Reading is my favorite hobby, hands down. Books are love to me. I am an avid collector, and paper books will always edge out e-books with me.
This definitely gets five stars this time around. JR Ward wrote her own version of beauty and the beast but with some important changes. The beauty is the beast and the heroine is a 'Plain Jane' in her own eyes. I loved how hard Rhage fell for Mary. He heard her voice and dropped like a ton of bricks. His steadfast love for her throughout this book was so appealing. Mary didn't want to believe that she could have a man who loved her that way, not with all the loss in her past, and the loss sure to come. She didn't know how to live in the day. Rhage had learned the hard way to temper himself and to show self-control, and along comes the one female who makes that even harder than it's ever been.
The Beast itself was such an interesting idea to the story, and risky. I mean, you don't think of that outside of high fantasy, but it's such an integral part of Rhage's story and the way it's written sells itself. I love the Brotherhood books, always will, and it was such a treat to go back and revisit one of the early stories. I didn't really have time for a reread, but I had to do it, and boy and I am glad I did. I will end up rereading through Lover Mine, I think. Not a hardship for me, since I love those books. It was so much fun going back and seeing how the original brothers: Wrath, Rhage, Vishous, Tohr, Phury and Zsadist expand their circle. Zsadist as before got my attention and stole my heart and had me on a high as I saw the genesis of his story and where it goes (he stole the book away from poor Rhage the first go around, to be honest). Butch makes me sigh (what a guy), Vishous is so fascinating and has this wow factor, and Phury, oh my darling Phury. And let's not even talk about how much I love John Matthew. Okay, let's. I adore him so much. My heart was breaking for JM as an abandoned pre-trans. I wanted to hug him so bad. I'm glad he found the Brotherhood. My heart is wrenched thinking about all the anguish he is soon to face, but happy that he will find his mate in future books as well. I realize how much I under-appreciated Rhage. He really is a lovely guy (on the inside). What he was in the past, he's learned the hard way, wasn't the best he could be, so when Mary comes along, he grabs at her with both hands (even though he has logical fears that his curse could hurt her and keeps a distance as much as he can).
Mary, wow, what a woman. What she's gone through. First nursing her dying mother, and then herself facing an illness that robbed her of so much, even her hope and faith. When Rhage comes along, she doesn't have anything left to believe that a gorgeous guy like that could want to be with her. I had forgotten how low her confidence was in her appearance. It was hurtful to see that, but the fact that Rhage was all about her (she was it for him, sigh) really compensates for that. I can certainly understand. While most of us aren't ugly, we'd think we were on a Candid Camera show if a gorgeous guy like Rhage showed up and was intensely interested in us too. Let's be honest. So the fact that she pushes him away for a significant part of the book I felt was understandable.
The Lesser storyline has not ever been my favorite, but it feels more solid than it does later on in the series, more thought-provoking. While not my choice of villain, it works for this story. It is the bane of the vampire species and the reason why the Brotherhood exists.
I can see that these characters are real for Ward. Because she believes in them, they feel so real to me. I loved the thoughtful way she has written this story, with a lot of pop culture, but deep true things about humanity and the feelings that are universal to the human existence. Who would have thought that a story about vampires and other so-called mythical things could be so authentic. They are treasured characters to people who consider themselves Black Dagger Brotherhood fans, flaws and all. I feel like I've gone through a family album with this reread.