This is Book 2 of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J.R. Ward. See my other review here of Dark Lover. Again, I would suggest starting there first before you read this book.
We see Rhage in the Dark Lover, as one of the warriors from the BDB. Mary is a social worker who hosts nightly at a radio station and we find out that she has leukemia that had been in remission, but it has now come back. She is a neighbor of Bella, a female vampire we saw in book 1 and finds a mute young vampire named, John Matthew. We see John Matthew’s story in book 8. Bella and Mary take John Matthew to the Brotherhood because he appears to be a warrior bloodline. The romance begins as Rhage comes into contact with Mary and is instantly attracted. Of course, it is forbidden to “date” a human and the conflict begins that they should not be together. The main story line is continued with their fight against the Lessers and this book is the story of the budding relationship between Rhage and Mary.
Of the novels, this is one that I have less repeated readings. I suspect the reason that I hesitate to read this book is the complexity of Rhage’s character. On the surface, Rhage has everything, he’s beautiful (thus his nickname of Hollywood) and has endless amount of sex. Yet, all is not as it seems; he is tortured by this curse. Here is a powerful quote from the novel in regards to Rhage’s sexual promiscuity:
I hate the anonymity of it. I hate the way my chest aches afterward. I hate the smells on my body and in my hair when I get home. But most of all, I hate the fact that I’m going to have to do it again, because if I don’t, I could end up hurting one of you guys or some innocent bystander.
This description of his sex life is so vivid that the reader can’t help but feel the self-disgust that Rhage must feel, that this man has lost hope of ever having a clean, pure love. Rhage, truly, is a very sensitive soul who suffers because of something that he did in his younger years. I won’t get into the origin curse itself, I leave that to the novel, but his acceptance of his curse at the end of the novel is truly a beautiful thing.
Mary in contrast considers herself plain with a lower self-confidence in her beauty; the scene in the diner as she watches the waitress flirt with Rhage is one in which every woman can identify. What is beautiful in Mary is her spirit, in her quiet acceptance in Rhage and his beast. Her pure love is so touching and so remarkable in the end.
The crux of this novel surrounds the pain of curses and the power of experiencing life for as long as you can; Carpe diem. Rhage is cursed by the Scribe Virgin and his adult life has been shaped by that curse. Mary’s life in a similar fashion has been shaped both by her mother’s curse of cancer as well as her own leukemia. It is how they react to these things they can not control that is so remarkable.
The character development is excellent in every book of this series, it is one of the things that J.R. Ward excels. How she illustrates family with these warriors and their females is breathtaking.
What could be better?
If you look at the series as a whole, I can remember of only one other time we see Mary speak and that is in Book 3. This makes me wonder how the author sees Mary? We saw Beth, Jane, Bella, and Xhex in several books before and/or after their own stories. I thoroughly loved Mary’s character and wished that I could have seen more of her in other books. As for this book, I really could not ask more for a book.
The sacrifice of Rhage and Mary’s love demonstrated at the end of the book is what moves me the most. This book is one that will make you cry, so be sure to have your tissue at the ready. Overall, this is an excellent book, it is one of my repeat reads.