The problem with reading a truly exceptional book is that you find yourself judging other books against it. And the other books always fall a little short. Lover Unleashed has the misfortune of coming after Lover Awakened. It’s not a bad book, but it doesn’t hold a candle to its predecessor.
We met Butch O’Neal back at the start of the series. He was a tough human cop, who ended up being drawn in the world of vampires. He ended up friends with the members of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, the warriors who defend their race. He is especially close to Vishous. And he has an enormous crush on a the beautiful, virginal vampire Marissa. But she doesn’t seem to return his feelings.
As our story begins, Butch is taken by vampire hunters, called Lessers, and infected with the essence of their leader, the Omega. He nearly dies and is rushed to the vampire doctor Havers, who happens to be Marissa’s brother. Once she learns of his injuries, Marissa sticks to Butch like glue… and we learn she cared for him all along. This is just the first in a series of contrived stumbling blocks between the two of them. Time and time again, we see how deeply these two care for and need one another. Then something stupid gets in their way and it seems to be over. Then they come back together. Rinse & repeat.
Beyond that, there is something weird going on between V & Butch. Both guys are straight, but there is a definite sexual vibe there that feels… off. I understand these guys are really close, but even they seemed icked out by the undertones. Some of the “why’s” of their connection are revealed as the story progresses and I’m OK with V using his gift/curse to help Butch as he learns his powers. But the sex-vibe I could do without.
And my last big peeve: they changed the rules for Butch. I’m cool with what happened to him in the end. But it felt like Ward was cheating the rules of her own universe with his outcome.
With all that complaining, it might sound like I didn’t like the book. But I did. Ward has created a sexy, dark, complex and satisfying world with this series. The longing and the love scenes are fantastic. And as always, I found myself as invested in the stories surrounding the secondary characters as I did Butch & Marissa. –I mean, how can you not love John Matthew?