This book promised to finally bring together Qhuay, which is to say the mighty warrior Qhuinn (with the piercings, spiky black hair and mismatched eyes) and the friend who's in love with him, Blaylock (a blue-eyed redhead). To say their relationship is complicated would be a gross understatement. In the past:
-Blay came out as gay to Qhuinn and their best friend John Matthew. Blay made it clear he had feelings for Qhuinn, and Qhuinn made it equally clear he only wanted to be friends.
-Qhuinn had a lot of anonymous sex with a lot of women and men - everyone except Blay, basically. Blay was deeply offended that Qhuinn would partner with pretty much anyone who wasn't Blay. It was generally assumed Qhuinn was a promiscuous bisexual.
-Blay started a serious relationship with Qhuinn's lawyer cousin, Saxton. Qhuinn resented Saxton and, ironically enough, tried to slut-shame him.
-The unmated Chosen vampire Layla went into her fertile period, and she and Qhuinn decided to use this opportunity to have the child they both desired, even though they are not in a relationship. Layla became pregnant.
In Lover At Last, there are many angsty moments in which Layla fears she's miscarrying her baby. Thankfully, this tragedy seems to have been prevented by the warrior female Payne - who is, after all, the birth daughter of the Scribe Virgin herself. In future books, for my own mental health, I'm going to need Layla and Qhuinn's daughter to be born perfectly safe and healthy - with her dad's mismatched eyes, of course - and for Layla to live happily ever after with Xcor. I know that seems impossible - he's trying to take over the throne from Wrath. She'd have to betray the Black Dagger Brotherhood to join the Band of Bastards. But J.R. Ward will make it work somehow. She's good like that.
It was Blay who encouraged Payne to try to help Layla, and in a moment of gratitude, Layla spills the beans, telling Blay, "I can see why he's in love with you." Blay actually had no idea that Qhuinn felt about him the way Blay used to feel about Qhuinn, before the Saxton complication.
Saxton, in the meantime, has broken up with Blay, although they remain friends. Yet for some reason, for most of the book, Blaylock allows Qhuinn to believe he's still together with Saxton. When Qhuinn smells another guy on Saxton, he thinks Sax is cheating on Blay, and he literally tries to strangle his cousin to death in a moment of sheer protective outrage. Blay does not take this as a romantic gesture; he's extremely angry with Qhuinn. This only pushes them further apart.
Yet Qhuinn and Blay still manage to come together physically. Their complicated emotions boil over and they finally have sex (right around page 200). It happens a second time when Qhuinn is really, really worried about Layla losing the baby. The third time, Qhuinn gets very insistent that he's not gay. But maybe he is? Ward leaves it unclear whether Qhuinn has genuine attraction to males and females, or whether his pursuit of various women was overcompensation for his attraction to men. It's a moot point, really: by the end of the book, he and Blay are completely committed. Bonded.
The epilogue of the book is Qhuinn's mating proposal to Blay (with the full blessing of Blay's aristocratic, but very cool, parents). This means they'll be mated - the vampire equivalent of married - just like the other couples in the series. The book literally ends with, "...and lived happily ever after."
And, about fucking time.
They'll still have to get each other's names tattooed in the Old Language on their backs. A hellren (husband) always has his mate's name on his back.
Yet there are many loose ends to be addressed in the next book, including:
-Will hanging around with pregnant Layla cause Queen Beth to go into her fertility period? If Beth and King Wrath have offspring, will their 1/4 human young be eligible for the throne some day?
-Will a relationship develop between Trez and the Chosen female Selena? (I'm hoping so.)
There's also a subplot involving Assail, the Old World vampire drug dealer who took over the Caldwell drug trade from Rehvenge when Rev ran off with Ehlena for their happily-ever-after. I can't say I have any emotional investment in the story of Assail and his human would-be killer, Sola. Sola is in great danger, however, and what becomes of her is a loose end.
Now we impatiently await the next book, which Ward has said will be titled The King.
I got Lover at Last from the library. When I take it back, I'll be picking up Dead Ever After. I read the spoiler for the ending (not sorry), and unlike J.R. Ward, Charlaine Harris is going to rip out my heart and shred it in millions of tiny pieces. Can't wait.
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