Other Reviewers: Goodreads
By now, if you read the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, you know who Qhuinn and Blay are. There have been numerous book reviews about what was good or what was disappointing about the storyline, and some of those complaints will be repeated here.
I will minimize spoilers, but know that this is a discussion of Qhuinn and Blay whose relationship has spanned a large portion of the series. If you have never read the series, start with Wrath’s book Dark Lover. Some links to my previous blog posts of the series:
Overview of the Black Dagger Brotherhood
Dark Lover (Book #1)
Lover Eternal (Book #2)
Lover Unleashed (Book #9)
There has been some discussion on the Goodreads forums about how the series has moved from a Paranormal Romance book (PNR) to a more Urban Romance (UR). Some readers feel that J.R. Ward has been moving from a romance with a HEA to stories that are less focused on the romance. There are some valid concerns here, certainly in Lover At Last, the main love story is only 1/2 of the book and a large spotlight was on Assail and Marisol and Trez and his fate. There is also the primary story arch of the Band of Bastards. There is a lot of threads going on here and there is no way to just say this book is a “romance book”. This series has evolved. The positive thing about this is that the writing style has matured and Ward has developed a highly complex method of interweaving a large number of storylines. The downside is that I miss the focus we had in those early books with the romances.
This is book 11 in the series where Qhuinn and Blay finally accept their love for each other. In the mean time, Layla struggles with her role as pregnant fallen Chosen, Xcor and his Band of Bastards plot with the glymera against Wrath, Assail finds sexy chic and increases his drug cartel while being badass, and Trez has lots of sex with random women while avoiding an unrelenting queen.
We began seeing Qhuinn and Blay when John was a pre-trans for fighter training in book three, Lover Awakened. Their romance and friendship has evolved throughout the last 9 books. Certainly as a character, Qhuinn has matured; we saw him in the earlier years denying his feelings for Blay by engaging in sex with everyone but him.
The biggest conflict in Qhuinn’s life is his alienation from his family, due to his physical deformity. His mis-matched eyes make him a pariah to both the glymera and his family, his friendship with Blay is in ruins where he feels that he is not good enough for Blay. In the past two books we have seen Qhuinn begin to accept who he is, striping the external armor he wore to divert his insecurities. After all, if he rejects others before they can reject him the pain will be lessened. Right?
But, with Layla he finds acceptance. After all, both of them are orphans, both of them have been screwed over by life. They decided in the last book to create a life and make a family of their own. I love how Layla describes Qhuinn:
He was a great, fearsome protector, and that was precisely what a female needed when she was pregnant, nursing, or caring for a young.
That and his innate kindness made him noble to her.
No matter the color of his eyes.
That is what Qhuinn is, a man who is incredibly noble and worthy of being a Brother.
Blay is a good guy. Everyone likes him, everyone depends on him. He has a safe and sexy relationship with Saxon, even if he does not love him. But despite his acceptance by the fighters of the Brotherhood and his family, Blay still misses something that he has always wanted: Qhuinn.
Blay was good with being relied on. There was a kind of safety in it–a certainly, a control. It was not the same as falling into the abyss.
However, Blay’s actions in Lover At Last is incredibly immature. There are many points within this novel where the boys could have made up if Blay would have just stood still and let Qhuinn speak. I know it was to help us prolong the romantic tension, but it just annoyed him.
For me, I found the theme is about family. This is not a new theme, we see this in every book, as our Black Dagger Brotherhood has made a family, by sweat, tears, and their own spilt blood by defending each other and their race. Qhuinn’s family always denied him their love and support. Now Qhuinn has surrounded himself with a new family, but what he is missing is a partner, Blay to complete it.
I like where Ward is taking Layla and at first I could not stand her. One problem with the female characters in this series has been a shallow viewing of them. Some of the more developed characters have been Xhex and Payne, and those are the fighting females. The BDB series focuses on the males, when it comes to character development and the females, the stories usually focus on their status (like Marissa), their sex-life (like Bella), or their health (Mary). Their roles are usually on how their place in the male’s life changes the male. Really, I have only noticed difference in that with X and Payne, which I think has more to do with the fact that they are more independent and warriors in their own right. Now we have Layla, who while is not a fighter, she is fighting to fit into this new world. A fantastic quote:
In the Old Language, she hissed, “If any harm shall befall him, I will come after you, and find you where you sleep. I do not care where you lay your head or who with, my vengeance shall rain upon you until you drown.“
I have a love-hate with both Layla and the females of the series, but I am actually now looking forward to see how Layla matures.
The scene with the induction was just beautiful and kept in line with the rest of the series.
The Brotherhood action scenes are incredibly kick-ass. And I think that the scene with Z and flying a plane. It is perhaps, the single most exciting scene in the BDB series. How Qhuinn handle it, the emotions that he gave us was breathtaking and probably my favorite part of the novel with the exception of the ending.
But most of all, I am so pleased that Ward had the courage to write a male/male romance focused BDB novel. We saw hints of it with V and Butch earlier on in the series, but for whatever reason, we never saw it come to fruition. But this is a fully blossomed romance between two male warriors. We have been waiting for Qhuinn and Blay’s romance for years.
What could be better?
Sure, we got the sex between the boys, but I was left a little disappointed with their romance part of it. There were so many parts of this story that could have been solved easier if they had just spoken to each other honestly. I was a little disappointed at how the meat of their romance was not until the end of the book, although that is really not that different from any other book in the series.
I want to clear up one of the complaints that others have regarding the male sex scenes. Some people said that they were disappointed in the prep-work of the male body for sex and the lack of lube. But, keep in mind that these males are vampires who have different physiology, including longer endurance and no recover-time. So don’t worry about the lube, they didn’t need it and that’s just fine.
I was also disappointed with the lack of Brother activity. This series is a Black Dagger Brotherhood series, not the Shadows series and not the Band of Bastard’s series. I will be honest in saying that I skimmed a great deal of those side stories, they felt over emphasized and pointless. But I felt the same way whenever I read about the Lessers in previous novels. I did feel that we got too much face-time in compared with the Brothers.
Overall, I am glad that I read the book and I really am thrilled that we finally got the Qhuinn and Blay story completed. I was satisfied with their romance, the sex was masculine and hot. The romance at the end of the story was heartfelt and romantic.
I was a bit disappointed in having to go through all of the other stories, but I know that Ward was just setting up the next books and it is expected. My biggest issue is that I really dislike all of the people (Assail, Trez, Xcor, and the Bastards). What stories I am looking forward to seeing is: Manny and Payne updates, Wrath and Beth baby updates, Rhage and Mary updates, and that ex-brother Mhurder.
In Ward’s Facebook posting on March 30th, we got the hint that the next book will focus on Wrath and Beth with creating a baby. This is a relief to me, because I was afraid that we would be forced to read a romance with this non-brothers that had stories in this book. The series is the Black Dagger Brotherhood, and the moment that we have to have a main storyline and HEA that does not focus on the BDB is the day that this reader will have to find another series.
But I am truly glad that I read Lover At Last, Qhuinn and Blay deserved their story.