Lover Unleashed, Book 9 in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, is ostensibly the tale of Vishous's twin, Payne, and her troubled love life with surgeon Manuel Manello. The book opens with Payne unable to feel anything after her accident in book 8, and Doc Jane revealing herself to former boss Manny in order to get him to agree to treat Payne. Naturally, sparks fly (even though Payne is paralyzed from the waist down), and Manny's not allowed to recall the surgery or Payne once he leaves the Brotherhood Compound. And of course he can't get over the feeling that *something* happened during the missing hours of his life, and it affects his work to the point where he's asked to take a leave of absence. Still, it's not apparent that he will be able to stay with Payne, even after her deeply scarred brother retrieves him once again to treat his sister. Throw in the fact that Manny feels something has been missing from his life, an injured race horse, and sex as a way of healing, and you've got the basic plotline...well, sort of.
This is, as I said, the story of Payne and Manny, but then again, they are only part of the show. This book is every bit as much about V and his coming to terms with his abusive father and absent mother, as well as his feelings for Doc Jane and Butch, as it is about the "star" couple. V and Jane's story may have been told a few books back, but there were some loose threads that Ward ties up in this novel. Not sure if she just felt she needed to pad the story since neither Payne nor Manny were characters to which the readers had any long attachment, or if she wanted to bring the original six Brothers to the forefront again, or what. I was glad to see a focus on V, though; he's one of my favorites and his story did need more completion. The relationship he has with Butch is unique and deep and is dealt with brutally here; V's dark side is in full evidence. So while I may not have felt as vested in Payne's story, having V there to flesh his out was a welcome addition.
What I still don't get is the inclusion of two side stories, though I have to feel that we are being set up for more ahead. The first set up is about Xcor and his band of fighters and their need for revenge and a challenge to Wrath; it's an all right story, but honestly, I don't get how easily at least part of that was solved. The second side story involved a serial killer and a local cop who used to work with Butch--lots of lurid sex and nastiness to be had, but still, what was the point? Though I wonder as well if maybe Ward is seeing a spinoff series? It was an unnecessary distraction, honestly.
My moaning and groaning also extends to the love at first sight between Manny and Payne; I mean, really? And as another reviewer has pointed out, Layla needs to take her Chosen rear far, far away and stay there.
BUT...all said and done, I loved this book. I adore the world of the Brotherhood, and any time I get to spend with my oversexed, volatile, humorous guys is a good time. I love the side story of Qhuinn and his longing for Blay; theirs is a story that I can see going in so many different directions. I love the brand-dropping, the music naming, and most of all, just the relationships. The Black Dagger Brotherhood is never going to be high literature and frankly, I'd be sad if it was. I love the impossibility of it all because that's what fantasy is supposed to do. I'm here for the long haul.