Feb 6 2013 9:30am

J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood: Our Generation’s Thorn Birds?

Dark Lover by J.R. WardWhen did J. R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series become a family saga?

Hear me out: When it began, way back when Dark Lover introduced us to Wrath (no inappropriately-placed “h”), it was a paranormal romance—a vampire, the leader of the vampires, in fact, was charged with protecting the half-breed daughter of his friend, who is killed in battle. Mating scents occur, as does hot sex, and Wrath and Beth end up as a couple at the end of the book.


Happily Ever After, right?

Not so fast; several books in, and Wrath is keeping secrets from Beth, secrets that affect his ability to lead his people properly. Other couples from the vampire family have since bonded and mated, and all of them live and eat together in a gigantic hidden mansion with devoted servants.

If one of them misses First Meal, it’s remarked upon. Rather like a wealthy family whose patriarch insists his entire family sup upon his table.

And...they all live together! Grown-ups! Living all together in an enormous house where they can hear each other having sex! In an older style of family saga, the family members would have heard each other fighting more than fooling around, but it’s the same principle.

Lover Unleashed by J.R. WardThe books have evolved from being paranormal romances to paranormal family sagas; family sagas focus on the evolution of the family, rather than focusing primarily on one couple. Yes, the primary couple is still important, but that’s only about 60% of the entire book, at least in recent BDB books. The favorite part, for me, of Lover Unleashed was not Manny and Payne’s story, but the continuation of Vishous and Jane (and Butch!). In Lover Reborn, Tohrment and No’One’s story is more interesting, but it feels as though their romance is just another aspect of the book, not its primary focus.

Each book layers on more and more family members, with the HEAs we thought were guaranteed in previous books having issues in current books. In Lover Reborn, John Matthew and Xhex are having serious relationship issues, culiminating with Xhex returning to her kick-ass bouncer ways and moving back to her own place. Then there’s Qhuinn, who sleeps with Layla—and impregnates her!—because she is in her “needing,” some sort of fierce vampire heat, even though they both acknowledge they are not in love with each other, they are just good friends. They’ll soon be adding another generation with the birth of their baby, adding a layer of bonded family to riff off of.

(Sidenote: Will Ward pull a Romeo and Juliet/Forsythe Saga scenario and have Layla end up with Xcor? It sure seems as though she is hinting at that. That would prove the thesis as well).

Lover At Last by J.R. WardThe Black Dagger Brotherhood, like any great family, has enemies. Before, the BDB’s primary enemies were the Lessers, the soulless vampire-hunters turned by the Omega. The Glymera, the vampires’ version of the aristocracy, embodies all of the traits held by their non-paranormal brethren: They’re tied to the old ways, they don’t work, they abhor bad breeding (see: Qhuinn), they look down on anyone who is not them. In this iteration, the Glymera works to undermine its leader, Wrath, since in their opinion he does not put their interests above all others. In traditional family sagas, the role of the Glymera is played by the aristocracy who hold sway over Society and its accepted practices. Or the wealthy landowners who want to keep things they way they are. Or the older generation who is appalled at what the younger generation wants to do.

With the release of Lover at Last coming next March, we can speculate as to whether Ward will continue on her dynastic family saga path or return to the relative sparsity of Dark Lover. Which would you prefer?

The Thorn Birds, the Godfather—and now the Black Dagger Brotherhood? What do you think?


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

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Rose In RoseBear
1. Rose In RoseBear
OMG! You have just identified the active addictive ingredient that makes the BDB crahck! It's a paranormal family saga!

I started the series with Lover Avenged, and read Dark Lover much later. To tell you the truth, I didn't care that much for Dark Lover, and still don't. I hope Ward continues to layer on the family drama --- I suspect that Xcor and his band are going to add many new facets to the folks living in the mansion!
Rose In RoseBear
2. Readers Confession
I adore BDB, it is crack. I love the family saga part of it. It's more REAL that these HEA still have problems down the road. Who doesn't have issues?

Is it weird that they ALL live in the same house? Of course! Is it weird that we're reading and fantasizing about sex vampire males? Yes again!

So it just depends I guess in what you're looking for. IMO Dark Lover is and has ALWAYS been my least favorite book of the series BY FAR, although I did start it all. So....I guess I'd rather the saga then the HEA and never see the couple again.
Rose In RoseBear
3. EmilyF
It's funny how passionate people are for this series - for one reason or another. Case in point, I almost feel the opposite, Rose! I liked Dark Lover, but for me, the absolute height of the series was Lover Eternal through Lover Avenged (with the slight misstep of Phury's book). To this day, Lover Awakened remains one of my top favorite books ever. I will read this series to the end, but the last several have just been "I'll get to them when I get to them." Which is crazy becuase I literally could not put the earlier books down to even sleep or shower! :-)

I think it's the lack of focus in the more recent books that has thrown me off. I didn't really feel like Tohr's relationship with No'One was well developed, there was too much going on that distracted from that. In fact, I almost (dare I say it) disliked Tohr's book altogether, but I'll save that diatribe for another time. Same with Payne's...although I liked the bits in that one about V....

I'm actually happy about Lover at Last being release, not necessarily because I'm uber-obsessed with Blay and Qhinn, but becuase I hope it will relegate that storyline into the background for future books and allow the focus to be more on the main characters and their conflict.
Rose In RoseBear
4. JeniferS
I completely agree, the BDB serie is like crack. I've reread most books of the series more than a few times. Well, except for Phury's. I love the family saga. I enjoy reading about all the brothers and their mates and what's happening with them. Sometimes, I do feel like there are almost too many characters and more characters keep being added. I think I'd much rather read a shorter story involving the original brothers and some conflict than about new characters I don't really care about. I also think I'm in the very small minoity who doesn't care that much for John Matthew , lol. I would much rather have read about him as Darius instead. I'm hoping that in Lover at Last, we'll get a side story about one of the brothers, much like Vishous and Jane in Lover Unleashed. If there is, please, don't let it be more about John Matthew! Manny would be a good subject :)
5. carmenlire
The BDB series is definitely crack! I started the series because I heard so much about it. Dark Lover is my least favorite book, next to Phury's. I agree that Lover Eternal through Lover Avenged is the best, focusing much more on the romantic thread, then the overall plot.

I love the books, and like that the story keeps moving, adnt that it really is like a family saga. I especially like hearing about past couples in the new books.

I'm incredibly excited for Lover at Last, Blay and Qhuinn's story because I've been there since the beginning.

My favorite books, however, are Rhage's and Zhadist's stories; John Mathew's was a bit of a dissapointment, truth be told, and I agree that Tohr's relationship did not seem to be as developed as the previous books.
Rose In RoseBear
6. Charlayne
I think it's the family-saga aspect, with the interwoven stories that has me too. Every book gives the chance to advance ALL the storylines, instead of hitting one character and that being it. We get to see progressions of each character in all the books, which makes it more fun.

The societal realm of the Vampires, with the Brotherhood, now the Band of Bastards, and the Glymera, plus the "regular vampires" is a rich world that we're just really scratching the surface of. There are so many other "stories" out there, families like Elhena's who are the regular vampires or, in her case, fallen Glymera. What are they doing while the main characters are going through things? Do they have schools (going at night?) and how does the human population mesh with them (outside of the Lessers). Ward has such a rich world that there are thousands of stories out there.

I'm still wondering about Qhuinn's brother, in the hands of the Lessers, what the Sympath's are up to (and how they really fit into the world), and what about Murhder? Will we see more of him? And Ahssail.

There are also the Chosen to write on...what are they going to do now that the Primale isn't carrying on the historical job? Do we get HEAs of others with them?

Oh, the possibilities.
Rose In RoseBear
7. Kyteach
I very much enjoy the Brotherhood series. Ward is a wonderful story teller. Each novel is a creation of itself, but fit in to each other like a puzzle. Each brother is deeply flawed and at times seems lost, but like any good romance all the hero needs is a good woman. All the female leads are strong spirited souls who contribute greatly to each story line. Can't wait for the next one.
Jordan R
8. jrojrojro
OMG you are so right!! I never thought of it that way, but the parallels just won't quit! I will admitt that I like the first few novels the best, but I think that's because I like those characters the best - so I keep reading just to get the little peaks back into those relationship and kind of skim the new stuff. Whatever it is, it's definitely emotional crahck! (On a side note, what is up with all the H's??? SERIOUSLY??)
Rose In RoseBear
9. Lizzie R
How very topical. I started Lover Reborn last night and reread Dark Lover, Lover Eternal and Lover Awakened last week. On a reread I enjoyed Lover Eternal the best so far. Rhage is so funny and then he really courts Mary and she's just so strong and fearless. Lover Awakened depressed me to be honest. Zsadist is so tortured, Bella so clingy, then when these 2 sort themselves out we're left with a depressed Phury and then Wellsie dies - it was really sad. I think it was also the only book with an epilogue and I could totally see why - at least it showed some happiness.

This series is total crack but I'm going to try to quit it after Lover at Last, the inclusion of this band of bastards infuriated me becos I don't want to carry on endlessly. On the other hand characters like Lassiter and DelVecchio left me curious.
Rose In RoseBear
10. clarketta
You can read about DelVecchio and his HEA in the Fallen Angels Series. His is the 3rd book. Warden's fallen Angel series is really good too, but I love me some BDB. I've loved all the books (including Phury's) and I like the fact that we continue to see the whole family and the inclusion of others like Xcor and his band. It's a world, it's Warden's world and as long as she is continuing to write, I will continue to go along for the ride.
Jennifer Proffitt
11. JenniferProffitt
I never would have thought J.R. Ward as Paranormal Family Saga, but Rose has it (as do you Megan). I think that's what makes this books fundamentally crack because we can still relate to it on a human level even though we're dealing with superhuman beings.
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