The Beast by J.R. Ward

This RITA® Reader Challenge 2017 review was written by Danica. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Paranormal Romance category.

The summary:

Nothing is as it used to be for the Black Dagger Brotherhood. After avoiding war with the Shadows, alliances have shifted and lines have been drawn. The slayers of the Lessening Society are stronger than ever, preying on human weakness to acquire more money, more weapons, more power. But as the Brotherhood readies for an all-out attack on them, one of their own fights a battle within himself…

For Rhage, the Brother with the biggest appetites, but also the biggest heart, life was supposed to be perfect—or at the very least, perfectly enjoyable. Mary, his beloved shellan, is by his side and his King and his brothers are thriving. But Rhage can’t understand—or control—the panic and insecurity that plague him…

And that terrifies him—as well as distances him from his mate. After suffering mortal injury in battle, Rhage must reassess his priorities—and the answer, when it comes to him, rocks his world…and Mary’s. But Mary is on a journey of her own, one that will either bring them closer together or cause a split that neither will recover from…

Here is Danica’s review:

Full disclosure: I like the Black Dagger Brotherhood (BDB) series. I rarely go for paranormals, but they’re the exception.

I’ve wanted to read The Beast for a while, so the RITA Challenge was the perfect reason to finally get to it.

Then I remembered that I’d taken a break from the series way back in book #5.

Did I mention The Beast is book #14 in the series?

That’s right – in a moment of questionable sanity, I decided to binge read the remaining nine books before taking on this review (I don’t recommend doing this – remember kids, everything in moderation).

A gif from the show Lucifer where the title character says oops.

Now onto what we’re here for – The Beast. This is the second book featuring Rhage and Mary; there seems to be a move to revisit earlier couples, both in the main BDB series and the spinoff, Black Dagger Legacy. Usually couples in a series are one and done, with small cameos later on, so I’m liking these glimpses of making the HFN a HEA.

So, Rhage and Mary have been together for a couple years at this point, and they’ve become distant outside of naked cuddle time. Mary’s become consumed by her work as a therapist at the vampire race’s women’s shelter while Rhage’s work with the Brotherhood has kept him busy, and he’s been feeling melancholy, which is totally out of character.

Rhage has a brush with death, but he’s not freaked because he and Mary have an agreement that when Rhage dies, Mary, an immortal human, will self-sacrifice to be with him in the afterlife and everything will be perfect. Mary, however, has become super attached to an orphaned girl, Bitty, and uses Rhage’s beast curse to save him so that she can stay with the girl.

Orphaned child + childless couple trying to reconnect…hmm, this isn’t predictable at all. Once you know the players, you can see the main story and its outcome from miles away. Meh. I hate when that happens – unless the journey’s good. This one isn’t great, but it’s good enough. I’m not interested in seeing more of it. I will say, however, that overall, this book has feelings. Lots of feelings. I laughed, I groaned, I was angry, I was sad, and at times I was bored. Why? Well, let me tell you.

Okay, what didn’t I like? Well, the silent ‘h’ thing is kind of annoying, but it’s a constant throughout the series, and I bharely notice it nowh. The vampires also refer to humans as “rats without tails” yet at this point the Brotherhood household includes five humans and/or human-vampire hybrids. Okay…

Speaking of mates, in 14 books there are three Brotherhood mates I can tolerate, and Mary isn’t one of them. There is nothing in this book to alter or even seriously influence my previous opinion of her. She’s infertile, which is integral to the story, but is it a flaw? I don’t think so. Otherwise, she is so close to perfect it’s nauseating. She’s super mega awesome at her job, everyone loves her, and she’s the only one to ever calm Rhage and his beast.

What I see as her flaw? She’s a therapist who won’t talk about her feelings. Rhage has to prompt and push her into it. Double standard much? And how did Mary respond the one time Rhage didn’t want to talk? She demanded answers from someone else!

A doctor with a look on her fact and the words #notcool

The only real character growth in this book happens to Assail in one of the secondary storylines. The drug lord/arms dealer/who-is-he-why-is-he-here-and-who-cares seems to mature and choose a side in the vampire war. His story actually becomes the most interesting part of the book.

This book also has continuity errors, which drives me nuts. There’s apparently a time warp between the Brotherhood mansion and where Mary works, which is minor. As is someone having seen a car from an upstairs window when he was actually in the main floor foyer at the time. Others however…

Show Spoiler
Vishous describes Xcor as having stroke-induced paralysis on his left side, then later on his right side. The death of Vishous’ mate is described differently from how it played out in Lover Unbound (car accident vs gunshot). Jo is foreshadowed as a pretransition vampire and Manny Manello’s full blooded sister. This doesn’t mesh with Manny’s story in Lover Unleashed; based on his story, they’d be half-siblings at most. This might resolve later, wait and see.

One thing on Bitty. That girl goes through a lot, recovers scarily quick once Rhage is involved, and someday everything’s going to hit her and it won’t be pretty. I’d be worried.

I realize all of this seems like I don’t like the book, but I do. Rhage is my reason for even wanting to read this. He’s awesome, and I think he makes the main storyline interesting. He’s one of those “heart of gold inside a class clown” kind of guys, and in the words of Bitty, “He’s like…a big friendly dog.” He goes through some pretty heavy emotional upheaval and handles it in a mature way. He is an evolved alpha. I know, right?!

He’s still crazy protective of those he loves, but without being overbearing, he provides a lot of comic relief, is capable of deep thoughts, and uses words!

When you love someone and you’re leaving, you wait for your person to come-and it takes a lot of energy, a lot of focus. I’m telling you, Mary, I was waiting for you because I wanted to make my peace with you, but I couldn’t hold on for much longer-and although we lucked out and you saved my life, the reality was that I prolonged my suffering just to have that moment with you.

And this interaction with Bitty is gold:

“He says girls can do anything,” Bitty looked at Rhage. “He says girls are…powerful.”

“Yup.” Rhage nodded. “That’s why the fastest and the best cars-”

“-are always girls,” Bitty finished for him.

Rachel from the TV friends saying I love him

I like that the Brotherhood books are connected by a series-long plot arc with the vampire slayers. It feels like a continuing story, almost like a tv drama. Each book also has multiple secondary storylines, introducing the mains for upcoming books, so all of the stories are evolving together. Most of the secondary stories also carry through multiple books before becoming the focus, which would take approximately forever to cover here. There’s a lot going on in these books and they are long because of it. My honest opinion is that reading any part of this series out of order would be very confusing and I don’t recommend doing so.

This isn’t the best Black Dagger Brotherhood book, but it isn’t the worst either. Good but not great. I’d say it’s a solid B.

This book is available from:
The Beast by J.R. Ward

April 5, 2016

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