Friday, August 13, 2010

Review: J. R. Ward, Lover Eternal (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #2)


Ok, I know I said I wasn't going to read anymore books in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series after I finished the first one (you can read my review of that here). I was just kind of put off by the blatantly romancy quality of it and the troll-like nature of some of the brothers, not to mention the sexism. But then some people kept raving about Rhage and Zsadist and how the books just get better and better as you go on. So I swallowed my pride and got Lover Eternal on my kindle.

It is hard for me not to write a completely scathing review. There are a number of things about these books that I find incredibly offensive, both as a woman and a reader who appreciates originality and despises self-plagiarism (Lover Eternal is basically a copy of Dark Lover with a few different names plugged in). I'll get into both of those things in a second, but first, I will say this: despite everything, I do kind of find myself getting sucked into Ward's world when I read these books. There are certain passages that are beautifully written, and occasionally, almost always unexpectedly, a true depth of feeling emerges from one character or another that is raw and transcendent.

Unfortunately, those moments are few and far between, and grievously overshadowed by the rampant chauvinism of the male characters and the fact that the female characters find this male domination irresistible and sexy, thereby making it implicitly excusable. If you think I'm just another over-sensitive raging feminazi (not so!), just read over the sections where each book's pair of lovers has their first encounter. From the point of view of the female character, these first encounters basically go like this:

Oh my gosh! Who is this enormous, scary leather-clad man that has broken into my house/pinned me against the wall/locked me in his bedroom? I am so scared! Is he going to murder or rape me? Oh my goodness, he's so close to me! He's so big and scary! I hate to say it but this man is gorgeous! I suddenly feel very listless! I am going weak in the knees! I know I should be afraid for my life, but suddenly all I can think about is being with this dead sexy potential rapist forever! Then again, I guess it's not a rape if I consent!!!

Humph. I don't know what's worse: the fact that each scene is a thinly veiled rape fantasy, or that Ward never bothers actually having any of these characters get to know each other before they jump each other's bones the first time they meet. I take it back; the rape thing is definitely worse. But both are bad.

Moving on (though I could easily continue in this vein for much longer). The role of each partner in these couples is nauseating. The male always starts off as this fierce, brooding, violent, uber-masculine thug type. Then he meets the gentle female and falls in love and goes a bit soft, but not really, because he continues to be a warrior. The female, on the other hand, spends her days lounging around in the male's bedroom, waiting for him to return from fighting the bad guys, saving up her energy so she can sufficiently comfort him when he returns. I guess it is also her duty to have heart to hearts with him on occasion, thereby enabling him to open up about some Deep Dark Secrets from Long Ago That Have Haunted Him All His Life but Thanks to Her He Can Now Finally Put the Past behind Him and Be Happy.

The male's role in the relationship is that of the protector and pleasurer (primarily the latter). His main responsibility is to show the female a great time in bed. Apparently that's all a woman really needs to be fulfilled in a relationship.To be fair, he does occasionally also get to rescue the female from the bad guys. I do love a damsel in distress (vomit).

Anyway, even if the books weren't polluted by sexism, I would still be offended by the utter lack of character development and the fact that the first two books have the same exact plot. You have the Lessers (evil undead types who hunt vampires) who are slowly developing a plot as the book progresses to kidnap one of the brothers or his gf. You have the initial almost-rape turned deeply romantic encounter between the brother and his soon-to-be mate. The woman discovers her new lover is a vamp, freaks out for a minute or two, and then decides that the whole vampire thing is actually unbearably hot. They commit to each other and it's so sweet and perfect. Then, oh no! The lessers attack, usually kidnapping the female. The brother has to defend his beloved. He gets pretty banged up, but she devotedly sits by his bedside and bandages his wounds until he recovers. They live happily ever after.

I hate to admit that despite all the garbage I have been writing about, I did enjoy certain parts of the book. Still, as a matter of principle, I cannot give it more than 1.5 stars.