Author: J.R. Ward

Throwback Thursday Review: Lover Unleashed by J.R. Ward (spoilers abound)

Posted April 8, 2021 by Casee in Reviews | 7 Comments

Throwback Thursday Review: Lover Unleashed by J.R. Ward (spoilers abound)Reviewer: Casee
Lover Unleashed by J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood #9
Also in this series: Lover Unbound, Lover Avenged, Lover at Last, Lover at Last, The King, The Shadows, The Beast, Lover Enshrined, The Chosen, Lover Mine, The Thief, The Savior, Where Winter Finds You, The Sinner
Publisher: NAL
Publication Date: March 29th 2011
Point-of-View: Third Person
Pages: 512
Add It: Goodreads
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars
Series Rating: three-stars

Payne, twin sister of Vishous, is cut from the same dark, warrior cloth as her brother: A fighter by nature, and a maverick when it comes to the traditional role of Chosen females, there is no place for her on the Far Side... and no role for her on the front lines of the war, either.

When she suffers a paralyzing injury, human surgeon Dr. Manuel Manello is called in to treat her as only he can—and he soon gets sucked into her dangerous, secret world. Although he never before believed in things that go bump in the night—like vampires—he finds himself more than willing to be seduced by the powerful female who marks both his body and his soul.

As the two find so much more than an erotic connection, the human and vampire worlds collide... just as a centuries old score catches up with Payne and puts both her love and her life in deadly jeopardy.

This review was originally posted on April 14, 2011.

It’s really hard for me to review JRW’s books because I’m so opposed to what I see is her manufactured persona. My opinion isn’t humble, yo. She’s not writing what is “downloaded” in her head by the characters. She’s obviously writing what her readers want to read. Let me preface this review by saying this was as much Vishous’ book as it was Payne’s. Which might have worked (the twin thing and all) if Vishous hadn’t already had his book, hello. To me, a halfwaysortakinda fan that hasn’t quite given up, it was an obvious way of saying “I’m sorry I screwed the pooch and made Jane a G.D. ghost in Lover Unbound”. Pul-lease. Most of us are over that. If you’re not, you’re obsessed and need help. Bottom line, although I like V I wanted more Payne. Heh.

Dr. Manny Manello’s life has pretty much gone to hell since Jane died. When she resurfaces from the dead and tells him that she needs him to operate on someone, he really has no choice. He’s a doctor and his instinct is to heal. When his memories are released of the day that Jane’s husband came in the hospital, he is furious. Then he’s entranced by his patient. All he can think is that he has to save her. After he does that, his memory is wiped. He doesn’t know that of course. All he knows is that he’s drawn to a room in the hospital for a reason he doesn’t know. Day is night. He has big chunks missing in his memory. It must be a tumor.

It was actually painful to watch Manny go through what a mind wipe can do to a human. It’s obviously understandable why they need to wipe their presence from a human’s mind, but this was the first time that the consequences were apparent and very noticeable. Manny literally thought that he was going crazy. A man that ran a hospital and could basically operate with his eyes closed questioned his sanity because someone else decided what was best for him to know.

Then the BDB needs Manny again because although he operated flawlessly on Payne’s spine, she still isn’t walking. There is no progress at all. They once again return Manny’s memories and ask for demand his help. There was a key to healing Payne and only Manny could trigger it. That was well crafted and thought out. I thought it was perfect.

It might sound like I didn’t like this book, but I actually did. The romance between Manny and Payne was actually sweet. Manny saw Payne as delicate and a woman that needed protecting when Payne was a warrior in her own right. I really thought it was wonderful the way that Manny accepted Payne as she was and didn’t try to stifle who she was.

There was also another set of characters introduced, vampires from the Old Country. So I suppose there will be yet another spinoff. There was a lot of Qhinn self-reflection. At this point, I don’t care what happens with Qhuinn. Just get it done already.

On that note, I WANT TOHR’S BOOK.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Black Dagger Brotherhood

four-stars


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Sunday Spotlight: A Warm Heart in Winter by J.R. Ward

Posted December 13, 2020 by Casee in Features, Giveaways | 2 Comments

Sunday Spotlight is a feature we began in 2016. This year we’re spotlighting our favorite books, old and new. We’ll be raving about the books we love and being total fangirls. You’ve been warned. 🙂

Sunday Spotlight: A Warm Heart in Winter by J.R. WardA Warm Heart in Winter by J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood #18.5
Also in this series: Lover Unbound, Lover Avenged, Lover at Last, Lover at Last, The King, The Shadows, The Beast, Lover Enshrined, The Chosen, Lover Mine, The Thief, The Savior, Where Winter Finds You, The Sinner, Lover Unleashed
Publisher: Pocket Books
Publication Date: December 1, 2020
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Genres: Paranormal Romance
Pages: 496
Add It: Goodreads
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
Series Rating: three-stars

#1 New York Times bestselling author J.R. Ward is heating things up this winter with a holiday novel featuring some of her most iconic Black Dagger Brothers.
In this romantic and sexy addition to the #1 New York Times bestselling Black Dagger Brotherhood series, a beloved couple has everything arranged... until it all goes horribly wrong.
Blay and Qhuinn always intended to do a proper mating ceremony, but life has a way of getting in the way. With a pair of young, responsibilities to the King, and a grueling fighting schedule, the two are exhausted and overwhelmed. When Qhuinn gives his male the proposal of a lifetime, however, they are excited for their special night and more in love than ever.
Everyone in the Black Dagger Brotherhood’s mansion gets into the preparations, and the after party takes on epic- and immortal- proportions when Lassiter forms the Party Planning Committee. The celebrations promise to be all that the couple deserves... until a Nor’easter land locks Caldwell in a fierce storm, and things go from lighthearted to deadly dangerous.
Battling nature and responding to emergencies, Blay and Qhuinn get separated, and when a catastrophic chain of events puts one of their lives in jeopardy, the night they had so looked forward could mean the end of everything...

Excerpt

Qhuinn, son of Lohstrong, entered his family’s home through its grand front door. The instant he stepped over the threshold, the smell of the place curled up into his nose. Lemon polish. Beeswax candles. Fresh flowers from the garden that the doggen brought in daily. Perfume—his mother’s. Cologne—his father’s and his brother’s. Cinnamon gum—his sister’s.

If the Glade company ever did an air freshener like this, it would be called something like Meadow of Old Money. Or Sunrise Over a Fat Bank Account.

Or maybe the ever popular We’re Just Better Than Everyone Else.

Distant voices drifted over from the dining room, the vowels round as brilliant-cut diamonds, the consonants drawled out smooth and long as satin ribbons.

“Oh, Lillie, this is lovely, thank you,” his mother said to the server. “But that’s too much for me. And do not give Solange so much. She’s getting heavy.”

Ah, yes, his mother’s perma-diet inflicted on the next generation: Glymera females were supposed to disappear from sight when they turned sideways, each jutting collar-bone, sunken cheek, and bony upper arm some kind of fucked-up badge of honor.

As if resembling a fire poker would make you a better person.

And Scribe Virgin forfend if your daughter looked like she was healthy.

“Ah, yes, thank you, Lilith,” his father said evenly. “More for me, please.”

Qhuinn closed his eyes and tried to convince his body to step forward. One foot after another. It was not that tough.

His brand-new Ed Hardy kicks middle-fingered that suggestion. Then again, in so many ways, walking into that dining room was going into the belly of the beast.

He let his duffle fall to the floor. The couple of days at his best friend Blay’s home had done him good, a break from the complete lack of air in his family’s house. Unfortunately, the burn on reentry was so bad, it made the cost/benefit of leaving nearly equal.

Okay, this was ridiculous. He couldn’t keep standing here like an inanimate object.

Turning to the side wall, he leaned into the full-length antique mirror that was placed right by the door. So thoughtful. So in keeping with the aristocracy’s need to look good. This way, visitors could check their hair and clothes as the butler accepted coats and hats.

The young pretrans face that was reflected back at him was all even features, good jawline, and a mouth that, he had to admit, looked like it could do some serious dam-age to naked skin when he got older. Or maybe that was just wishful thinking. Hair was all Vlad the Impaler, spikes standing up straight from his head. Neck was strung with a bike chain, and not one bought at Urban Outfitters—he’d taken it off his twelve-speed. All things being equal, he looked like a thief who had broken into the mansion and was prepared to trash the place looking for sterling silver, jewelry, and portable electronics.

The irony was that all the Goth bullcrap wasn’t the most offensive part of his appearance to his family. In fact, he could have stripped down, hung a light fixture off his ass, and run around the first floor playing José Canseco with the art and antiques and not come close to how much the real problem pissed off his parents.

It was his eyes.

One blue. One green.

Oopsy. His bad.

The glymera didn’t like defects. Not in their porcelain or their rose gardens. Not in their wallpaper or their car-pets or their countertops. Not in the silk of their under-wear or the wool of their blazers or the chiffon of their gowns.

And certainly not EVER in their young.

Sister was okay—well, except for the “little weight problem” that didn’t actually exist, and a lisp that was going to be dealt with through oral surgery—oh, and the fact that she had the personality of their mother. And there was no fixing that shit. Brother, on the other hand, was the real fucking star, a physically perfect son pre-pared to carry forth the family bloodline by reproducing in a very genteel, non-moaning, no-sweat situation with a female chosen for him by the family.

Hell, Luchas’s sperm recipient had already been lined up. He was going to have to mate her as soon as he went through his transition—

“How are you feeling, my son?” his father asked in a gentle voice.

“Tired, sir,” a deep voice answered. “But this is going to help.”

A chill frog-marched up Qhuinn’s spine. That didn’t sound like his brother. Way too much bass. Far too mas-culine. Too…

Holy shit, the guy had gone through his transition. Now, Qhuinn’s Ed Hardys got with the program, taking him forward until he could see through into the dining room. Father was in his seat at the head of the table. Check. Mother was in her chair at the foot of the table opposite the kitchen’s flap door. Check. Sister was facing out of the room, all but licking the gold rim off her plate from hunger. Check.

The male whose back was to Qhuinn was not part of the SOP.

His brother was twice the size he’d been when Qhuinn had been approached by a doggen and told to get his things and go to Blay’s.

Well, that explained the vacay. He’d assumed his father had finally relented and given into the request Qhuinn had filed weeks before. But nope, his sire had just wanted the defect out of the house because the change had come to his brother.

Had Luchas laid the chick? Who had they used for blood—

Their father, never the demonstrative type, reached out a hand and gave Qhuinn’s brother an awkward pat on the forearm. “We’re so proud of you. You look . . . perfect.”

“You do,” Qhuinn’s mother piped in. “Just perfect. Doesn’t your brother look perfect, Solange?”

“Yes, he does. Perfect.”

“And I have something for you,” Lohstrong said, in a voice that got husky.

The male reached into the inside pocket of his sport coat and took out a small, black velvet box.

Qhuinn’s mother started to tear up and dabbed care-fully under her eyes.

“This is for you, my son.”

The box was slid across the white damask tablecloth, and Luchas’s now-big hands shook as he took the thing and popped the lid.

Qhuinn could see the flash of gold all the way out in the foyer.

Luchas just stared at the signet ring in silence, clearly overwhelmed, as their mother kept up with the dab-dab, and even their father grew slightly misty. And Solange snuck a roll from the bread basket.

“Thank you, sir,” Qhuinn’s brother said as he put the heavy gold ring on his forefinger.

“It fits, does it not?” Lohstrong asked.

“Yes, sir. Perfectly.”

“We wear the same size, then.”

Of course they did.

At that moment, their father glanced away, like he was hoping the movement of his eyeballs would take care of the sheen of tears that had come down over his vision.

He caught Qhuinn lurking outside in the foyer. There was a brief flash of recognition. Not the hi-how’re-ya kind or the oh-good-my-other-son’s-home stuff. More like when you were walking through the grass and noticed a pile of dog shit too late to stop your foot from landing in it.

The male looked back at his family, locking Qhuinn out sure as if he’d closed an actual door.

Clearly, the last thing Lohstrong wanted was for such a historic moment to be ruined—and that was probably why he didn’t do the hand signals that warded off the evil eye. Usually, everyone in the household performed the ritual when they saw Qhuinn. Not tonight. The head of house didn’t want the others to know who was in their midst.

Qhuinn pivoted and went back to his duffle. Slinging the thing over his shoulder, he took the front stairs to his room. Usually, his mother preferred him to use the ser-vants’ set, but that would mean he’d have to cut through all the love in there.

His bedroom was as far away from the others’ as you could get, all the way over to the right. He’d often won-dered why they didn’t take the leap completely and put him in with the doggen—but then the staff would prob-ably quit.

Closing himself into his quarters, he dumped the duffle onto the bare floor and sat on his bed. Staring at his only piece of luggage, he figured he had better do laundry soon as there was a wet bathing suit in there.

The maids refused to touch his clothes—like the evil in him lingered in the fibers of his jeans and his T-shirts. The upside was he was never welcomed for formal events anyway, so his wardrobe was just wash-n-wear, baby—

He discovered he was crying when he looked down at his Ed Hardys and realized that there were a couple of drops of water right between all those buckles and leather.

Qhuinn was never getting a ring.

Ah, hell . . . this hurt.

He was scrubbing his face with his palms when his phone rang. Taking the thing out of his biker jacket, he had to blink a couple of times to focus.

He hit send to accept the call, but he didn’t answer.

“I just heard,” Blay said across the connection. “How are you doing?”

Qhuinn opened his mouth to reply, his brain coughing up all kinds of responses: Peachy fucking jim-dandy. At least I’m not “fat” like my sister. No, I don’t know if my brother got laid.

Instead, he said, “They got me out of the house. They didn’t want me to curse the transition. Guess it worked because Luchas sure looks like he came through it okay.”

Blay swore softly.

“Oh, and he got his ring just now. My father gave him . . . his ring.”

The signet ring with the family crest on it, the symbol that all males of good bloodlines wore to attest to their value to their lineage.

“I watched Luchas put it on his finger,” Qhuinn said, feeling as if he were taking a sharp knife and drawing it up the insides of his arms. “Fit perfectly. Looked great. You know, though . . . like, how could it not—”

He began weeping at that point.

Just fucking lost it.

The awful truth was that under all his counter culture fuck-you, he wanted his family to love him. As prissy as his sister was, as scholar-geek as his brother was, as re-served as his parents were, he saw the love between those four. He felt the love among them. It was the tie that bound them, the invisible string from one heart to the others, the commitment of caring about everything from the mundane shit to any true, mortal drama. The only thing more powerful than that connection . . . was what it was like to get shut out from its expression.

Every fucking night of your life.

Blay’s voice cut in through the heaving. “I’m here for you. And I’m so damned sorry . . . I’m here for you . . . just don’t do anything stupid, okay? Let me come over—”

Leave it to Blay to know that he was thinking about things that involved ropes and showerheads.

In fact, his free hand had already gone down to the makeshift belt he’d fashioned out of a nice, strong weave of nylon—because his parents didn’t give him money for clothes and the one proper buckle-and-strap combo he’d owned had broken years ago.

Pulling the length free, he glanced across to the closed door of his bath. All he needed to do was tie the thing to the fixture in his shower—God knew those water pipes had been run in the good old days when things were strong enough to hold some weight. He even had a chair he could stand up on and then kick out from underneath him.

“I gotta go—”

“Qhuinn? Don’t you hang up on me—don’t you dare hang up on me—”

“Listen, man, I gotta go—”

“I’m coming over right now—” Lot of flapping in the background like Blay was getting his shit together. “Qhuinn! Do not hang up the phone—Qhuinn . . . !”

Black Dagger Brotherhood

Giveaway Alert

We’re giving one lucky winner their choice of one of our Sunday Spotlight books. Use the widget below to enter for one of this month’s features.

Sunday Spotlight: December 2020

Are you as excited for this release as we are? Let us know how excited you are and what other books you’re looking forward to this year!

About J.R. Ward

Author J.R. Ward wearing sunglasses

J.R. Ward is the author of over thirty novels, including those in her #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling series, The Black Dagger Brotherhood. There are more than 15 million copies of Ward’s novels in print worldwide and they have been published in 25 different countries around the world.

After graduating from law school, Ward began working in healthcare in Boston and spent many years as Chief of Staff of one of the premier academic medical centers in the nation. She lives in the south with her incredibly supportive husband and her beloved golden retriever. Writing has always been her passion and her idea of heaven is a whole day of nothing but her computer, her dog and her coffee pot.


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Review: The Sinner by J.R. Ward

Posted June 17, 2020 by Casee in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: The Sinner by J.R. WardReviewer: Casee
The Sinner by J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood #18
Also in this series: Lover Unbound, Lover Avenged, Lover at Last, Lover at Last, The King, The Shadows, The Beast, Lover Enshrined, The Chosen, Lover Mine, The Thief, The Savior, Where Winter Finds You, Lover Unleashed
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: March 24, 2020
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Paranormal Romance
Pages: 498
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Casee's 2020 Goodreads Challenge, Goodreads Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
three-half-stars
Series Rating: three-stars

A sinner’s only hope is true love in this passionate new novel in J.R. Ward’s #1 New York Times bestselling Black Dagger Brotherhood series.
Syn has kept his side hustle as a mercenary a secret from the Black Dagger Brotherhood. When he takes another hit job, he not only crosses the path of the vampire race’s new enemy, but also that of a half-breed in danger of dying during her transition. Jo Early has no idea what her true nature is, and when a mysterious man appears out of the darkness, she is torn between their erotic connection and the sense that something is very wrong.
Fate anointed Butch O’Neal as the Dhestroyer, the fulfiller of the prophecy that foresees the end of the Omega. As the war with the Lessening Society comes to a head, Butch gets an unexpected ally in Syn. But can he trust the male—or is the warrior with the bad past a deadly complication?
With time running out, Jo gets swept up in the fighting and must join with Syn and the Brotherhood against true evil. In the end, will love true prevail...or was the prophecy wrong all along?

It’s been awhile since I read this book, but I’m going to give this review my best shot.

Syn isn’t officially in the Black Dagger Brotherhood, but he fights along side them in the war that threatens the vampire race. Something the Brothers don’t know is that moonlights as a mercenary. He has some part of him (I just tried to look it up and couldn’t find it) that needs violence. Likely literally needs it or he goes crazy. When he takes a new contract, he is given the name of a journalist at the local newspaper. No problem for Syn. Give him a name and it’s done. Only it doesn’t go at all like what he expected.

Jo Early has been trying to prove that vampires exist. Along with her journalist partner, Bill, they embark on a journey that takes them to some pretty bad places. Fortunately (or unfortunately) for Jo, she doesn’t remember any of it. She doesn’t know that the very vampires that she is trying to prove exist have made her forget what she’s looking for. What those vampires don’t expect is to find a half-breed that may or may not transition into a vampire. All Jo knows is that she probably has cancer and is dying.

While out fighting the Lessers, Syn smells her. Yes, that would be Jo. He smells her and goes bonkers. When he comes face-to-face with her, he knows exactly who she is. His mate. His reason for living. Too bad Syn doesn’t think he’s good enough for her. Well, not at first. At first the two really hit it off even though their first meeting didn’t go well. Then Syn realizes that Jo is way too good for him and there is no way that he’s going to be the one that helps her through her (probably) transition.

I know I say it every time I review a book in this series, but seriously. I can’t quit it and it drives me nutso. There is something about these characters that is so compelling to me. I couldn’t tell you why. One thing I really loved in this book was everything from Butch’s point of view. I’ve always loved Butch as a character and that hasn’t changed since the first book.

The big bad in JRW’s Fallen Angels series has come over into this series. I’m unsure how I feel about that. Honestly, I like this big bad better than the Omega. She (yes, she) is just more interesting. I think she’s going to bring a lot to the series, but I still think it is kind of a copout. Overall, I enjoyed this book but I didn’t love it.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Black Dagger Brotherhood

three-half-stars


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Sunday Spotlight: The Sinner by J.R. Ward

Posted March 22, 2020 by Casee in Features, Giveaways | 3 Comments

Sunday Spotlight is a feature we began in 2016. This year we’re spotlighting our favorite books, old and new. We’ll be raving about the books we love and being total fangirls. You’ve been warned. 🙂

Sunday Spotlight: The Sinner by J.R. WardThe Sinner by J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood #19
Also in this series: Lover Unbound, Lover Avenged, Lover at Last, Lover at Last, The King, The Shadows, The Beast, Lover Enshrined, The Chosen, Lover Mine, The Thief, The Savior, Where Winter Finds You, The Sinner, Lover Unleashed
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: March 24, 2020
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Genres: Paranormal Romance
Pages: 512
Add It: Goodreads
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
Series Rating: three-stars

A sinner’s only hope is true love in this passionate new novel in J.R. Ward’s #1 New York Times bestselling Black Dagger Brotherhood series.

Syn has kept his side hustle as a mercenary a secret from the Black Dagger Brotherhood. When he takes another hit job, he not only crosses the path of the vampire race’s new enemy, but also that of a half-breed in danger of dying during her transition. Jo Early has no idea what her true nature is, and when a mysterious man appears out of the darkness, she is torn between their erotic connection and the sense that something is very wrong.

Fate anointed Butch O’Neal as the Dhestroyer, the fulfiller of the prophecy that foresees the end of the Omega. As the war with the Lessening Society comes to a head, Butch gets an unexpected ally in Syn. But can he trust the male—or is the warrior with the bad past a deadly complication?

With time running out, Jo gets swept up in the fighting and must join with Syn and the Brotherhood against true evil. In the end, will love true prevail...or was the prophecy wrong all along?

Excerpt

Route 149
Caldwell, New York

Behind the wheel of her ten-year-old car, Jo Early bit into the Slim Jim and chewed like it was her last meal. She hated the fake-smoke taste and the boat-rope texture, and when she swallowed the last piece, she got another one out of her bag. Ripping the wrapper with her teeth, she peeled the taxidermied tube free and littered into the wheel well of her passenger side. There were so many spent casings like it down there, you couldn’t see the floor mat.

Up ahead, her anemic headlights swung around a curve, illuminating pine trees that had been limbed up three-quarters of the way, the puff y tops making toothpicks out of the trunks. She hit a pothole and bad-swallowed, and she was coughing as she reached her destination.

The abandoned Adirondack Outlets was yet another commentary on the pervasiveness of Amazon Prime. The one-story strip mall was a horseshoe without a hoof, the storefronts along the two long sides bearing the remnants of their brands, faded laminations and off -kilter signs with names like Van Heusen/Izod, and Nike, and Dansk the ghosts of commerce past. Behind dusty glass, there was no merchandise available for purchase anymore, and no one had been on the property with a charge card for at least a year, only hardscrabble weeds in the cracks of the promenade and barn swallows in the eaves inhabiting the site. Likewise, the food court that united the eastern and western arms was no longer offering soft serve or Starbucks or lunch.

As a hot flash cranked her internal temperature up, she cracked the window. And then put the thing all the way down. March in Caldwell, New York, was like winter in a lot of places still considered northerly in latitude, and thank God for it. Breathing in the cold, damp air, she told herself this was not a bad idea.

Nah, not at all. Here she was, alone at midnight, chasing down the lead on a story she wasn’t writing for her employer, the Caldwell Courier Journal. Without anyone at her new apartment waiting up for her. Without anyone on the planet who would claim her mangled corpse when it was found from the smell in a ditch a week from now.

Letting the car roll to a stop, she killed the headlights and stayed where she was. No moon out tonight so she’d dressed right. All black. But without any illumination from the heavens, her eyes strained at the darkness, and not because she was greedy to see the details on the decaying structure.

Nope. At the moment, she was worried she was about to provide fodder for True Crime Garage. As unease tickled her nape, like someone was trying to get her attention by running the point of a carving knife over her skin—

Her stomach let out a howl and she jumped. Without any debate, she went diving into her purse again. Passing by the three Slim Jims she had left, she went straight-up Hershey this time, and the efficiency with which she stripped that mass-produced chocolate of its clothing was a sad commentary on her diet. When she was finished, she was still hungry and not because there wasn’t food in her belly. As always, the only two things she could eat failed to satisfy her gnawing craving, to say nothing of her nutritional needs.

Putting up her window, she took her backpack and got out. The crackling sound of the treads of her running shoes on the shoulder of the road seemed loud as a concert, and she wished she wasn’t getting over a cold. Like her sense of smell could be helpful, though? And when was the last time she’d considered that possibility outside of a milk carton check.

She really needed to give these wild-goose chases up.

Two-strapping her backpack, she locked the car and pulled the hood of her windbreaker up over her red hair. No heel toeing. She leftright-left’d it, keeping the soles of her Brooks flat to quiet her footfalls. As her eyes adjusted, all she saw were the shadows around her, the hidey-holes in corners and nooks formed by the mall’s doorways and the benches pockets of gotcha with which mashers could play a grown‑up’s game of keep away until they were ready to attack.

When she got to a heavy chain that was strung across the entry to the promenade, she looked around. There was nobody in the parking lots that ran down the outside of the flanks. No one in the center area formed by the open-ended rectangle. Not a soul on the road that she had taken up to this rise above Rt. 149.

Jo told herself that this was good. It meant no one was going to jump her.

Her adrenal glands, on the other hand, informed her that this actually meant no one was around to hear her scream for help.

Refocusing on the chain, she had some thought that if she swung her leg over it and proceeded on the other side, she would not come back the same.

“Stop it,” she said, kicking her foot up.

She chose the right side of the stores, and as rain started to fall, she was glad the architect had thought to cover the walkways overhead. What had been not so smart was anyone thinking a shopping center with no interior corridors could survive in a zip code this close to Canada. Saving ten bucks on a pair of candlesticks or a bathing suit was not going to keep anybody warm enough to shop outside October to April, and that was true even before you factored in the current era of free next-day shipping.

Down at the far end, she stopped at what had to have been the ice cream place because there was a faded stencil of a cow holding a triple decker cone by its hoof on the window. She got out her phone.

Her call was answered on the first ring.

“Are you okay?” Bill said.

“Where am I going?” she whispered. “I don’t see anything.”

“It’s in the back. I told you that you have to go around back, remember?”

“Damn it.” Maybe the nitrates had fried her brain. “Hold on, I think I found a staircase.”

“I should come out there.”

Jo started walking again and shook her head even though he couldn’t see her. “I’m fine—yup, I’ve got the cut through to the rear. I’ll call you if I need you—”

“You shouldn’t be doing this alone!”

Ending the connection, she jogged down the concrete steps, her pack bouncing like it was doing push-ups on her back. As she bottomed out on the lower level, she scanned the empty parking lot—

The stench that stabbed into her nose was the kind of thing that triggered her gag reflex. Roadkill . . . and baby powder?

She looked to the source. The maintenance building by the tree line had a corrugated metal roof and metal walls that would not survive long in tornado alley. Half the size of a football field, with garage doors locked to the ground, she imagined it could have housed paving equipment as well as blowers, mowers, and snowplows.

The sole person-sized door was loose, and as a stiff gust from the rainstorm caught it, the creak was straight out of a George Romero movie—and then the panel immediately slammed shut with a clap, as if Mother Nature didn’t like the stink any more than Jo did.

Taking out her phone, she texted Bill: This smell is nasty.

Aware that her heart rate just tripled, she walked across the asphalt, the rain hitting the hood of her windbreaker in a disorganized staccato. Ducking her hand under the loose nylon of the jacket, she felt for her holstered gun and kept her hand on the butt.

The door creaked open and slammed shut again, another puff of that smell releasing out of the pitch-black interior. Swallowing through throat spasms, she had to fight to keep going and not because there was wind in her face.

When she stopped in front of the door, the opening and closing ceased, as if now that she was on the verge of entering, it didn’t need to catch her attention and draw her in.

So help her God, if Pennywise was on the other side . . .

Glancing around to check there were no red balloons lolling in the area, she reached out for the door.

I just have to know, she thought as she opened the way in. I need to . . . know.

Leaning around the jamb, she saw absolutely nothing, and yet was frozen by all that she confronted. Pure evil, the kind of thing that abducted and murdered children, that slaughtered the innocent, that enjoyed the suffering of the just and merciful, pushed at her body and then penetrated it, radiation that was toxic passing through to her bones.

Coughing, she stepped back and covered her mouth and nose with the crook of her elbow. After a couple of deep breaths into her sleeve, she fumbled with her phone.

Before Bill could say anything over the whirring in his background, she bit out, “You need to come—”

“I’m already halfway to you.”

“Good.”

“What’s going on—”

Jo ended the call again and got out her flashlight, triggering the beam. Stepping forward again, she shouldered the door open and trained the spear of illumination into the space.

The light was consumed.

Sure as if she were shining it into a bolt of thick fabric, the fragile glowing shaft was no match for what she was about to enter.
The threshold she stepped over was nothing more than weather stripping, but the inch-high lip was a barrier that felt like an obstacle course she could barely surmount—and then there was the stickiness on the floor. Pointing the flashlight to the ground, she picked up one of her feet. Something like old motor oil dripped off her running shoe, the sound of it finding home echoing in the empty space.

As Jo walked forward, she found the first of the buckets on the left. Home Depot. With an orange-and-white logo smudged by a rusty, translucent substance that turned her stomach.

The beam wobbled as she looked into the cylinder, her hand shaking. Inside there was a gallon of glossy, gleaming . . . red . . . liquid. And in the back of her throat, she tasted copper—

Jo wheeled around with the flashlight.

Through the doorway, the two men who had come up behind her without a sound loomed as if they had risen out of the pavement itself, wraiths conjured from her nightmares, fed by the cold spring rain, clothed in the night. One of them had a goatee and tattoos at one of his temples, a cigarette between his lips and a downright nasty expression on his hard face. The other wore a Boston Red Sox hat and a long camel-colored coat, the tails of which blew in slow motion even though the wind was choppy. Both had long black blades holstered handles down on their chest, and she knew there were more weapons where she couldn’t see them.

They had come to kill her. Tracked her as she’d moved away from her car. Seen her as she had not seen them.

Jo stumbled back and tried to get out her gun, but her sweaty palms had her dropping her phone and struggling to keep the flashlight—

And then she couldn’t move.

Even as her brain ordered her feet to run, her legs to run, her body to run, nothing obeyed the panic-commands, her muscles twitching under the lockdown of some invisible force of will, her bones aching, her breath turning into a pant. Pain firework’d her brain, a headache sizzling through her mind.

Opening her mouth, she screamed—

Black Dagger Brotherhood

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Sunday Spotlight: March 2020

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About J.R. Ward

Author J.R. Ward wearing sunglasses

J.R. Ward is the author of over thirty novels, including those in her #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling series, The Black Dagger Brotherhood. There are more than 15 million copies of Ward’s novels in print worldwide and they have been published in 25 different countries around the world.

After graduating from law school, Ward began working in healthcare in Boston and spent many years as Chief of Staff of one of the premier academic medical centers in the nation. She lives in the south with her incredibly supportive husband and her beloved golden retriever. Writing has always been her passion and her idea of heaven is a whole day of nothing but her computer, her dog and her coffee pot.


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Review: Where Winter Finds You by J.R. Ward

Posted December 6, 2019 by Casee in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: Where Winter Finds You by J.R. WardReviewer: Casee
Where Winter Finds You by J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood #17.5
Also in this series: Lover Unbound, Lover Avenged, Lover at Last, Lover at Last, The King, The Shadows, The Beast, Lover Enshrined, The Chosen, Lover Mine, The Thief, The Savior, The Sinner, Lover Unleashed
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: November 26, 2019
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Genres: Paranormal Romance
Pages: 480
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Casee's 2019 GoodReads Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
two-half-stars
Series Rating: three-stars

#1 New York Times bestselling author J.R. Ward is heating things up this winter with a holiday novel featuring some of her most iconic Black Dagger Brothers.

When Trez lost his beloved to a tragic death (The Shadows, Black Dagger Brotherhood #13), his soul was crushed and his destiny seemed relegated to suffering. But when he meets a mysterious female, he becomes convinced his true love has been reincarnated. Is he right? Or has his grief created a disastrous delusion?

Therese has come to Caldwell to escape a rift with her bloodline. The revelation that she was adopted and not born into her family shakes the foundations of her identity, and she is determined to make it on her own. Her attraction to Trez is not what she’s looking for, except the sexy Shadow proves to be undeniable.

Has fate provided a grieving widower with a second chance...or is Trez too blinded by the past to see the present for what it really is? In this sensual, arresting book full of the themes of redemption and self-discovery, two lost souls find themselves at a crossroads where the heart is the only compass that can be trusted...but that may require a courage that neither of them possesses.

I don’t know how I feel about this book. My feelings are all tangled up and I can’t quite work out if I liked it or not. I’m very conflicted and I don’t appreciate that very much.

Trez’s story was told in The Shadows. That wasn’t a good book. I can see what JRW was doing as far as Trez’s story arc now that I’ve read WWFY. That doesn’t mean I liked it.

Trez lost his mate, Selena, at the end of The Shadows. She was a Chosen and she had a degenerative disease that only the Chosen get. Trez had to watch his mate die at the end and if that doesn’t mess a person up, what does?

Fast forward a few years. Therese has left home after being lied to about being adopted. Arriving in Caldwell, Therese gets a job as a waitress at Sal’s. She’s determined to support herself and to show that she can stand on her own two feet.

When Trez first lays eyes on Therese, he is floored. She looks exactly like Selena. Like a carbon copy. The feelings that he has for Therese don’t make sense unless she is Selena reincarnated.

I didn’t really care for Therese one way or another. If there was one way to go, I would say I didn’t like her. She was so selfish when she left her family, not even thinking that they were protecting her. That part just rubbed me the wrong way. I did like her reaction when she found out that Trez believed she was his mate reincarnated. I thought it was very appropriate. Other than that, I just didn’t connect with her.

View Spoiler »

 

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Black Dagger Brotherhood

two-half-stars


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