In the shadows of the night in Caldwell, New York, there's a deadly turf war going on between vampires and their slayers. There also exists a secret band of brothers like no other - six vampire warriors, defenders of their race. Among them, none relishes killing their enemies more than Wrath, the leader of the
Black Dagger Brotherhood...
The only purebred vampire left on the planet, Wrath has a score to settle with the slayers who murdered his parents centuries ago. But when one of his most trusted fighters is killed- orphaning a half-breed daughter unaware of her heritage or her fate - Wrath must usher the beautiful female into the world of the undead…
Racked by a restlessness in her body that wasn't there before, Beth Randall is helpless against the dangerously sexy man who comes to her at night with shadows in his eyes. His tales of brotherhood and blood frighten her. But his touch ignites a dawning hunger that threatens to consume them both…
Black Dagger Brotherhood Book 1
Wrath, King of the vampire race in name and bloodline but not king by choice nor has he ever claimed his royal rights to rule. Instead, Wrath is consumed with the pursuit of his own personal revenge against the lessers, a race of beings bent on the annihilation of the entire vampire race. When Wrath was a young pretrans male - a vampire who has not yet transitioned into adulthood - his parents were viciously murdered by a group of lessers. Despite the fact that his father hid him away, Wrath believes himself to be a coward; incapable due to his weak body to fight for his parents lives. After that night and for the past three hundred years, Wrath has lived only to ensure the death of another lesser and nothing, not even a beautiful half-breed female, can alter his course.
When Darius, fellow vampire and member of the Black Dagger Brotherhood - a band of warriors specially created with the immense physical prowess to defeat the lessers - asks Wrath to ensure that his half-breed daughter transitions safely, Wrath's answer must be no. Half-breeds are half human, half vampire offspring that will transition fully into their vampire half around age twenty-five. A vampire of the opposite sex must be present to provide blood, yet that doesn't necessarily ensure the half-breed's survival. The transition is so painful and intense, that many do not make it alive. But when Darius is suddenly killed, Wrath decides to help the Brother's last surviving child through the transition.
Beth Randall has reached a dead end in her life. Her job, while paying the bills, certainly isn't winning her any satisfaction awards. In addition, she claims no friends, no lover, and no future. Then there is the added bonus of sheer exhaustion that no matter how much sleep she gets, it simply will not be cured. Beth can't shake the feeling that something is wrong with her, mentally and physically. Beth's instability is proved after she has sex with an incredibly hot stranger who miraculously walks in through the sliding door that she remembers clearly locking not a moment before. But running isn't on her mind as his huge leather clad body looms before her. No, what she's thinking about is sex; the hot mind blowing kind.
Coming to her house to talk, Wrath is shocked at the turn about of events. Having sex with the half-breed female was certainly not his intention but Beth's desire simply could not be ignored. Wrath also can't shake the feeling that something akin to clicking into place deep within his soul, has started to thaw the ice enclosed around his heart.
Amazingly enough, Beth is pretty sane after her wild night of passion with a total stranger. She figures that the cop, Butch, put Wrath at her apartment for guard duty. After being attacked and nearly raped by some college boys, Butch became a bit protective with her safety. But when she questions Butch about Wrath, he's never heard of the guy. A bit freaked out, Beth skips out on the morning meeting she had planned with Wrath.
Nervous about Beth and the possibility that she's going through the change, Wrath tracks her down at night fall. Unfortunately, Wrath finds her in the arms of Butch igniting the famous "mine" moment of the Black Dagger Brotherhood. Beth is terrified that Wrath might in fact be a murderer but he knows things about her that she's never even told a soul to. When he dangles the precious information about her father, Beth agrees to go with Wrath to her father's home. The revelations of her father are overwhelming and Beth can't shake the despair that he didn't want her. Wrath says that her father loved her, watched over her but why didn't he come for her? Now, with Wrath's vampire nature unveiled all Beth can do is try to escape but that turns out to be impossible. She can't run from her destined future and when Wrath scoops her curled body up and into his arms, she leans fully into him.
Wrath's yearning to mark Beth, to warn any and all males that she's taken by infusing her body with his spicy sent, is becoming uncontrollable. But there is a big complication with the surging need. Wrath, in vampire society, is for all intents and purposes, mated to Marissa. She was picked for him specifically at his transition and helped him with the change. She's the vampire that he feeds from while he is her host when she's thirsty. Vampires must feed from the opposite sex to survive. While no official ceremony has ever been conducted, Wrath has responsibilities to Marissa.
There is also the complication that Wrath isn't looking for a shellan, a female mate. He has one mission in life and that's to eradicate the lessers. Beth is the last thing he needs right now and he has every intention of ending they're relationship once she completes the change despite the fact that he's bonded with her. He'll just have to deal with the repercussions of his actions. Beth is not his life and she never will be.
But what really fuels his need to leave Beth is the fear that she can never accept him. He was a small coward who couldn't protect his family. What female would desire that quality in her mate?
When Beth suddenly starts her transition, the outlook doesn't look good. Holding her spasming body in his arms, Wrath realizes that this beautiful woman has come to mean more to him than he could ever have imagined in just a few short days. He's in love with her and the last thing that he could ever survive would be her death.
Beth sees beyond Wrath's self-loathing image. She understands that he's interpreted those horrific events of his parent's death to be some how be his fault. It's survivors guilt. When she forcefully tells Wrath to drop his warrior exterior and re-exam the situation he would see a young boy protected by a father and mother whose dying act was to save him. The fact that he's lived beyond that moment is a testament to his strength. Her reassurance that she'd lovingly accept him melts any remaining ice surrounding Wrath's heart for Beth now drives it's every beat.
While Beth survives the transition but she may not survive the lessers. Her human half has contributed genes allowing her walk in sunlight. While in the kitchen getting some food at daybreak, a lesser spots the newly made vampire and recognizes the ring that Wrath gifted her proclaiming her the queen. The lesser abducts Beth while Wrath rages below stairs unable to fight for his shellan due to the sun's harmful rays.
The rage that Wrath exudes reverberates strongly and builds to such a crescendo that he is unstoppable when the sun finally sinks below the horizon. Zeroing in on his blood flowing through Beth's veins, Wrath comes for her like a freight train. But in his blind rage and uncontrollable desire to save the woman of his heart, Wrath neglects to care for his own body. Severely wounded, it's now Beth that fights to save Wrath.
One of my favorite scenes in 'Dark Lover' is Beth's introduction to the Brothers.
There was a loud scraping noise as five chairs slid backward. The men rose as a unit. And started coming for her.
She looked into the faces of the two she knew, but their grave expressions weren't encouraging.
And then the knives came out.
With a metallic whoosh, five black daggers were unsheathed.
She backed up frantically, hands in front of herself. She slammed into a wall and was about to scream for Wrath when the men dropped down on bended knees in a circle around her. In a single movement, as if they'd been choreographed, they buried the daggers into the floor at her feet and bowed their heads. The great whoomp of sound as steel met wood seemed both a pledge and a battle cry.
The handles of the knives vibrated.
The rap music continued to pound.
They seemed to be waiting for some kind of response from her.
"Umm. Thank you," she said.
The men's heads lifted. Etched into the harsh panes of their faces was total reverence. Even the scarred one had a respectful expression.
And then Wrath came in with a squeeze bottle of Hershey's syrup.
"Beacon's on the way." He smiled. "Hey, they like you."
"And thank God for that," she murmured, looking down at the daggers.
Dark Lover © J.R. Ward
The pacing of 'Dark Lover' is pure perfection. It grabs your attention and never let go. It's so rare to find an author that can accomplish this even once in their careers to this kind of perfection but truly you have to almost bow down to Ward and her talent. When you shine light on the difficulty of starting a paranormal series with a distinct and complicated set of rules combined with a lush and satisfying romance and then you top it off with incredible pacing, you can't help but fall in love with series from page one. The intense popularity of the series really launched with 'Dark Lover' and I believe that a lot of it's success stems from these very facts.
What book have you read that you thought had excellent pacing? Or what series did you think had an unbeatable first installment?