Tough ex-cop Butch, now a well-liked, well-dressed but virtually useless human pet of vampire warriors the Black Dagger Brotherhood, yearns after gentle vamp aristocrat Marissa. He's convinced his love is hopeless and she can't quite believe anyone would want her after 300 years of rejection by her ex-mate.
It's a good setup, with two well-suited characters who both need to find a purpose and to figure out who they are. But... there's a lot of plot to be worked out in this fourth instalment of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. The romance suffers in consequence, fragmented between junior vamp John's schooling, the enemy Fore Lesser's plans, the usual bouts of Lesser-bashing, scenes at the nightclub and the whole what's-up-with-Vishous issue. The star-crossed lovers get it on and break it off more times than I could keep track of, for reasons that sometimes eluded me, and the emotional tension of their relationship threatens to wear thin as a result. I really liked Butch in Dark Lover, the first book of the series, but he's become a little too helpless here for my liking. He does have plenty of obstacles to work through before he gets the girl, and all this is well-handled and will keep you glued to the page. Meanwhile Marissa changes perhaps a little too easily from a cringing Barbie doll to an empowered woman with a socially crusading purpose.
The style is gritty and urban as in JR Ward's earlier books, though the prose sometimes droops under the weight of designer labels (I swear Grey Goose vodka is mentioned on every page!), and I had to resort to Urban Dictionary for one or two of the acronyms. All in all, gripping stuff, but still I feel a bit short-changed by the romance.
Next up is Vishous's story - at last, a relatively self-contained romance where (judging by the excerpt at the back of this book) the heroine doesn't feature in a previous book.