Be warned: This is going to be very long, very thorough, very looooong-winded review. I’m sorry but I need to get this shit out or else it’s going to get stuck in my head in never-never Land and drive me bonkers.
I was so hesitant and pretty much dreading to read this. This book caused me so much anxiety. From getting it, to starting it and finishing it, the anxiety never stopped. For good reason. You are dealing with a full blown story that spans out a full year of a male struggling to move on in life without the woman he has loved and was mated to for 200 years. Oh man. Sooo many emotions. Too much. Seeing that all play out on the pages was heavy, really emotional, painful and surreal. Surreal because it felt so raw, so uncanningly real that it scared me. Yeah say what you want about the genre, the author, the timing of the book, whatever, but the emotions in this book? That trumps everything else. And if you can get those kind of emotions out of me, draw me in so much so that I feel like I'm
part of the freaking story (or wishing I was) then that says something. If that makes me a giddy fangirl? Then so be it. This was good writing. Plain and simple. And good writing is my kind of high that I always look for when reading.
I swear there were moments that it pained me to keep reading and others where I could. not. stop. reading. From the very beginning of this series we were introduced to Tohr as the most grounded, level-headed take-charge Brother of the group. He pretty much took lead of the group. And oh yeah....he was head over heels in love with his shellan Wellsie. Wellsie was never a prominent character in the books but whenever those two did share scenes it was emphasized, declared, brought home over and over again how much he loved, adored and would do anything for his Wellsie. So naturally I didn't want to read this. It seemed too painful to read and a heavy emotional story to get through. They were never my favorite couple, I had no ties or preference to them, but Ward introduced these two from the very beginning as a solid unit, a happily mated couple, very much in love and expecting a child and raising John Matthew as an adoptive son. How could I not be endeared to them? So reading a book about him struggling and literally being forced
to move on was not something I had the heart or stomach for. That all being said....this surprised me. In a good way. Tohr/No'One/Wellsie
This picks up literally where Lover Mine stops. From there it paces through a whole year were we see Tohr still mourning over his shellan and just going through the motions of daily life. Ever since her death, we've pretty much witnessed him going on a downward spiral. He didn't want to be saved, wanted to be left alone and several times kept wishing he would die to join Wellsie on the other side. In here, he slowly starts to put his life back together. He fights it tooth and nail and struggles but he does it. And oh man some moments were really
hard to get through. He goes through the paces of what a person would do when they are saying goodbye and trying to move on. The scene between him and Marissa at Safe Place just literally felt like a sucker punch to the gut and had me wanting to curl up into a ball and sob. So so
painfully real and devastating and awful. :(
No'One is a very interesting heroine. To be honest I wasn't all that moved or interested in the character of No'One during her introduction in Lover Mine until we got her back story. Oh what a story. She’s a pretty remarkable unique heroine who’s incredibly strong-willed and brave. I came to admire and love her at the end. She’s more reserved but her endearingly sweet calm personality with that fire that came out at times was hard not to admire. She has big ties and a connection with Tohr and Darius. I thought it was nice how it all came full circle. What blew me away was the immediate connection between her and Tohr. I was endeared by their interactions/conversations and slowly but surely was completely enthralled. COMPLETELY. That surprised me the most. And uh....the sex scenes? @_@ *fans self* Good G-d talk about sensual and so freaking erotic. So wasn't expecting that. I felt like I needed a cigarette with the way those two kept going at it. Again...and again. Tohr really surprised me with how open and playful and intimate he was. He always came off as a very reserved private male compared to other brothers so seeing this side of him was very new to me and kind of addictive. They shared one-too many sweet adorable hot-as-hell tender moments. I really wasn’t expecting to get that from him. Overall, I was really surprised with the amount of sexy-pexy time that's packed into this book. It was a huge shift from the last book where we didn't get much of that. It's safe to say I liked that. And missed it. A lot. *high five to Ward on that*
Anyways, the thing I did struggle with and kept cringing over that made this a 4 star was the timing of this story. Did I enjoy the love story? Absolutely. Did I buy it? Yes but.....not completely. I struggled with it. While I loved Tohr's story and felt every part, I did think it was way too soon
. He loses his first and only love he's known his entire life and within the following year after her death falls in love again?? Yeah that does happen on occasion but still....too soon in the context of this story. I think the Tohr's story should have been put on hold for later on. The impact for me would have resonated so much more and been a little more believable if it happened a little more down the road. Tohr himself was clearly fighting more than half way through the book and I was too. I ended up coming to really love No'One and I felt it was ridiculously unfair to put her in the position of being 'used' as a catalyst to have Wellsie move on to the Fade. I really didn't like that. That was the major cringe factor for me, the pink elephant in the room so to speak that kept playing a dominate role between the two. I really hated that. It was selfish and a very cruel of Tohr and even Lassiter to use No'One. She pretty much became the forced second choice in this equation. *cringes* It kept getting in the way of me truly believing Tohr really loved LOVED her not just having deep admiration and respect for her. I mean we kept getting reminded over and over again how much Tohr was still in love with Wellsie more than 2/3rds into the book and he was trying so hard to help her move on into the fade. Yeah understandable but as a love story? Not romantic. Just completely heartbreaking. I also don’t like having to question the hero’s true feelings constantly. Makes great angst but in this scenario: unbearable. I mean the ending was awesome and a freaking Hallejuah! moment. I bought it and loved it but I just wish the main plot point/catalyst for having these two come together wasn’t focused on getting Wellsie into the Fade. There were definitely feelings there, strong ones but having him be FORCED to move on with someone else to save a loved one puts a damper on all the warm and gushy feelings a reader should be getting. No’One was totally fine with it and she herself wasn't looking for any kind of relationship or falling in love but her heart started to play a big role in it, once Tohr knew it he used it to lash out at her. There were countless pivotal poignant moments b/w these two that I found myself re-reading. One that I dreaded, absolutely hated was the scene in the clinic after No'One's needing. I understood his reasons behind why he lashed out but still, it was unbearable. Nothing justifies in my mind to viciously rip apart someone like that. My heart still broke for the bastard, but broke even more for No'One. She is the most selfless heroine in this whole series. Selfless to the extreme that it controlled most of her life after she was reborn.
We also got to see another side of his relationship with Wellsie during flashbacks. Moments that showed not everything was rainbows and roses for those two. Some may have resented that, but I understood it. And I have to say after reading a comment how this was all written as a way to sully Wellsie's memory and justify Tohr’s actions and reasoning’s for moving on and to make No’One look better I'm sorry but I find that utterly ridiculous and so naive. Like every marriage whether real or fictional there will always be conflict and problems. It’s a guaranteed. If some were expecting none of that to exist between those two then that’s just being unrealistic. The sensitive subject between the two revealed here was having a baby. I've seen many argue how selfish Tohr was for not wanting Wellsie to have a baby and other's saying Wellsie manipulated and blackmailed him into servicing her during her needing. I'm in the middle. I saw where both were coming from and had no problem with it. In fact I wasn’t even surprised that the issue brought up so much conflict. It's nothing new. Pregnancy is always a very sore subject with mated males. They fear losing their shellans during the birthing. We saw it clearly play out with Z. It’s no different or surprising with Tohr and I totally understood where he was coming from. How I see it is, as a shellan Wellsie had every right to ask that of her hellren just as Tohr had every right to stand against it. Like Z, he was terrified of losing his mate during the birthing. It’s completely understandable. Some may call it selfish but I see it the other way. I just personally wasn’t a fan of Wellsie’s blunt personality.Xhex/JohnMatthew/No'One
I really loved the angsty tension between John and Xhex. They were really yum in this. While I had issues with their book for a few reasons, I have to say John M grew up and matured even more through this book. I loved how his estranged relationship with Tohr grew and they reconnected once again as father and son and stood side-by-side together. I adore those two and their connection. Lots of heavy emotional heartbreaking moments between those two. Xhex and John deal with some issues of their own. Xhex trying to readjust to being mated and a shellan to a brotherhood soldier. I really loved the side story Ward put for these two. And sweet Jesus can these two really do sexy erotic love scenes. Good. Lord. *fans face* When they go at it…..they REALLY go at it. Wooooh! For some reason these two have the most erotic off-the wall love scenes. You get all panty just reading it. ;) And that’s saying something cause they aren’t even my fav couple. Ha.
I also really loved seeing the moments between Xhex and No'One. Getting to know each other and bonding as mother and daughter was really sweet and poignant. This really
needed to happen. No'One getting to know and see who her daughter really is and Xhex getting to know her mother and her interests was really great to see. Seeing them go out on 'mother/daughter' bonding dates was super sweet. Xhex calling her Mahmen was all kinds of awesome. They made me go 'aaaaw' several times like a ninny. :P Too cute.Blay/Qhuinn/Saxton/Layla
It’s safe to say I’m a huge Blay & Qhuinn fan. I love and adore these two. <3 I could not be happier they are getting a book. Just when I thought Ward couldn’t possibly torture these two (and me) any more she goes and does it some more in here. Oy. *sigh* I prepared myself given the hints Ward kept dropping about Qhuay fans not being happy after reading this. So I was dreading what was to come for these two in this. They killed me in this. If I thought having Qhuinn looking longingly at Blay and fantasizing about him was a killer, but Qhuinn throwing off major eye-sex at Blay, blurting out his feelings to him and servicing Layla made me want to rip my freakin hair out and scream bloody murder like an enraged idiot. Yes Blay is involved with Saxton, yes they are lovers but it’s quite clear and has been made <i>crystal clear where his heart lies. He may be getting sexually gratified on a daily basis but the guy is miserable. To me there's a huge difference between the two. That whole library scene where Blay listens to Qhuinn servicing Layla during her needing (over the top much Ward? It’s a freakin mansion didn’t think sounds like that would resonate that LOUDLY lol) broke my heart and made me see red. And this is just when I was starting to tolerate and slowly start to like Layla. *grumbles*
I wasn’t a fan of the ehros Chosen in the previous book. I wanted to throttle her more than once. Her simpering and ‘poor me, nobody understands how I feel’ routine just got under my skin. I just could not sympathize with her. And her unrequited doe-eyed crush/lusting after Qhuinn didn't help either. But here she seemed to come a long way even in the short time she’s been spending at the mansion. She’s doing her own thing, learning new things and being more ‘independent’ which I liked. And her brother/sister affection with Qhuinn is sweet. While she’s not my favorite she’s slowly starting to grow on me. I like that she understands and accepts Qhuinn’s feelings and wants to see him happy. Her maturity and level-headedness and cracking jokes in the hospital room surprised me. She is coming into her own. But her begging Qhuinn to service her so she could have something of her own and playing on his emotions annoyed me. I started to resent her for putting him in that position and asking that of him. Yes he made his choice freely and she didn’t force him but still I kept wishing she hadn’t. I did find it VERY convenient how Qhuinn just happened to be the only male around Layla when she went into her needing. Of course. RME. Obvious much Ward?? *grumbles some more* And I will say it annoys me how everyone sees her as this perfect ethereal thing that shouldn’t be touched. Good lord. It was slathered on waaaaay too much in here. It’s eye-roll inducing. The brothers and Qhuinn keep putting her on this ridiculous high pedestal (even more so then the other Chosens IMO). I thought it was heaped on a little too much in here for my tastes. Yes she’s a Chosen, Ward I get it. You love her, that’s glaringly obvious. But please
stop having all the males acting like she has a magic glittery hoo hah. It’s a little bit corny and overkill for me. The more saintly and propping they do with this character the more I’m repelled to liking her. Just saying.
As for the pregnancy can’t say I’m surprised given the huge hint Ward gave in Payne’s book with Qhuinn’s vision. That scared me and made me leery. Of course she took it there like I feared. *sigh* *grumbles some more* Naturally I was pissed when I found out it was confirmed in this book. I didn’t want Qhuinn having that connection/bond with anyone other than Blay. I didn’t want him having a child with the Chosen. But as I read it the more I came to terms with it and have accepted it. In fact I’m kind of excited, scared but excited and anxious at the same time. It’s a very modern approach and the only way that both Qhuinn and Blay can be parents to a child if they mate. I’m putting my faith in Ward to do it right, do right by both of them and the child. (Don't make me eat my words WARDen!) I don’t have anything against the idea of Blay and Qhuinn being fathers and Layla the mother to the child. Just as long as everyone is counted for and treated fairly. ( hint, hint:
Blay better be more than a third fiddle in this equation)
Oh and I’m really REALLY hoping that suggestion made by Beth about Qhuinn joining the brotherhood is taken to heart. I got so freaking giddy when that was brought up. Wrath seemed to take it seriously. Qhuinn has come a long way and he deserves this recognition. He’s always felt like an insider and has ‘nothing’ , this character has so much heart and I will always have a soft spot for everything he’s been through and how far he’s come. I’m hoping the big secret ‘project’ Saxton is working on in the library has something to do with that. ;) crosses fingers Ward is sneaky and clever at leaving hints and I’m hoping that’s a big hint to it.Xcor/Layla
Another side story that’s been set up here slowly is the situation with Layla and Xcor, the leader of the Band of Bastards. I originally thought Layla and Throe were going to be paired up with the immediate chemistry those two shared. There definitely were sparks and Throe was really taken by her I thought for sure it was going to go somewhere. So naturally I was a little surprised and disappointed when it lead nowhere only to have Xcor be just as captivated and enthralled by the beautiful Chosen one when she’s lured and tricked into feeding him when he’s badly wounded. Now I’m a total sucker for scarred brooding villainous anti-heroes finding HEA with a heroine they think they will never have or deserve. Just YUM. That’s one delicious complicated recipe. Xcor is a very
complicated character who I’ve struggled to like or care for at times. I didn’t care much for him when he was introduced but he’s definitely intrigued me in this. There were parts that I hated him and I thought he crossed some lines and couldn’t ever see him being redeemed with the stuff he does in here. But other times I was intrigued and a little sad for him. And I’m still trying to get over the whole trying to kill Wrath thing. *cringes* Yeah that’s a big no-no in my book. Hands off MY Wrath dammit! Anyways, he definitely has a vulnerable very insecure side to him that he buries deep and protects with heavy armor. When it does come out you can’t help but be heartbroken. That scene where he’s sitting there cutting himself really surprised me. He has his moments where you see he’s not as ruthless and soulless as he appears to be. I hope that side comes out more since Layla definitely seems to be the trigger for him. As of now, what I’m having issues with wrapping my head around is how in the world these two could be paired up down the road considering the whole baby situation and oh yeah…..he’s the freaking Brotherhood’s sworn enemy. The male has a bulls-eye on his back after the move he made. That is one major sticky situation. And as for the baby, Xcor is a very traditional male. And I mean very
traditional. This is the same guy who did not like seeing Layla in ‘street clothes’ so I really am having a hard time picturing him accepting Layla’s baby who is fathered by someone else, much less Qhuinn, his enemy. I do not see those two ever co-existing or accepting the other. Ward definitely has written these two into a corner right now I’m curious to see how she handles this. Band of Bastards (Throe/Zypher/Xcor)
These guys intrigued me since the last book. Throe in particular. I really wonder if Ward plans on giving Throe and Zypher a book too. I was hoping they would fight alongside with the brotherhood but given what went down in this book that’s a big resounding NO. And I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
Considering I can’t seem to shut up about and could probably go on for days talking about this like a ‘nancy’ I enjoyed this book very much. It was one of those can’t-put-down, need to finish, don’t-want-it-to-end painfully torturous books. A big step up from some of the other books in this series that I found lacking or lost momentum. While there were things that did bother me about this, I was never bored, didn’t want to skip anything and couldn’t put it down. I kept wanting to rush home from work just to find out what happens next, some of the characters kept circling around in my head like a crazy person. So yeah thumbs up for Ward, HUGE improvement and major step up from [b:Lover Unleashed|8492319|Lover Unleashed (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #9)|J.R. Ward|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1289343390s/8492319.jpg|12784133], I hope this kind of writing continues. *crosses fingers*4.5/5 Stars!!!