“Lover Awakened” by J.R. Ward

“Lover Awakened” by J.R. WardLover Awakened (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #3) by J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood #3
Published: 5 September, 2006 by Signet
Genres: Romance, Paranormal Romance
Pages: 448
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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At the end of the previous book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, a vampire named Bella was captured by one of the lessers. Her captor, Agent O, is obsessed with her, as she reminds him a little bit of his ex-wife. So instead of torturing her for information like he’s supposed to, he keeps her as a pet.

Meanwhile, the vampires in the Brotherhood are distraught at Bella’s loss, and try to find her, even though they know she’s probably dead. This is especially true for Zsadist. Right before Bella’s capture, the two of them had a moment, but he pushed her away, and now Zsadist wants nothing more than to make sure she’s safe.

Zsadist is the scariest member of the Brotherhood. He was separated from his twin brother in early childhood, and spent the next 120ish years as a blood slave, where he suffered all manner of physical and sexual abuse. And even though he’s safe now and lives with people who care about him, he’s never really gotten over the trauma.

Zsadist rescues Bella, and even though it’s not at all like him, he lets her get close to him, touch him, and even begin a relationship. But he feels like he is damaged goods, and so he keeps sabotaging their relationship because he thinks she deserves better. But Bella keeps bringing out the best in him and breaking down the walls he’s built around himself.

In the first two books, Zsadist seemed like a bit of an edgelord, and I was hoping that this book would redeem him. He had potential. He was cool, deadly, and seemed like he had an interesting backstory. Unfortunately, there were a lot of parts in this book where he annoyed me, because he was super super emo. We’re not even talking Anne Rice levels of emo, so much as Anakin Skywalker levels of emo. And I don’t want to make light of Zsadist’s backstory–he had a lot of shit to work through. It’s more the idea that Bella was helping to fix him that bothered me, when she had gone through plenty of hell herself, and I didn’t feel like she had time to process her own trauma because she was so busy trying to fix Zsadist and kept getting her heart broken in the process because he couldn’t love or respect himself yet. And I think on some level I was also upset that Zsadist wasn’t an actual sadist (definitely the most vanilla of the brothers), but instead was kind of just an ass.

This book had so much potential, but I think it could have been executed differently. And this goes back to me being picky about romance novels, because I don’t have a lot of patience for reading about relationships where the two parties have major communication issues or engage in relationship-sabotaging behaviors. That’s why I prefer stories where the relationship conflicts are caused by outside forces (aka vampires warring with lessers) rather than something broken within the relationship itself. Zsadist and Bella’s relationship wasn’t healthy. It was entirely centered around Zsadist learning to open up and deal with his emotions and learn to interact with the world around him, and he didn’t really reciprocate that with Bella. He treated her like crap, and she should have left him, but instead she ‘saw the good in him’ like Padme Amidala with Anakin, and decided that a tragic backstory was a good enough reason to let him treat her poorly.

I vented to Mike about my frustrations with Zsadist and Bella, and his response was, “Isn’t this just 50 Shades of Grey but with vampires instead of BDSM?” (and of course the same relationship problem goes all the way back to Twilight…) And I think he’s correct. It’s a romanticization of the tortured alpha male asshole type, whereas healthy relationships are based on mutual respect and communication and consent.

Relationship rant aside, this is a good time to mention that although the series follows a pattern where each book focuses on one of the vampires and their love interest, there’s a lot of plot that carries over from one book to the next. In addition to the whole Zsadist/Bella plotline, there were a lot of other things going on in this book. And even though the Zsadist/Bella relationship annoyed me, I still breezed through Lover Awakened in less than 24 hours and have already ordered the next one in the series.

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