The Paranormal that Starts (and Ends) It All: Mini Ode to J.R. Ward

Once I'm done reading SBTB's Beyond Heaving Bosoms (a little over two-thirds of the way through), I need to finish Julie Anne Long's What I Did for a Duke (in time for the SBTB's Sizzling Book Chat on 10/23, 9 p.m. EST).  I just read the first two chapters, and so far I'm impressed.  (Plus, it's on sale for $0.99 at B&N and Amazon.)

The following paranormals are on my TBR list:  Jennifer Crusie's Maybe This Time (ghost story), Kresley Cole's A Hunger like No Other, and J.R. Ward's Lover Avenged.

I'm thinking I might go back to J.R. Ward since that was a series that I "put on indefinite hold" after I didn't finish Book #4 (Butch and Marissa's story).  I never picked up Books #5 & #6, and I was told to avoid #9 (which wasn't difficult since I stopped at book #3 and by this point I was already swamped with grad school...)  A few weeks ago, my good friend Alicia bought Book #7 for me - Lover Avenged - and demanded that I read books #8 and #10.  With all the excitement around Book #11, Lover at Last, coming out in March, I think that sounds like a good plan.  I wouldn't be "starting a series from scratch", and I still have a bit of time to go into "squealing fangirl mode" by March 26th of next year!

Back in early 2006, after reading about the popularity/brilliance/addictive-ness of both Stephanie Meyer's Twilight and J.R. Ward's Dark Lover, I decided to read a paranormal romance to check out the vampire hype.  The good mistake was that I read Dark Lover first, and now J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood (BDB) stays in my heart as the one "constant" paranormal romance series.  I say "good" and "mistake", because this ruined a lot of other popular paranormal serials for me.*  I couldn't start Hamilton's Anita Blake novels because I only kept thinking of BDB.  Nothing else could compare or satisfy.  I didn't even inhale through the Sookie Stackhouse series as quickly as I needed a J.R. Ward fix.  (Most drug-addicts start with excessive marijuana-smoking and then move on to more dangerous drugs; No one "starts" with crack or black-tar heroin.)

Bebe at "Reading Until I Fall Asleep" sums it up wonderfully in her serial review of J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood:

"The series of ten books released thus far brings every emotion that you can think of to the page; hope, fear, joy, grief, ecstasy. J.R. Ward’s writing is so imaginative that I was really starting to believe these guys were real! What I love about each book is that you are already familiar with the character when they get their own book. Ward introduces you to them way in advance so you see their trials and tribulations through other people’s eyes. You grow to love each and every character and honestly yearn for their HEA (happily ever after)."

Yeah, there were a few moments in Dark Lover (Book #1) that I was rolling my eyes a bit (my brain had to adjust to the BDB-lingo and mucho machismo), but by the end of Book #1, it's the human-factor and conflict that got me hooked.  Furthermore, I remember every book that has made me cry... but the one book where I told myself, "This is not supposed to be happening, I cannot be crying to a vampire book!" - is in Lover Eternal when Mary tells Rhage about her cancer.  (And I confirmed with myself that I was NOT PMSing at the time.)  That scene was my unforgettable "point of no return".

There has also been a lot of discussion in Romancelandia regarding some of the BDB books (mainly a few) that didn't have the perfect HEA that the reader wanted.  Her stories are definitely action-packed and violent.  There are big weapons, nasty bad-guys, and some major fight scenes.  No character is safe.  Danger with a capital "D", right?  But even better, J.R. Ward respects the creative writing process and isn't going to loose sleep if you don't like the way the story ends.  We are reminded that this is essentially her series, and these are her characters, and it's a world that she's creating for us.  (See any of her interviews on YouTube.)  And hot damn if she didn't get everyone's attention!  The extreme reaction from her fans only speaks volumes about her amazing writing.  I've only seen fans get this angst-y about a writing process (not to mention the wait-time between books) with George RR Martin's epic Fire and Ice saga.  We whined about certain BDB books as if she was throwing scalding oil on us - and it's only because we truly love the series.  I can't wait to catch up with the BDB again!

* (I have yet to read the Patricia Briggs' Bitten series - among with many more that were mentioned in Beyond Heaving Bosoms.)

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