I’m having a mixed bag of thoughts and feelings after closing Lover Unleashed and what first comes to mind is that I feel slightly underwhelmed by this story. I think one of the problems for me is that Manny and Payne are likable characters but I had very little chance to get emotionally invested in them prior to their story. It wasn’t until the last chapters of Lover Mine that they were firmly put on my horizon and their story was set up. I was intrigued but nothing beyond that. Then they get their story told in Lover Unleashed but they weren’t the focus. The situation with Payne’s physical disability puts her and Manny together and from there on it is an ebb and flow between them that’s rather easy. I got treated to a sexy chemistry which I enjoyed to the fullest, I loved the moment Payne ogled Manny in the shower, but the romance development lacked a spirit and depth to truly hook, line and sinker me. Of course Manny has his classic MINE reaction, I would be shocked if he didn’t have one, but it all fits to easily. The romance isn’t really challenged by anything, the stakes aren’t that very high and it lacks a certain originality. While I liked seeing them together they are the kind of couple I can forget the moment I close this book.
The one scene in Lover Unleashed that pulled me completely in to the moment and the emotions is a certain scene between Butch and V. It is undoubtedly that V, Jane and Butch are prominent characters within this story, almost to a point where I thought J.R. Ward could’ve easily told it in a separate published novella like she did with Father Mine. It read like one giant post scriptum to Lover Unbound and while V, Jane and Butch have a place/connection within the story of Manny and Payne their troubles created a loss of pages for the couple this book was meant to be all about.
That was another thing that I noticed as I was reading is that each story thread on its own was in some form all right. Xcor and his gang are new characters who tingle the curiosity and I’m wondering where J.R. Ward is going to go with these guys. José and DelVecchio were okay, but what the whole murder investigation had to do with the story, I didn’t really get. It feels almost like an afterthought thrown into the story. Manny and Payne were sweet and sexy together but could have been more. V, Jane and Butch with their troubles deepen their respective relationships but I feel they stole a lot of thunder from Manny and Payne.
All of these storylines was interconnected but didn’t form a tight whole where everything works to sucker punch you and leave you dazzled. The story just moved along with BDB brothers who made a few guest appearances. Blay and Qhuinn have a moment or two as well and there are a few hints of danger but nothing that got the blood pumping. Also what I think is a major hole in the story is that it doesn’t get explained how Payne is getting healed. Something happens between Manny and Payne but what, why? Details is what I wanted, instead there was a lack of imagination in the romance and plot that prevented this story to truly rock.
The thing is that Lover Unleashed kept me in a perpetual state of nice but with no long lasting impact on either side of the emotional spectrum. It is a first for me because with Lover Unbound and Lover Enshrined I had to rant about the things I didn’t not like, but also had to rave about the things I loved. Now though I read it, was entertained at a certain level, but reading the final pages I was at a point where I said; ok, close book and move on.
Lover Unleashed was an okay read with things I liked, yet for every aspect I liked is immediately followed by a but. In the end all I can say is that it was a nice read but with very little that truly moved me.