Paranormal Check-In, Book 1 - JR Ward's Dark Lover

Last week, my sister guest blogged here on the nine paranormal romances she recommends for new paranormal readers. As part of the post, I committed to reading the recommended titles...and fully breaking into the paranormal genre. I started with Kiki's first recommendation: J.R. Ward's (shoutout to a fellow Smith College grad!) Dark Lover.

Oh. Em. Gee.

Let's put it this way: I bought the book on Saturday, started it Sunday night and finished it Monday morning. Yes. I see now that J.R. Ward is like crack. "random thoughts" overview, as someone who can count on two hands the number of paranormals she's read in her life:

* At first, I had some trouble with the names. You know what I'm talking about Wrath, Rhage, Phury, Zsadist, Tohrment, etc... But if anyone, ever, has been able to pull off names like this, it's six-foot-seven-inch, built-like-brick-walls, dressed-all-in-black-leather hotties like these. They're enough to make you Whant to Mhake Ouht. So...yeah. The names end up working.

* There are a *ton* of subplots going on here...and they're incredibly well-done. Too often, I read romances where the subplots seem only to be wallpapery filler. Not enough to really catch your interest, too much to skip over. Not so here. By 1/4 through the book I was sucked in. The bad guys, the hero's earlier girlfriend, the good cop who gets himself stuck in this crazy vampire world...they were all well-crafted, with promises for future books. Love that. (And I am SO GLAD I came late to this I can read all the rest of the books immediately!)

* Alphas with weaknesses. The very best thing about Alpha males (to me, at least) is discovering their weaknesses. And JR Ward gives her men weaknesses that are totally awesome. She even gives the weaknesses a word in the ancient Vampire tongue - pyrocant. I'm going to bring this into modern English. "I love vanilla cupcakes. They're my pyrocant."

* Bad boys. I'm not just talking about your standard Alpha (I'm looking at you, Wrath). I'm talking about full-on terrifying bad boys. Like Zsadist. If you're here, you already know that I have a thing for scars. So...yeah. His book had better be coming. And it had better be awesome.

* Kick-ass heroine. If there's one thing I can't stand, it's a weak heroine paired with an Alpha--as though his strength wouldn't be strong enough if she weren't so milquetoast. Not so here...Beth is awesome. She's strong and tough and badass. I liked her immediately and during the book's climax, I liked her even more.

* Vampire procreation. I won't say much about this, but after the unfulfilled promise of how vampire breeding goes down in this book, some girl in one of the future books had better get preggers. I'm not kidding. Jeez. I'm fanning myself just thinking about it.

* Start of a series. As far as first books in series go, this one is pretty fantastic, as indicated by the fact that I just bought ALL the others, and Rhage's story is taunting me from my Kindle. Part of the thing I hate about series that leave open-ended questions is the open-ended question...but in this case, I'm totally along for the ride.

I'm going to London on Friday, and I am SO ready for 6 hours of uninterrupted time on a plane to read...which is really saying something, as there's nothing that I hate more than flying.

So, all in all, the takeaway here is: I get it. These books are a special kind of drug. And I'm buying it in spades.