I had found something incredibly fresh and exciting? I try to read the series now without expectations and just follow where the story leads. Whatever happens in Tohr's book, happens.
5. Lege Artis
I call Lover Enshrined BDB cringe-book. So... There was so many things that didn't work and everyone pointed them out already, so I"ll only express my "fury" with almost-defloration scenes in this book. Seriously, there were three or four times they almost did it. And it wasn't one of those slow-building-anticipation-so-when-it-finally-happens-it-will-rock-your-world things...No, it wasn't. Then I realised that Phury didn't get his name in old warrior tradition of bad-ass names with lots of H letters-he was named by emotion he induce in people. I'm not usually so harsh, but I was so disappointed because I liked Phury in previous instalments, and Ward made me dislike him with LE.
For me, the best thing in this book was chapter 35. It's scene where Rehvenge goes to perform his monthly duty with Symphath Princess. And not because of sex; I don't think of that scene as sexual at all. This chapter is dark, intense and for the first time it shows Rehv as deeper character. Because of this chapter I bought Lover Avenged, even though I didn't want to continue reading this series.
6. wsl0612
@Rose in RoseBear - how interesting it is the different way we all view things! I wasn't angry at Cormia for hanging out in her room for 5 months, I was pissed off at the rest of the gang for virtually ignoring her! I mean there was no indication that any of the shellans stopped by with a welcome smile or a hand of friendship, and Phury (who was supposedly a "nice" guy) never thought how hard it would be for her to be taken from the only home she'd ever known and then just be ignored. I suppose it is an indication of weakness on Cormia's part, but come on, she was a stranger in a strange land, it was up to her "hosts" to try and help her out a little. I didn't hate the book, mostly it was a "meh" rating. And @Lege Artis - yes I agree I was annoyed at the constant near deflowering scenes. I was really surprised when I read the Insider's Guide and JR mentioned that V's book was the hardest for her, V's book was so much better than Phury's.
7. romancegal22
I was so disappointed the Phury's book. He was my fav brother through out the series. Since reading Lover Enshined, I have loss the urge to continue reading the series, oh yes I have bought the books and read Rev's and John Matthew's stories - but to me the series in falling apart. I was told that Pain's story really sucks, so the book is just sitting on my book untouched and I have moved on to several different authors. I do hope that Tohr's book is amazing, I really liked his charater from the beginning.
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