The ruthless and brilliant brother Vishous possesses a destructive curse and a frightening ability to see the future. As a member of the Brotherhood, he has no interest in love or emotion, only the battle with the Lessening Society. But when a mortal injury puts him in the care of a human surgeon, Dr. Jane Whitcomb compels him to reveal his inner pain and taste true pleasure for the first time-until a destiny he didn’t choose takes him into a future that does not include her…
You know, I’ve been putting off writing this review for a few weeks now, because I knew it was going to be hard. I’ve been a fan of the Brotherhood from the beginning, was one of the early fans and developed an online acquaintance with JR that got me the privilege of receiving ARCs, which anyone who reads my blog knows has been a huge highlight for me. Lover Unbound is the first of those books that I really found myself reluctant to write a review for. If that tells you anything, and you’re afraid to read more because you’re easily swayed about reading a book, move on now. I’m going to apologize because it’s a little disjointed, but I couldn’t get it all out in a smooth review, as Dear Author and others are so talented at doing. As a side note, there are (almost) no spoilers in this review, which is hard to do, but I don’t like spoilers myself so I’ll leave them out here. I say almost because I’m going to discuss the first three chapters, but I don’t think anything that you can read while standing in the bookstore can be considered a spoiler. If you’re absolutely dying for a major spoiler, leave a comment and I’ll email you.
Lover Unbound is ostensibly about Vishous and Jane, but as is the case with all of JR Ward’s books, we get secondary character’s and their stories. Since Phury’s book is next in the series, he plays a major role in this book. And again, as we’ve seen with past books, we also get story in John’s POV. One thing that is “missing” from this book that I think will make a lot of people happy is any story from the lessers POV. In fact, the lessers play quite a minor role in this book yet at the same time a pivotal one. I can’t say more than that without spoilers, but there you go.
The book opens and Vishous is injured (these are not spoilers because they were in the last book) and is taken to the hospital where his life is saved by Dr. Jane. Fast forward and she’s taken to the Brothers’ complex to care for him (though really because he recognizes her as his). These first chapters are uncomfortable for me because we get a lot of interaction between Butch and Vishous and all those rumours of the homoerotic undertones are pretty much put to rest as rumors and brought out as fact (at least on the side of Vishous and how he feels). No, there’s never been any manlove going on, but the possibility and the desire was there on V’s part. Now, I say this makes me uncomfortable not because I generally object to this in any way–after all, I edit m/m–but because it doesn’t fit for me. I found myself wondering if JR had read all those rumors on the internet and though she never intended V’s character, and Butch and V’s relationship to head that direction, she gave in to the fans’ speculation and that’s where it ended up. In this case, I felt uncomfortable because it didn’t work for me. Other fans might feel differently and I’m sure someone will say so.
Through the course of the book, we learn about V’s background, we see the development of a sexual desire between him and Jane. And this leads me to my next concern with the story. Jane’s character is presented as very strong, independent. That independence has been ingrained in her from childhood because she’s had to rely on only herself. Yet, while we are told she is strongwilled, aloof, and reluctant to form attachments, we are shown a character who is much different, who gives in fairly easily to her feelings, who doesn’t fight too hard to safeguard either her heart or her independence. I was disturbed by the inconsistent nature of Jane’s character and because of that, her relationship with Vishous, the development of which I found to be shallow and short-changed. Perhaps owing to the amount of time that was spent on secondary characters.
I’m not going to speak much about the secondary stories, except to say that I find myself wondering what has changed in the course of JR’s writing of these books. Were the characters always meant to take such extraordinarily tortured paths, where there seems to be no true salvation except with the intervention of the Scribe Virgin? I hope that at some point we see a reinvention of some of these characters, with a little more control of their own worlds, so we aren’t dependent on the Scribe Virgin to save the day (in other words, I’d really like to see the deus ex machina disappear from the plots of future books).
Near the end of the book, there comes such a…completely unexpected moment, that I find myself wondering what the hell? Sometimes, in a book, moments like this work well because you get the sense that there was no other direction or path the book could have taken, and though you don’t like it, you applaud the author for taking that step. In this case, it only caused me to ask why it was necessary. I didn’t understand the reason for the plot to move in this direction, and even when the book ended, I still wasn’t clear on the why of it happening or the how of it fitting into the grand scheme of the books overall.
Despite my feelings of the book’s fundamental flaws, as I was reading (and I read and finished this book in two days, just a few hours so I was hooked) I found myself thinking that JR still has an incredible talent to weave a story, to capture and hold my attention to find out what happens next. It’s what I love about her writing, and what will keep me coming back for more each time.
Though I must be honest and say, if Lover Unbound were my first introduction to the Brotherhood, I wouldn’t come back for more, it won’t stop me from picking up the next book (even if I get kicked off the ARC list for this review, lol) because there’s a lot of story left to come and I still love the brothers and Dark Lover still remains on my keep shelf.
Lover Unbound releases in a week and you can pre-order it from Amazon or Barnes and Noble. You can find out more about JR Ward and her books at her website.