The Ability to Love (Lover Awakened by J.R. Ward)

A review of 
Lover Awakened by J.R. Ward

In the shadows of the night in Caldwell, New York, there’s a deadly war raging between vampires and their slayers. And there exists a secret band of brothers like no other - six vampire warriors, defenders of their race. Of these, Zsadist is the most terrifying member of the Black Dagger Brotherhood.

A former blood slave, the vampire Zsadist still bears the scars from a past filled with suffering and humiliation. Renowned for his unquenchable fury and sinister deeds, he is a savage feared by humans and vampires alike. Anger is his only companion, and terror is his only passion—until he rescues a beautiful aristocrat from the evil Lessening Society.

Bella is instantly entranced by the seething power Zsadist possesses. But even as their desire for one another begins to overtake them both, Zsadist’s thirst for vengeance against Bella’s tormentors drives him to the brink of madness. Now, Bella must help her lover overcome the wounds of his tortured past, and find a future with her…

I knew ahead that I was going to have some trouble writing a review about Lover Awakened. I turned out to be a little more correct on that one than I had thought. 

So I really had a hard time putting thoughts into words on page. It's one of the series' most emotional books - this is a roller coaster, people are so moody - and it’s filled with some things that would probably need extra warnings and trigger warnings if we were to discuss them on the internet. But here Ward’s really pulled the big guns out and the Big Plot makes an appearance. 

Lover Awakened is a lot about the struggle the main pair has in their relationship with each other and the struggle they have with themselves - the romance may be big, but the wheels have started turning. The book makes some twists that shock you and well, will quite probably hook you for the rest of the series. 
And, I’m not sure if I’d really talk about romance with this one. There are some really dark parts and the romance moves slowly and both the main lady and guy have a lot of dark things to deal with. There’s some really big emotions, but the “happier” parts are rare. Not that there aren’t any good or happy parts! But many of the characters are uncertain in this book and it really feels like a crossroads for the series. 

Bella's one of my favorite characters. She's a gentle female, I think generally just wanting to be happy and the others around her to be happy, too. She just wants to live a long and healthy life, happy and all, but things just haven’t gone the way she’s wanted. It definitely makes her seem less oh-so-perfect, as there are times that she acts just like the race’s perfect female. 
I think that she’s got a backbone, though she chooses the more peaceful way more often. It is obvious, that if she has to she will fight for the people she loves and for herself, though she isn’t a fighter. 
Seeing that she’s from a pretty wealthy, respected family that’s on top of the race’s hierarchy, I think that during the book she has to go through some adjustments, that maybe the world isn’t as rightful as she’s thought. And, that with Bella not being naïve or innocent, but I think that she can’t understand people hurting each other. 
Also, she’s herself a truly honest person, who’ll go after things that she wants and is pretty honest with herself about things, so that makes her clash with Z several times. There are times that Z is more callous that she’s used to people ever being and then he’s more innocent at times than she is. So she has to adjust to that, too and perhaps a little to the fact that happy endings come in very different packages. 

Zsadist is one of my favorites of the brothers and this seems to be the general opinion of everyone who’s read the books. Zsadist never really got over his past and unlike his brothers, who also have messed up history, he never really saw a reason to even try live a normal happy life. I mean, he pretty much has nothing going for him and then, he was plucked away from everything he knew and someone just told him to live a happy life. I really wonder what Phury was thinking, that he’d just magically be okay? 
But he still commits to the Brotherhood, no matter unsocial and unhappy he may seem about it. He still has his brothers’ backs and protects them fiercely. And that’s why I love him. The others think of him just as a brutal fighter, who enjoys the fight, but in reality I think he’s a lot more “aware” of things than the others think.
As the story goes on, we get to see the many sides that he has. We get to see, that he really cares about his brothers and the females, but he just doesn’t understand affection. And with his past, he has serious trust issues, even with his brothers. There’s also a surprising innocence that he has towards himself, as if he’s shut himself off from feeling so well that he’s shocked that he has them. 

Mary, the heroine of the previous book is actually the first one, I think, to see that, yes, Zsadist is broken but there’s more to him. And then there’s Bella, who treats him just like another male and not a wild beast who’ll bite her - like his brothers do. And that’s I think, one of the reasons he realizes that living might be a good thing after all. 

Bella and Zsadist’s start is bad, thinking about them meeting in Lover Eternal and there are seriously stupid moments in this one, too. Zsadist is pretty messed up and I think Bella, coming from a wealthy family, is used to the idea that everything can be fixed. 
They clash a lot, with Zsadist pretty much freaking out and trying to push her away and Bella pushing back. I do feel like she’s sometimes a little too much in his space, too focused on him. But I like that she admits that at first she was interested because of the thrill. It doesn’t make it okay, but it’s good that she sees and realizes it. 
In the end, I think they’re a good match in the sense that she’s stubborn enough to push him when he’s being stupid. But she’s gentle, too, something that just clicks with Zsadist.

I also like that Ward doesn’t just write off Z’s past, that we see him struggle with it constantly and he even says he’ll probably never be as happy as he would have been if things would have gone as they should have. But he soldiers on and enjoys the things he can, in the end. 
Unfortunately, the same isn’t quite done to Bella. Her past isn’t focused on as much as Z’s is and by the time they meet, they’ve both been through a lot and while Z’s is slightly grander, hers deserves the same attention. But it is a little forgotten alongside Z’s issues and that bothers me a little. 

The emotion of the book is visible in every way, not just between the main pair. It's in John Matthew's story, who is such an incredible character, at the same time both vulnerable and strong. We see the real emotion between the brotherhood, how they really care about each other, though as males probably share it very little. This extends to the ladies, which continues as a side plot through out the books. I do wish that the past ladies would get more time on the page as the males do, but I guess with a big cast Ward has to make choices. 

Final thoughts: Lover Awakened is one of the stand outs in the series, tight with tension, action and well, romance. It’s emotional and there are points that can put the reader to the test - to see if you really like the series. But you really will if you can get along with Zsadist, who can be a really tough nut to crack. And with this one Ward really gets things going, with everything being big - big plot movements, big shockers and lots of emotion. 

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