Release Reviews: Blood Kiss: J.R. Ward

Blood Kiss (Black Dagger Legacy #1)

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Released 12/1/15

The legacy of the Black Dagger Brotherhood continues in a spin-off series from the #1 New York Times bestselling author…

Paradise, blooded daughter of the king’s First Advisor, is ready to break free from the restrictive life of an aristocratic female. Her strategy? Join the Black Dagger Brotherhood’s training center program and learn to fight for herself, think for herself…be herself. It’s a good plan, until everything goes wrong. The schooling is unfathomably difficult, the other recruits feel more like enemies than allies, and it’s very clear that the Brother in charge, Butch O’Neal, a.k.a. the Dhestroyer, is having serious problems in his own life.

And that’s before she falls in love with a fellow classmate. Craeg, a common civilian, is nothing her father would ever want for her, but everything she could ask for in a male. As an act of violence threatens to tear apart the entire program, and the erotic pull between them grows irresistible, Paradise is tested in ways she never anticipated—and left wondering whether she’s strong enough to claim her own power…on the field, and off.
A new group. Old friends. BDB is back!

I was both excited to read this and scared of being disappointed again. I love the old school Black Dagger Brotherhood books, but have become increasingly frustrated with the last few books to the point that I have still not opened The Shadows. I felt like they got too far away from the core group and were so focused on the antagonists and couples that I could not relate to...But this one managed to pull me in and enthrall me with new characters  put into the BDB world and features that core group of bad a** vamps I have come to love. Some of our favorite brothers and their shellans are back and they are helping to shape a new class of warriors.

This class allows females and males of both aristocracy and commoners. They will be tested to their limits. The brothers are serious about their training and do not take any prisoners. Many won't make the cut. But a small class will emerge.

At the center of this story is Paradise. She is the daughter of Wrath's Advisor and supposed to be a proper Aristocratic girl. But she has her own dreams and is not conventional at all. And Craeg who is an intense, strong commoner with nothing to lose.  One minute he's protective and the next mean or pushing her away. They have a chemical reaction to each other that both are afraid to deal with. Her best friend Peyton, an Aristocratic male, is also featured and ramps up the drama in some ways. Rounding out the class are some equally quirky and unique characters all with their own issues and interpersonal conflicts that will surely continue to develop more in future stories. This is a diverse group thrown into an unpredictable, dangerous setting with vamps who mean business. They will face tests, trials, and the brother's full attention.

I loved spending time with the other couples. Butch and Marissa are heavily featured in this one as they are going through their own struggles. Their story was definitely a large focus of this book. They are dealing with some issues and finding out that maybe they don't really know everything about the other one yet. But we also get to spend some time with V, Rhage, Tohr, Wrath, Manny, Mary, and Doc Jane. And Lassiter, the freaking crazy, hilarious fallen angel. What a scene stealer! And Fritz. Love that Doggen!

Paradise wants more than to be a typical Aristocratic woman, wife, and breeder. She's smart, driven, tough, passionate and determined to succeed and change her role in society. She's fierce, but also feminine and inexperienced.

Craeg is serious, broody, angry, closed off, and resentful. His background has made him have issues with self worth. And he is set on getting revenge on those that cost him everything. And some of those people belong to the Aristocratic class. He does not want to get attached. He has revenge and success on his mind, but Paradise has a way of infiltrating his barriers.

The characters are faced with class differences, lies, tests, revenge, and murder. There are multiple stories going on but flow well.

Can a closed off man with nothing to offer but himself and a privileged woman who wants to test boundaries be able to make it work within societal expectations?

I loved the intensity of their connection even when Craeg was putting up bigger walls. And how Paradise's expectations and walls came down as she broadened her own thinking. I love the BDB stories and how the "bonding" unfolds at times whether it is really wanted or not. And of course it is always fun to see the teasing and taunting that the couples get from their friends.

This feels like old school BDB. The interpersonal dynamics of friends and couples, the humor, the intensity, and steam. I enjoyed the multiple points of view and various story lines. In some of the previous books I felt we got distracted into the lessers' or enemies' minds or had too many characters I could not relate to and I would find myself wanting to skim. In this one, I was totally invested in every story and view. And I felt like the two main couples featured Paradise and Craeg and Butch and Marissa did not get lost in the shuffle. 

This was engaging, intense, sexy, funny, suspenseful, mysterious and everything I liked from the early BDB books. I loved the new group's dynamics and budding relationships with each other and the brothers. I love that the brothers are still unfiltered, pushy alphas who love their women and enjoy taunting their friends. They and their shellans are the heart of this whole series. My only complaint is that maybe the end was a bit rushed and I would have liked a bit more depth with Paradise and Craeg. But not enough to ruin my enjoyment too much. The other new characters definitely have more stories to tell. they seem to have hidden pasts and complexities we haven't uncovered yet. I am looking forward to more with Peyton, Novo, Axe, and Boone and of course more with the brothers and their shellans. I cannot wait to see the directions J.R. Ward takes this series in.

ARC provided by author and publisher in exchange for an honest review. 
Introducing the next generation of the Black Dagger Brotherhood -- one where class and gender mean nothing in order to protect the race as a whole. Seven new trainees are put to the test and begin their training.

Paradise, daughter of the first advisor to the king is determined to be more than a glymera figurehead. Having been granted permission to submit an application for Black Dagger training, she is focused on strength training in order to anticipate the demands training will place on her.

Craeg is not from the glymera, but his drive to join the Brotherhood comes from his father’s close work with the aristocracy. With the new rules granting allowances for commoners to train, he is determined to find revenge for his family’s deaths.

Forced to work closely together in training, Paradise and Craeg are both struggling to find their place within the team of trainees. Those who make it through the initial sorting process are a varied group and it was interesting to watch them interact with each other, in most cases interacting with people they otherwise would never have had contact with. Each personality promises hidden stories and future challenges that seem to point different directions that those of the original Brotherhood.

This feels like a reboot in the best possible way. I had a hard time with the last few BDB originals because there were so many storylines to maintain and keep straight from book to book. This has the same multi-storyline plot that BDB fans will recognize, but I loved that it was stripped back to a more manageable level, and each of the two couples the story focuses on were facing similar challenges, though at different points in a relationship.

This is the BDB world, focusing on the next generation of warriors. The world is changing, modernizing their cultural norms, the vampires are struggling to remain safe after so many Lesser attacks have decimated their numbers. There is a rich world built for this series, though it is subtle here. There is less outright explained, figuring readers have been around Caldwell, NY long enough to understand how the vampire world operates. But those new to the series should have enough clues about the old way that questions should be minimal.

Maybe because I haven’t read many paranormals lately (or in the last few months) that this is such a refreshing kick. I devoured this story, both as a reboot of one of my favorite vampire series, but also as a new look at that world. There was suspense, a little mystery, danger, and a great relationship built along the way.

ARC provided by author and publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I gave up reading BDB after Ward screwed the fans, Qhuinn, and Blay to the wall. Haven’t touched one since and I didn’t plan on picking up another anytime soon. But putting all that aside, fan girling and excitement took over when I heard she was coming back with a new spin off written in the “old ways.” I couldn’t wait to catch glimpses of my boys through the eyes of her newest cast of Vamps. I held major hope that once again I’d get to experience that somethin’ somethin’ I got when reading the original series. 

Yeah, that didn’t come anywhere close to fruition. I was bored through most of this book. At first, I couldn’t figure out my issue. Ward had thrown us straight into the heart of what BDB lovers, myself included, originally fell in love with.  So why was I having so much trouble staying focused? Towards 50% I finally figured out what my issue was. It definitely wasn’t the new cast of characters; they held my complete and utter attention. I couldn’t get enough of them. Or the "old school" writing. I loved that she had gone back to the original feel. Then it hit me, what I struggled a lot with was the fact that Ward didn’t really build a spin off with new characters, instead she built a spin off concentrating the majority of her attention on an old BDB couple, allowing this couple to steal the spotlight. 

I can’t really tell you much about our new recruits, since we didn’t really learn too much about them, but what I can say is that Craeg was an intriguing, dominating male (true brotherhood trait that draws me straight in each and every time). I do think you’ll really like Paradise, she was kind of kickass! Probably one of my favorite shellans. I just wanted to sit back and devour everything about them. I didn't want chapters of interruptions. With a little more time spent on them, they had the potential to join the ranks amongst my most favorite vamps. However, the author barely scratched the surface with this couple. Craeg and his shellan totally got the shaft and NOT in a good way.

No lie, Butch and Marissa dominated their story. It didn’t take long to quickly tire of the fact that they took up over half the book. I craved more of Craeg and less Butch. More Paradise and less Marissa. You get the drift. And just when things would start to heat up with our protagonists Ward would throw us back into Marissa and Butch. Ugh!!! Why in the world couldn’t she just focus more on Craeg and Paradise, or any of the other 5 recruits? How about building up their story lines and allowing us time to get inside their heads. 

I get the author wanted to go back to her roots, her boys. I get that she wanted to put a sh** ton of focus back in to the original brotherhood, but doing it this way was too much for me, especially since the author plans to write about the brothers again, focusing on them individually. And I'll be honest, maybe it aggravated me more because Butch and Marissa bore me, even in their original book. If it had been Zsadist, Rehvenge, or Qhuinn maybe I would have felt differently. However, in my experience a spin off usually focuses center attention on the newer characters, with smaller glimpses into the life of the beloved we left back in the original series. If I wanted to read about older ones I would reread their books. I didn't want to read a book with Marissa and Butch shoved down my throat, carrying a stronger presence than Craeg and Paradise. I feel like this was a pretty way to wrap up the brothers in new packaging, gain back readers who'd abandoned the series, and profit off of them. I guess I should have paid better attention to the messages Ward was posting on her FB page. Maybe then I would have gone into this with less expectation. I mean I knew Butch and Marissa would be in this book, but all my mind could focus on was that she was writing a NEW series, even though it was to be a BDB spin off.

However, one of my biggest pet peeves is when the secondary characters run the show, so it probably wouldn't have made a difference, even if it was my favorite brothers instead of one I could care less about. I HATE when I become hooked on the main duo and I get little to no real info or interaction with them because the author instead focuses on the less important ones. And yes, in my opinion, Butch and Marissa's relationship issues are not important to this book. Now not all secondary characters are less important, some play a huge roll, but definitely not in this case. 

If you can’t tell, what it came down to is I wanted A HELL OF A LOT less Butch and Marissa. They already had their spotlight. Why did they need more? Can we say contrived drama for the sake of drama?!? Truly, there was NO NEED for them to overtake this book. NONE. Other than their involvement with the crime that happened, their personal drama didn't add anything nor did it provide relevance. Ward had at least seven new characters she could have focused on stirring up whatever commotion she wanted. 

Outside of my considerable Marissa and Butch dislike, I enjoyed everything else about Blood Kiss and I’m most anxious for Axe and Novo’s stories. Although, I’m contemplating if I will read them, especially since this one went from total excitement over meeting new BDB players to what the f*** was that!!! 

For a reader that was looking to step back into the BDB fold after a long vacation away this was a fail.

Thank you, Signet, for the complimentary copy of Blood Kiss. 

Spin-off of the Black Dagger Brotherhood Series

J. R. Ward 
J.R. Ward is a #1 New York Times bestselling author with more than 15 million novels in print published in 25 different countries around the world. Ward is a graduate of Smith College who currently lives in Kentucky. Before turning to writing full time, she worked as a lawyer in Boston and also spent many years working as Chief of Staff for one of the premier academic medical centers in the nation.
Visit her popular website and fan community at www.jrward.com and facebook.com/JRWardBooks.


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