Lover Mine by JR Ward
This is absolutely not a book to read as a stand-alone. Too much back story is needed to explain what happened to Xhex as well as the current state of multiple relationships. So, if you have not read the rest of the series, do not start with this one.
Ward has always been big on the melodrama. She has an almost cinematic style of writing, where actions often speak louder than words. And, given John Matthew is mute, that writing style is even more apparent here. In fact, the lack of extensive dialogue adds to the charm.
John Matthew definitely feels years older in this book. Which is both weird and necessary. We first meet John Matthew as a skinny pretrans in Lover Eternal (#2 in the series). We watch him develop from a lonely, but almost adolescent, vampire to one who has experienced trauma, seen violence, and been forced to grow up emotionally way too early. Who is still incredibly lonely.
I could have done without all of the subplots and story archs. It just felt like too much. And, although they do tie with the main plot at the end, I didn't feel like they added any real depth, except for the Qhuinn and Blay scenes. Midway through, I began skimming those side stories.
Without those scenes, this would probably have been one of my favorite Black Dagger Brotherhood books. I was amazed by how Ward was able to show Xhex as both strong and vulnerable. And the interactions between John and Xhex, their conversations, are probably the most romantic I've read in a long, long time. Bordering on the sappy, perhaps, but while you're reading them, they seriously tug the heart strings.
My Grade: B+