Dear Ms. Ward,
As everyone who has read your books knows, Zsadist is the most feared member of the Black Dagger Brotherhood. A vicious fighter in the vampire Brotherhood’s battle against the evil lessers, Zsadist is also scarred, antisocial, and rumored to kill women. But in your previous book, Lover Eternal, Zsadist began to make a tentative connection with Bella, a beautiful vampire who desired him. Although Zsadist rejected her, he was devastated and furious when one of the lessers abducted Bella.
As Lover Awakened opens, it’s been six weeks since Bella’s abduction and she is still missing. The lesser who holds her captive, a Mr. O, thinks of her as his wife and is obsessed with her. But Mr. O makes a key mistake that allows the Brotherhood to find Bella, and Zsadist rescues her.
Bella wakes up in the Brotherhood’s mansion to the realization that Mr. O has carved his first name into her belly. She feels safe only when she sleeps in Zsadist’s room, but Zsadist has suffered even worse trauma when he was imprisoned for decades as a blood slave to another vampire and sexually abused by his mistress. Zsadist hates himself and most things sexual, so he keeps pushing Bella away. At first Bella believes that the thinks less of her because of her abduction, but she comes to realize just how low Zsadist’s self-esteem is relatively quickly. That still doesn’t make it easy to overcome Zsadist’s conviction that Bella would be better off with someone else.
Woven with the Zsadist and Bella’s storyline are flashbacks to Zasdist’s captivity and threads about other characters, including Phury, Zasdist’s brother, who is in love with Bella himself, Rhevenge, Bella’s brother, who wants to lock her up for the rest of her life to keep her safe, Mr. O, who wants to kill Zsadist for taking Bella from him, Butch and Marissa, whose love story began in Dark Lover and progresses a bit here, Vishous, who is experiencing new problems, and John Matthew, who was introduced in Lover Eternal and who now has a home with Tohr and Wellsie but struggles to fit in with other young vampires in his training class.
One of the things I love about your series is that the books are long enough for intertwining threads, but in this book, I began to feel that the number of storylines was perhaps too much of a good thing. The problem for me is that though at times I got involved in Zsadist and Bella’s storyline to some extent, and once in a while I even shed a tear, I never had a chance to get deeply absorbed because the sections devoted them would inevitably be relatively short, as the book quickly jumped to other characters’ stories.
Some of those stories I enjoyed very much and others not so much. I very much liked John Matthew’s story and Butch’s story, but I would have preferred less of Rhevenge and Mr. O. Mostly though, I would have liked a bit more focus on Zsadist’s relationship with Phury, and on Bella’s healing process from her own trauma. The conclusion I come to is that this book might have been better had it been longer, but that’s not to say that it’s without its strong suits.
You have a distinctive writing style whose very contemporary feel I like, and for me all three of the books in this series have been very readable. And though my favorite remains Dark Lover, I liked that Zsadist was such an atypical hero and I felt Bella was stronger than your other heroines.
I also like that you are not afraid of triangles like the one created by Phury’s feelings for Bella, and that (even if it may not have worked as well as it could have in this book) you are ambitious enough to interweave so many plot threads together at a time when many romance authors are making the hero and heroine the sole focus of their stories. I also like that beloved characters can get seriously hurt in your books and did in this one, because tragedies do happen in real life and have their place even in romances. And I loved the climactic scene in this book, in which Mr. O is confronted by the main characters.
Overall, I feel that although this book did not move me as deeply as it did Jane (who loved it) or many other readers, it was still a lot of fun and I plan to read the next book in the series. My grade for Lover Awakened is a B-.