Book Review

Doc Turtle: Dark Lover by JR Ward

Title: Dark Lover
Author: J. R. Ward
Genre: Paranormal

Book CoverHe’s back! After the splendid members of the Bitchery recommended many, many books for Dr. Turtle, aka SBiT Patrick, the choice was Dark Lover by JR Ward. Behold: Chapters 1-5. Let the mhahgic begihn!

If you’re not familiar with the styling’s of DocTurtle’s romance blogging, he reviews the book chapter by chapter. Ergo: SPOILERS FOR THE LOVE OF GOD ARE BELOW THE FOLD OK?!?!!

Hey, all!  DocTurtle…or SBiT Patrick…or whatever we decided I should be called on this blog…here, ready to say a few words about my latest reading assignment for SBTB, J.R. Ward’s Dark Lover, the first of a long series of Black Dagger Brotherhood novels and my first paranormal romance.  This book features vampires, vampires, and…more vampires.  They’re terrifying and ferocious, but they’re sexy as hell.

I started the book last night, I’m about eight chapters in now (the first five are blogged about below), and as a paranormal newbie the first question I have is to what extent Ward elects to adhere to the “canonical” vampire mythology, if there is such a thing?  I also wonder to what extent the amount of sex and violence Dark Lover has presented so far is consistent with that of other books in this subgenre?

Mostly, though, I wonder where in the hell J.R. Ward learned how to name her characters.  “Tohrment”?  “Vishous”?  “Rhage”?!?  Phlease.  At least now I finally get the running “extra ‘h’s” gag on SBTB.  And for those of you who would like to create your own Black Dagger Brotherhood vampire name, I hope you’ll visit the following website I whipped up this morning: The Black Dagger Brotherhood Name Maker  Because I care. [SBS: OMMFG This is Soh Mhuhch Fhuhn!]

Before I get to the chapter-by-chapter reviews, I’ll begin by saying that I’m finding the book a breezy read, and a particularly easy one, having just finished Anthony Trollope’s Can You Forgive Her?, a 900-page behemoth that was dense with Victorian dialogue.  Dark Lover is…well, I don’t know if it’s an out-and-out bad book, but it’s definitely cheehsy.  The dialogue is forced and in places unbelievable, and though the action is appropriate it almost seems silly.  So far there’s been but one real sex scene (I’ll talk about that one in my next set of chapters), and it was brief and blunt and bold but otherwise not unlike many of those I’ve read in the other novels I’ve now read.

Okay, on to the action!

Oh look, there’s a Glossary of Terms and Proper Nouns!

Okay, admittedly this sort of thing is handy for noobs like me, and it gave me my first taste of the laughably self-serious nomenclature Ward’s invented for some of her characters and concepts.  I particularly like the entry for lesser, the soulless humans who’ve taken upon themselves the duty of destroying vampires wherever they may be found: “They smell like baby powder,” Ward tells us.  Of course they do.  Because that’s one of the most important things you need to know about them.

Chapter One: Techno + vampires = excitement

The novel opens in the dark of a hip dance club, Screamer’s, wherein the waitresses wear chain-fashioned bustiers (ouch) and wherein now sit two of our vampire heroes, Darius and…Tohrment.  (I type that name under protest.)  Darius’s daughter is about to come of age, and he’s explaining to Tohrment how he hopes to induce Wrath, the last of the full-blooded (and no doubt AKC-registered) vampires, to take her under his wing and see her through this trying event.  Wrath, we’re told, is “off the chain when it came to the business of vengeance.” The GOP’s Michael Steele would also say that he’s “off the hook.”

Not many minutes pass before we get to meet Wrath himself, almost seven feet of 100%, Grade-A, All-American vampire, as he almost literally plows his way through the dense crowd of dancers.  On Wrath’s arrival, Tohrment begs his pardon and stands to leave, uttering (I kid you not) the following line: “No offense, but I’m outtie.” Because a wizened and murderous vampire would say this.  He would.  Right before he’d say “I’m going to stop by Wet Seal and say hello to Tihffani on the way home.  You want anything at Orange Julius?  Bye-eee!”

Meanwhile, just blocks away at the office of the Caldwell Courier Journal, up-and-coming cub reporter Beth Randall is calling it a night.  Before setting out on the twelve-block walk back to her apartment she calls in a Chinese take-out order.  Then to the streets goes she, and she makes it halfway home before a pair of lecherous preppie toughs accost her, catcalling, cootchie-cooing, and pretty much making a nuisance of themselves before they pull Beth into a darkened alley and try to rape her.

Beth’s no creampuff, though, and she does a number on Tough #1’s nose and nuts before fleeing to her apartment.  As the chapter ends we meet “Butch” O’Neal, the barely-on-the-right-side-of-the-law police detective who’s sure to play a crucial role in the coming chapters.  “Let’s hear it for the boys of summer,” he thinks to himself as he rushes off to the scene of Beth’s assault.  Why settle for a mash-up of two ‘80s songs when for a few words more you can have three?: “Let’s hear it for the boys of the summer of ’69.”

Chapter 2: Wherein Wrath explodes in wrath and Darius…well…explodes

We’re back at Screamer’s, where Wrath and Darius are having a delightful little tête-à-tête.  After hemming and hawing a bit (“crazy weather we’re having, isn’t it?”…just kidding, but it’s not far off), Darius gets around to asking Wrath to help his daughter through her “transition,” the moment at which she will become an adult vampire.  It’s like a bat mitzvah, only without all of the gifts and mazel tovs, and a with good deal more blood.

“I can’t do it.  Not even for you,” Wrath tells his fellow Black Dagger Brother.  He’s not really the touchy-feely sort.  Darius continues to plead his case, letting Wrath know that his daughter’s especially delicate, being half-human, and he can trust only Wrath to see her through.  Wrath still refuses and leaves, using his mystical vampire powers to cleanse the human minds of their memories of him.

Once outside Wrath makes quick work of a lesser, one of those baby powder-fresh vampire killers of which we heard tell in the novel’s opening glossary.  After relieving the guy of his cell phone and wallet, Wrath kills the man.  “With a strangled sound, the lesser disintegrated in a flash of light.” Wrath then saunters off to feed his shellan, essentially a love-slave who depends on his blood in order to continue her existence.

Meanwhile, Darius’s bad day continues.  Climbing into his BMW 650i (immortal and classy!), Darius turns the key and almost instantly disappears in a white-hot ball of flame.  So much for our only somewhat-normally-named male vampire.

Chapter 3: Sad tidings at Wayne Manor

We open at Beth’s apartment.  After wolfing down a plate of Lean Cuisine mac ‘n’ cheese (the favored food of most dead-sexy cub reporters), Beth is called to the scene of the explosion at the last chapter’s end.  As she heads out the door she promises herself that she’ll tell her cop friend José de la Cruz all about her attackers.

Meanwhile, at the stately home of the late Darius Q. Vampire, Wrath rematerializes (because they can do that) and ensconces himself in his private room, where he waits for his love-slave to show up.  Said love-slave, Marissa, shows up almost at once, and within minutes she’s sucking on his wrist.  She’d likely rather be sucking on other bits of this vampire king, if you catch my drift.  There’s a good deal of sexual tension here, as Marissa would jump at the chance to have a roll in the hay with Wrath, while he only wishes she could find someone who’d love her the way she deserved to be loved.  Wrath puts up with the present awkward ritual, though.  Neither of them have a choice: she was bonded to him when she helped him through his own transition centuries before (we’ll hear more about that in a later chapter).

As this painful scene draws to a close Fritz (a.k.a. Alfred), Darius’s loyal retainer, approaches Wrath to let the latter know that Darius has died.  Wrath is none too pleased by this news: “The candles exploded and fell to the floor as a whirlwind of viciousness swirled around him, growing tighter, faster, darker, until the furniture flipped off the floor and traveled in a circle around him.” So Wrath’s kind of like an evil Mary Poppins?

Chapter 4: Wherein we meet the boys of the Black Dagger Brotherhood

Beth’s on the scene of the explosion, where she now comes face-to-face with Butch O’Neal.  Beneath that gruff exterior, Butch has got a heart of gold, and a soft spot for our cub reporter.  Seeing her split lip and bruised neck, he vows that he’ll track down the scumbags who accosted her in the alleyway.  Beth can bring herself to say much about the attack, though.  She finds she can’t keep herself together well enough to file her report that night, and she runs along home.

Meanwhile, at Darius’s mansion, Wrath has assembled the Black Dagger Brotherhood for an emergency club meeting.  (“I’m pretty sure someone was dipping into the rainy day fund…and our club copy of Blade #2, in mint condition, except for the small Yoo-Hoo stain on the cover, is missing.”)  We now get to meet the brothers.  There are Wrath and Tohrment, of course, and then there’s Vishous, a Red Sox fan who sports a single black driving glove; and Rhage, who is “Hollywood beautiful with the drive to rival a barnful of stallions.”

Finally, there’s Phury, a celibate amputee who’s certainly got a few axes to grind with various lessers; and Phury’s twin brother, Zsadist, who’d had an unfortunate past and “still bore the tattoos of a slave.  As well as various piercings he’d added himself.  Just because he liked the feel of pain.” Um…maybe I’m missing something, but wouldn’t that make “Mazsochist” a more appropriate name?

All right, who named these poor kids?  Seriously.  It’s like the BDB had only one even halfway reasonable name to go around and they all drew straws to see who’d get it.  And now that one guy is dead.  The names are one of the reasons I’m finding it very hard to take this book seriously.  I can’t help but think of the MST3K episode Cave Dwellers, in which Tom Servo changes his name to Htom Sirveaux and Crow says to Tom, “well, Htom, why don’t you hlick me?”

You know what else is bugging me about this book?  I’m irked by Ward’s continual insistence on making entire sentences out of prepositional phrases and other sentence fragments.  Note the above: “…he still bore the tattoos of a slave.  As well as various piercings he’d added himself [incomplete sentence].  Just because he liked the feel of pain [another].” There’s one more instance on that page (28), and two more on the facing page: “…he didn’t give a shit about anything or anyone.  Including his twin.” “…the balance could be thrown off in an instant.  In favor of the race’s enemies.” “Their kind was flirting with extinction.  Even though the brothers were deadly fine at what they did.”

By no means am I calling for a moratorium on the occasional intentional use of grammatically incomplete sentences, which are often very effective at creating a sense of bluntness, starkness, or abbreviation.  Such sentences serve a purpose.  A vital purpose.  (See?  I can do it, too!)  But c’mon, J.R.: if you’re doing it often enough that it becomes cliché, you shouldn’t be surprised if people start making it the basis for drinking games when your novels are read aloud at parties.

Because that totally should happen.

Oh yeah, and Beth is totally Darius’s daughter.  Surprise!

Chapter 5: A short chapter, in which Butch takes care of some unfinished business

As we begin this chapter, Butch O’Neal drops in on Beth at her apartment and asks her about her assailant.  During this conversation Wrath is lurking in the shadows outside, listening in.  At the last chapter’s end Wrath learned from Darius’s death letter that Beth is indeed Darius’s daughter, and he’s stopped by to check her out.

Beth gives Butch a description of the guys who attacked her, and Butch recognizes one as the guy to whose assistance he’d been called at the end of the first chapter.  This boy, Billy Riddle, is laid up in the hospital with a broken nose and a very sore set of family jewels, but his troubles have just begun.  After leaving Beth’s apartment Butch swings by the hospital and gives Billy another shot to the nose before running him in for assault.

Stay tuned: we’ll find out more about Billy in the coming chapters.

So far?  Dark Lover’s got more cheese than an Amish festival, and the author’s idiosyncratic grammatical quirks are a little distracting.  The story’s well-paced, though, and I’ve definitely read worse books (though none lately).  If I were a betting man, I’d lay odds that I’ll breeze through the rest of the book and get a few more good yuks out of it, but it’s not likely to be a life-changing experience.

To be continued!

Wanna read along with DocTurtle? You can get a copy of Dark Lover at Indiebound, Amazon, BooksOnBoard, BN, and a whole mhehss of othehr plahcehs.

Comments are Closed

  1. Ehhdie says:

    ROFLMFAO is about all I can say

  2. Janet W says:

    … and I’ve actually read both … Can You ForgHive Me? Unbelievably freaking funny … maybe because he can? Sorry, caHn 😀

  3. rebyj says:

    I lost it at ” evil Mary Poppins” rofl!  excellent summary. I look forward to the next installment.

  4. Denise says:

    .. lhove it !! 🙂

  5. Leslee says:

    This was totally awesome! Still laughing!!!!!!!!!! I read this crhacktastic stuff and enjoy it but I can still laugh about it. Totally awesome! Can’t wait to see what he has to say about the rest of the book!!!!

  6. ghn says:

    I love Doc Turtle’s reaction to those silly names. I have on a few occasion put Dead Tree books back on the shelf in the bookstore if I decided that kind of silliness was too overwhelming even for me. And I have seen a number of silly names, avid reader of Fantasy and SF that I am.
    The same goes for glossary pages, when the book has those.
    But here: In the opinion of the author, the most important thing to know about “lesser” critters is that “They smell like baby powder.” WTF???

  7. Tina C. says:

    I’ve never been able to get into these books, but I’m getting a heck of a kick out of SBiTPatrick’s recap!

    Wrath, the last of the full-blooded (and no doubt AKC-registered) vampires


  8. Rhonni says:


    As a person who really has a silent “h” in her name … the extra H naming policy creeps me out. Not that I don’t expect a bit of absurdity in a paranormal romance … it’s rather the point.

    I’m happy to have SBiTPatrick reading this for me. I like a bit of snark with my news. The Hubby reads me the paper that way.

  9. Eirin says:

    Spot on!

  10. rebyj says:

    Forgot to mention my BDB generator name: Rebyhj
    It’s killah true?

  11. HeatherK says:

    Hubby said I complain the whole time I’m reading a JR Ward book, however, I can’t seem to STOP reading them. Maybe the pages are laced with a drug that compels the reader to keep reading even as the needle on the “Are you Kidding Me?” meter is straining nearly to breaking point as it tries to jump off the edge into the abyss just to escape the madness.

    Lohving SBiT Patrick’s take on the books. Cahn’t whait fhor the nhext ihnstahllment.

  12. HeatherK says:

    Btw, my BDB name is Hheather. Do I get extra points for a word starting with a double H?

  13. I tried to read Dhark Lover.  I really, really tried.  I guess I have a higher resistance to crahck than I suspected. 

    Thank you, SBiT Patrick for making me nod my head in agreement and LOL along with your review.

  14. Alissa says:

    Um, how have I managed to miss Doc Turtle’s reviews before? Grheat to have a ghood laugh first thing in the AM, true?
    I love the BDB series, btw. And I lhove your blohg!

  15. Brenna says:

    Thank you SB for choosing a J R Ward book for Doc Turtle to read and review.  I know it’s cruel to inflict this on him, but what fun.  I’m laughing my head off just reading what he has to say.  I type the name under protest….One even halfway reasonable name… and now he’s dead!  Wrath some kind of evil Mary Poppins!  LOL.  I’m eagerly waiting for the continuation.

  16. nutmeag says:

    This is awesome. I picked up one of the other books in the series at the library yesterday without even reading the back cover (every once in a while I like to go in completely blind). I stopped reading after 2 chapters because the names were making me laugh a little too much. Great review so far, though. I’m loving it.

  17. Elizabeth Wadsworth says:

    Thanks for the chuckle of the day!  I’ve never read any of the Bhlack Dhagger stories; they sound vaguely reminiscent of Sherrilyn Kenyon, only with clunkier names and dialogue.  I’ve been breezing through Laura Kinsale’s Flowers From The Storm the last couple of days, and recommend that one for DocTurtle next—should be quite a change from Dark Lover.
    (And the mention of Trollope’s Can You Forgive Her? reminds me of Stephen King’s comment that it should be re-titled Can Anyone Possibly Finish It?)

  18. Sandia says:

    OMG I’m totally going to be playing the BDB drinking game!!!

  19. Tae says:

    I love the idea of the BDB drinking game.  Sadly, I’d have to drink alone since no one else I know reads the books, and I don’t want to inflict them on my friends.

    Great review, and the name generator -genius!

  20. Holy crap, I just started reading Dark Lover last night too and had almost exactly the same reaction. Especially to the ahwful nhames and that “I’m outtie” comment (I stared at it for at least ten minutes hoping I’d misread it).

    I’ve had the first 5 books of JR Ward’s series in my TBR pile for some time now, and I’m not sure I get the massive fandom. I’ll stick with it longer because they’ve gotten such awesome reviews, but then, so did Twilight and I didn’t much care for those books.

  21. Tanya says:

    Bwaaa, I think what makes the BDB simultaneously so ridiculous and so compelling is that Ward really is SO self serious about the…well just silliness of it all.
    Centuries old Vampires with idiotically altered names..who talk like gangsta rappers..just kills me.

  22. Ahlison says:

    Loved the Bhlack Dahgger name genheratohr so muhch I hhad to change my nahme

  23. JoanneL says:

    Johanne….does that mean there is the slightest possibility that I am a decendent, by way of Brooklyn,  to Johann Sebastian Bach?

  24. M E 2 says:

    On Wrath’s arrival, Tohrment begs his pardon and stands to leave, uttering (I kid you not) the following line: “No offense, but I’m outtie.” Because a wizened and murderous vampire would say this.  He would.  Right before he’d say “I’m going to stop by Wet Seal and say hello to Tihffani on the way home.  You want anything at Orange Julius?  Bye-eee!”


    You do realize that it is craptastic stuff like this that gives romance novels a REALLY really bad name?  Right??  Seriously.

    Honestly, if I didn’t know the above paragraph (for the most part) was a paranormal/vampire novel, I would truly suspect some BAD gay porn.  Oy!

  25. Elizabeth Wadsworth says:

    Oh, by any chance does Billy Riddle have an older brother Tom who got packed off to boarding school as a kid, went bad, and, well…you know the rest.

  26. Babs says:

    OMG OMG OMG. I can’t stop laughing. And the Name Maker is going to be a HUGE time suck—whee!

    Doc Turhtle—love those reviews.

  27. Lisa J says:

    Best review ever!!!!!!!

  28. willa says:

    Awesome, hilarious review! I can’t wait for the next set of chapters.

  29. Alisha Rai says:

    Thanks for the laugh in the morning! As someone who has succumbed to the chrack, I find this particularly hilarious.

    I really hope Doc continues to read this series if for no other reason than his reaction to their incessent text messaging in later books.

  30. Kalen Hughes says:

    This book was DNF for me (the cracktastic nature of the series eludes me). The writing was solid, but I gave up when A) the hero who supposedly hates humans is suddenly banging one with zero internal conflict (I mean, WTF; way to setup and then ignore the hero’s entire back-story); and B) The book hit a pet peeve of mine: the big strong hero who suddenly realizes he cares for the week widdle woman because while she’s really the vulnerable one, she’s concerned for his safety.

    I just couldn’t go on . . .

  31. Tammy says:

    Centuries old Vampires with idiotically altered names..who talk like gangsta rappers..just kills me.

    I think they talk like Valley Girls, myself.

  32. Esther says:

    I may not like paranormals, but I love this review.
    The snark, it makes me keekle.
    Keep it coming!

  33. CourtneyLee says:

    I love this series. I am totally addicted to teh crahck and I’m unashamed. I love the writing most of the time and even *gasp* the names.

    But I’m the last person to say that this series isn’t snark-worthy and I’m loving Doc Turtle’s review so far. Read on, SBiT!

    I think for his next paranormal, he should go for Nalini Singh.

  34. Zshelly says:

    This was my reaction too when reading these.  Only I couldn’t stop.  I read right through to the most recent.  Book 5 -or is it 6?- will have dialogue that will make you want to poke your eyes out.  I’m saying this because you will keep going; there’s some kind of subliminal crack in them.

    help48—a call for help against this addiction?

  35. Jenica says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!  I needed this on a Monday morning.  LOL.  I think I’m a recovering crack addict – with these books, I always became interested in the secondary characters and couldn’t wait for their stories, but then was disappointed in them.

  36. Terry Odell says:

    I’m loving DT’s take on it. Sounds very much like what my reaction would be.  I’ve yet to find a vampire (or werewolf) book that made me want to read another. Sounds like I don’t have to feel guilty for not reading Ward.

    But I did step outside my normal genre of choice after reading DT’s review of Chase’s book.

  37. EmmyS says:

    Just because he liked the feel of pain.” Um…maybe I’m missing something, but wouldn’t that make “Mazsochist” a more appropriate name?

    I keep reading this as Matzochist, which makes me think of someone torturing himself by eating kosher for Pesach foods…

  38. EmmyS says:

    Oh, and Terry, if you’re looking for were stories that won’t make you puke, try Doc Turtle’s own Bivinnia, Queen of the WereCows!

  39. DonLinn says:

    Behst. Revhiew. Ehvehr.

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