Guilty Pleasures and Confessions

It’s horrific, and it’s Halloween and I’ll come out with the depth of my embarrassment.

I am finding the “Brotherhood of the Black Dagger” series horribly, dreadfully, addictively readable. I know. Mock me if you want. It’s true.

One of the mistresses loaned me all of her copies with the warning, “Do not hurt my books because I love them because THE ARE LIKE CRACK.” Kind of like when you pull something oogey and disturbingly smelly out of the back of the fridge and want to share the horror: “This is awful! Smell this!” She hands me a STACK of books and says, “THEY ARE LIKE CRACK! SERIOUSLY! CRACK!”

I talked a little bit about this in the segment I taped last weekend for, specifically about Dark Lover, but I have a gut-level aversion to any book or series that’s surrounded by a rabid fanbase. It’s not so much the self-named groupiedom of communities like the Cellies, etc. – I’m all for getting together and talking about what you really enjoy, obviously. But the general unwillingness in that kind of fan community to acknowledge any criticism of their favorite work irks the shit out of me. I can’t reasonably expect to tread in a fan-based bulletin board with a negative comment about one of the Brotherhood novels and emerge from the experience with all of my own hair in my head. That kind of fanbase leads me to avoid the novels themselves, whether that’s fair or not. Many Harry Potter online groups turn me off for the same reason. It’s as if the books are SO loved and SO revered that there CANNOT BE any FLAWS OMG the HORROR.

But hey, if you hand me a book and tell me it’s the paper bound version of freebasing a dangerous stimulant, I’m willing to try it. And try I did. Ms. Romance is right – it’s crack. Crackity crack crack crack. I’m not saying it’s perfection on paper, but I’m finding myself extremely happy to find it’s feeding time, which is often followed by nap time, which means I get at least an hour or two to read.

My own enjoyment of these books is leading me around to two questions, the first of which I’m addressing here. What is it that makes this book so readable? Is it the intersection of my current mental state (incredibly busy, feeding an infant around the clock and sleep deprived) and the prose of the book? Dark Lover and the sequel, which I’m reading now, don’t ask a lot of my brain, really. The books are dark, sexual, and somewhat angsty (Sorry. Ahnghsty) but they aren’t shoving my emotions through the wringer. And I know better when I’m tired and hormonal to read Kinsale et al.

So what makes this or any book easily and addictively readable? Is it the prose? Is it the population of sympathetic, admirable, and generally likable characters (minus the villains, obviously)? In this particular case, it’s likely the ease with which I can pick up and put down the book, since my reading time is very interrupted these days, and enter and exit the world in which the book is written. It’s a parallel universe in the Hudson Valley – which I’m very familiar with – with a paranormal set of protagonists who follow most of the established habits of vampire heroes (with ahnghst! And Ehxtra H’s!) including the emotional sorrow or trauma that is healed by the intrepid and brave heroine.

I’m picturing all the different pieces of my favorite types of romances as playing cards weighted with a score, and this series scores high on my list of reading pleasures because it combines the “we are undeniably soul mates so let’s hop in the sack for really awesome sex” card, the “super powered and exceptionally large and strong hero” card, the “paranormal” card, the “strong heroine who tells the strong hero to go jump in the lake” card, and the “parallel otherworldly society aka ‘urban fiction’” card.

So what are your cards of high score when it comes to plots and characters? And man, am I ever going to get over this slightly dirty feeling for liking these books so much? Good thing it’s Halloween. I can blame it on my neighbor’s house decorations. And the cemetery across the street. Yeah. That’s it. I’ll blame all those quiet dead people over there. It’s their fault.


Random Musings

Comments are Closed

  1. Rebecca says:

    I just finished reading Dark Lover, and you’re right. These books are crack of the finest order. I almost feel as if I need to get a fake book cover so that no one knows my shame.

  2. Diane says:

    Loved all the books except the new one “Lover Unbound” which I HATED—I think Ward did indeed lose her mind when writing this book.

    When you read “Unbound” please let us know what you think…besides the unfulfilling ending there was so much bad grammar and repetitive phrases in this book that I am convinced that Ward’s editor had to be on vacation.

    Plus, I’m over the funny spelling (give me an extra h) and now find it terribly distracting.

    So I guess what I’m saying is “Lover Unbound” cured me of being a Brotherhood crack addict.


  3. Maggie says:

    And man, am I ever going to get over this slightly dirty feeling for liking these books so much?


    My addiction only got worse with each book.  Every time I “let someone read” the first book in the series I never got it back. I have two copies of the first and second book(at all times)on my shelf now.

    Yes you read right. I get the shakes if the book is not in the house. CRACK BABY

  4. Rinda says:

    The irony!  I blogged about picking up this book yesterday.  Picked it up this morning and have not put it the hell down!  I went through a vampire phase and suffered years of burnout—but man, I’m enjoying this book.

    And I had a surprise day off from the office and should be writing!!

  5. Rinda says:

    Uh, I purchased it yesterday, picked it up just to glance through this morning.  Brain is tired from cramming to finish obviously.

  6. neasa says:

    No.  Sorry, but no.  I know what you’re saying, though.  I too am a fan of the dark and angsty from time to time.  I loved Kelley Armstrong’s Bitten for that reason.  That dark, emotionally complex relationship is very well-realised and compelling. 

    To me it feels like the BDB series is going for that “anguished soul” vibe, but without putting in the legwork.  OH! The guy drinks too much, is socially inept, overly into his buddies (not in a GAY way, just in a really knowing, coy way), has no job, zero skills, AND OH YES, he’s a motherfucking vampire.  Awesome.  Where can I get one??

    Sorry.  Maybe I didn’t read the best one.  I was willing to overlook the slang thing having heard about it in advance, but spelling mistakes also irritate the hell out of me so…. yeah, I was probably always going to dislike these books.

  7. neasa says:

    Hmm, just realised I read the one Diane mentions above.  Am now intrigued that I may be missing out on something good in the early books.


    I did my best to expunge this book from my memory.  And I didn’t even finish it, and skipped a lot of the bits with the bad guys, once I figured nothing was happening anyway.  What kind of big kick-ass IMMORTAL guy is afraid of a bunch of guys who wear baby talc?

    My insipid heroines, let me show you them.  Oh, this Narciso Rodriguez dress, it’s such a bind!  I think I’ll burn it in a big bonfire on the back lawn with all my other couture clothing… *Sigh* life is so difficult for a tiny, beautiful, rich, waiflike blond….

    AND it seemed like the bit where they actually meet/form an attraction/fall in love (aka, the best bit) had ALREADY HAPPENED before the book started.  That, my friend, is CHEATING. 

    Ahem.  Sorry, sorry.  I’ll snap out of it.

  8. TracyS says:

    I don’t read vampire books. Just don’t like them.  Not into them.


    A friend of mine that feels the same LOVES this series and has convinced me to try them. She is mailing them to me. We’ll see if I become a BDB crack addict! lol

  9. KCfla says:

    Honestly? I have no idea why these books are addicting. But they are- like it or not.

    And I’m not someone who re-reads books very often ( except, of course for Nora’s 😉 ) but I keep going back to these darn things. Please   Someone   Stop   ME!

    Crack- you betcha.

    But as for the “Cellies” – eh, not so much. I don’t “squeee” for anyone. I admire, I will “pimp” a good book to others. But I’m not one of those that thinks that ANY book is flawless.

    But dayum- they are fun!

  10. Rinda says:

    The closest I ever came to a fangirl moment was with Kim Harrison—and that was only because Dead Witch Walking brought me out of a writer’s coma.  heh heh And all I did was gush my thanks for like a second.  That’s it. 

    I’m nearly through Dark Lover and no, it’s not perfect—but it is fun and sexy. I don’t feel guilty about it enjoying it at all.  I likes me a good angsty book.

    However, I’m not following the “drink too much” and “slang” reference.  Slang?

  11. K.L. says:

    Yup.  Crack.  Not perfect, several glaring errors in the world building department, especially as you get farther into the series.  Must keep available on my shelf at all times.  Nobody can borrow them.


  12. sazzat says:

    I read them all over the space of two days AND I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHY.  The sex is hot, but the language? Bad.  The slang?  Cringeworthy.  The word “shitkickers”? Should be expunged from anyone’s vocabulary, let alone that of a two-hundred-year-old-vampire.  The rap is dated and makes them seem like irritating frat boys.  The leather is weirdly fetishistic, and the focus on size makes me think that these guys must have some extreme mantitty.  If someone knows why I peeled through these at warp speed, please let me know.  There’s a marketing secret there, I’m sure.  Does the letter H have a special hypnotic power?

  13. neasa says:


    Maybe it’s just the book I read (which, apparently, is the dud of the series) but the two main “brothers” drink constantly.  The hero is meant to be a big boozer, which is depicted as a problem, and is always drinking Scotch.  But the other guy (Vishous?) necks vodka ALL THE TIME.  I mean, all the time.  I’d love to be able to do a word-count on “Grey Goose”!  But maybe the constant drinking is just in this book.  I just didn’t find it attractive. 

    By slang, I meant the faux-hipster urban street-talk.  It just strikes me as a bit silly.  Not tough and/or sexy.

  14. Estelle says:

    Yep, it’s crack indeed. But the fourth book, Lover Revealed, cured me of my addiction and after reading the spoilers on the web I didn’t even buy Lover Unbound. And I guess I won’t buy Phury’s book either.

    I hope you’ll tell us what you thought of all the books when you’re finished reading them. My personal favorite is Lover Awakened. The best kind of crack.

  15. Sarah, I blogged about this a few weeks ago. I lurve these books and I don’t even LIKE them, for God’s sake. It’s a sickness. The h’s… Does avenge REALLY need to be spelled Ahvenge to make it vampirey? And should a man ever care so much about his clothing? No he should not. The gangsta rap, the “my brother”, the hip slang… All of it grates on my nerves. But that woman knows how to build a world and tell a fucking story. Jaysus! You think you’re horrified? I’ve started RE-READING THEM ALL!!!

    I have so much respect for Ms. Ward. She is breaking me down.

  16. Josie says:

    I’m with Diane, Lover Unbound almost cured me of my crack, er I mean, BDB addiction. I am going to buy Phury’s book when it’s released (come down’s a bitch) but there is no way I’ll buy these books once they come out in hard cover. Nuh uh. No way, no how.

    Besides it would ruin the look of the BDB paperbacks on my keeper shelf trying to stick a hardcover amongst them 🙂

  17. azteclady says:



    The things is, I don’t much care why I’m so into the BDB. I’m after entertainment, and boy, am I being entertained!

  18. Victoria Dahl says:

    I actually loved Lover Unbound. I thought it was a very happy ending! There didn’t seem to be any drawbacks if you ask me. Anyone who wants to know my reasoning to read it here.

    What screwed me up was that I read Butch’s story FIRST. GAH! Nothing but brotherhood and high fashion. But still good enough to get me to buy another book. *g*

  19. Rinda says:

    Lover Unbound is my sister’s favorite—she’s the one who told me to pick up Dark Lover this week. 

    I just finished Dark Lover.  First time I’ve read a book in one day in a long time.  Got nothing on my schedule done.  And I don’t care at all.

    Great way to spend Halloween.

  20. Christina says:

    I just speed-read Lover Eternal today.  I hate vampire stories, HATE THEM, but I found myself sucked into this book. (no pun intended).  Even though the copious amounts of HORRIFIC slang usage was rather jarring, I stilled liked it.

    What’s the matter with me?

  21. closetcrafter says:

    Hello my name is closetcrafter…………I started my spiral w/ Lover Awakened, then read backward and forward. It is still my favorite, although I scared myself (well,really I scared my husband) with how much I got into the BDSM side of V’s personality. I really think its best not to overanalyze, or really think at all about the why’s.  Let’s think more about the Why Not’s?  Its whay mhore enjhoyabhle.

  22. Robin says:

    Dark Lover was definitely Romance crack, but the last couple have been more like tainted acid for me (bad trip).  I highly recommend Eric Selinger’s RtB post on the series—I think he has some wonderful and useful insights into the books and why so many readers love them:

  23. closetcrafter says:

    P.S.  As squidgy as the spelling and ghetto speak can get, I think I can overlook it because she writes so that you are thinking like the male character by the end of the book. I never think like the female’s in those books. I like that the books are about the men and that they are damged. Its the whole redemption thing.

      The only other books I read that suck me into the main character’s POV like that are the Outlander books (other source of crack.  After I read those, I feel like digging around my backyard for herbs and setting someone’s broken bones w/ a dirty rag.

    Wait……..didn’t I just say that it was better not to think about this stuff too hard?

  24. Susie says:

    Hi All, long time lurker, first time poster!!!
    You Bitches Rock!!!

    I am a tried and true historical romance reader, NEVER read vampire stories, until now.

    Got hooked with Dark Lover due to recommends, L-O-V-E-D Eternal, Awakened, liked Revealed, disappointed with Unbound.  But I can’t stop my crack addiction.

    I have checked out the fansite.  I like to go there to get questions answered, but it IS a little intense!!

  25. Nat says:

    I can’t figure it out either. I am a Paranormal romance reader and have gotten tired of the crappy ones that have been pumped out lately. BUT, for some reason, I can’t stop reading thse. I like the first two books, but it was Lover Awakened that really put me into high crack gear. Something about Zsadist and Bella’s story was just….addicting.

    The last two stories were meh, but it seems Phury’s might be worth the read and I sincerely hope John (the resident mute) gets a story too.

  26. jenjen says:

    I love the BDB series. EXCEPT Lover Unbound-too much foreshadowing and not enough main story. Plus, I don’t get the whole “ghost” thing. Not my idea of a HEA.

    But this series is crack. Seriously Easter-egg sized crack rock.

  27. darlynne says:

    Reading “Dark Lover” was the equivalent, in my untutored imagination, of deciding that the icing on Krispy Kreme donuts must contain cocaine—no other explanation for either addiction made any sense and both feel like something completely out of my control. I’ve loved all the books, have read them more times than my heretofore favorite re-reads of Rumer Godden, Michael Malone and Neil Gaiman. They have even become, strangely, comfort reads of the “let’s visit some old friends” sort. Can’t explain it, gave up fighting it a long time ago.

  28. Maria Lokken says:

    Sarah – so you’re into them – hmmm…  Just like we thought – well welcome to the feeding frenzy.  Hope you’ve got an ample supply of blood around.

  29. Lisabea says:

    I discovered these this past spring. I read all 4 in 3 days (obviously before Lover Unbound), then read them 2 more times. Staggering around, crashing into things, staying up til 2, dishes in the sink for DAYS kind of reading binge. Fucking Crack Head, I know.

    Damn Her.

  30. Shannon says:

    I’m one of the rare few who loved LU—-it was my favorite of the series, actually.  But if you had told me not long ago I would be thorougly addicted to bad-ass vampires who says things like “IM Messie me” I would have laughed my ass off.

    Instead, I’m already jonesing for the next hit.

  31. shannon says:

    yep im an addict…the whole butch and v storyline was a very welcome and refreshing new twist for me…and intense…but every time i see “shit kickers ” i roll my eyes…yep i actually rollem !! hate that friggin word now…..and i do love to step into the mans POV….LOOOVVVEE THEM!!!..

  32. Mel L. says:

    Crack. Totahlly.

    I have all the books and I’ve read them each about 20 times. No exaggeration. I know that’s sad. I don’t know what it is, but I’m totally absorbed and I swear I’m in withdrawal between book releases. I think its because none of the books have an actual conclusion. They’re separate books, but they’re all just a slice of the big picture that we can’t see until the last one. That’s why its so freakin addictive. I NEED to know what happens to John Matthew and the rest of them. I just don’t know why and I don’t care…I think that’s the definition of addiction.

    Yes, some of language is distracting, but I’m able to identify with the characters and I love all the heroes (especially Rhage), definitely more than the heroines. They’re just more developed I think. I really wish that Butch and Vishous could have gotten together or something. But I do think JR did an amazing job with Vishous’ story.

    I went to a JR Ward book signing in North Jersey when Butch’s story came out. I thought it would be just a few casual questions and some signing, but Whoa!!! Those CRAZY fans were so hardcore I couldn’t believe it (and I thought I loved these books…). They almost ripped this poor woman apart when she confused one of the heroines while asking a question. I thought they were going to jump in her in the parking lot afterwards. Seriously. And I’m not even going to start on kooky JR herself…

    But even so, these books are some of my favorites of all time.

  33. Claudia says:

    *covers face with hands, peeks through fingers*

    I only bought the first book because a web discussion led me to belive Ward was writing a successful series with African American heroes. I only later realized that discussion was suppsed to be biting satire.

    Feehan was my first and only vamp series and five book in, I tired of that lifemate script and similarity of the stories. I was sure I’d never read another vamp book again.

    Ward blew me away by creating such flawed heroes: a blind king, a man-beast that can barely control his latter form, a physically abused and mentally screwed “monster”, an amputee, a human among vamps, etc. Then you have the SV riding herd on the guys and the unconventional kidnapping plot for Bella. It didn’t matter the villains were so wimpy when the guys were so fucked up themselves.  I also get a kick out of the repackaging of the slang and other hip hop/g-rap stuff. Everytime I read, “My Brother,” I hear Farrakhan’s voice 🙂

    I’ve always known the magic wouldn’t last forever, but was still disappointed that it ended as early as LR because I felt Ward took the easy way out for the first time. LU continues that trend for me. Besides, it’s never a good sign when a author describes how future books setup future books instead of the brother said book is about.

    I still want to know what happens with John M, Xhex, and Rhev, so I’ll buy Phury’s book and will probably read Rhev’s in a store. LU is headed to a ubs or bookshare, but I still can’t give up DL-LR.

  34. Susi-Bz says:

    I only read the first book of these, and I didn’t like it enough to buy the other ones. First of all, I just can’t get over the vampires’ stupid names. They really annoy me. Also, I hated the book’s ending. That’s not crack, that’s Baklava – so sweet it makes my teeth hurt!

  35. Perk says:

    I have to tell you..I am a rabid cellie…but V’s book was a total disappointment.On the other hand we were allowed to criticize the book, as long as we didn’t bash…Which is difficult for me..becaouse my snarky-ness is often and frequently mistaken for bashing by the moderators.

  36. em says:

    I read this one a while ago, and I was rather disappointed with it. First off—the names. I can’t take characters with silly names. Rhage, Zsadist, etc. Nope, don’t buy it. (I have the same problem with Stephanie Laurens’ Cynster books—I know they’re nicknames, but c’mon, “Devil?” “Lucifer?” No.)

    I’m a sucker for paranormal romance. But this really didn’t do it for me. It was cheesy. Maybe I had unrealistic expectations going into it, because a lot of people really like it. Just my $0.02.

  37. jackie says:

    I love the series.  It’s such a guilty pleasure.  Although I agree that there are some grammatical errors, I love how she can create layers to repeating characters in each book…

    It always makes you want the next one even more!

  38. Lucy says:

    Oh, how I love the crack (sorry, krahk). Z’s book is my favourite, though I found the most recent one just awful. Vampires + huge buff guys + porn? That’s the kind of math I like doing!

  39. Shannon C. says:

    Yep. Definitely crack. I don’t know why I’m so into these books, but I have managed to convert some pretty die-hard non-romance readers into reading at least the first book. I seem to have gotten used to the stupid names and the slang and the will she or won’t she with regard to the haut man-love.

    Given that I am a cynical bitch when it comes to my reading, I like to tell myself that I am reading for the train-wreck factor, but that’s not really all that true, and I am definitely still addicted.

    Incidentally, is there a way to watch your interview on RN TV, Sarah? I seem to have missed it.

  40. Oh, how I love the crack (sorry, krahk)

    Omg, Lucy, I almost choked on my own tongue. *snort*

    What’s a cellie? Is that like “messie me”?  PAH-hahahaha

    But seriously, what is a cellie?

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