This is the second book in J R Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series (the first being "Dark Lover", the third "Lover Awakened" and, to be released in March 07, "Lover Revealed"). The story takes place a month after the events in "Dark Lover" and with the same cast of characters.
These characters are very well drawn. We have Wrath (the King who has now stepped up to his position with his new wife Beth), Rhage, Zsadist, Phury, Tohrment etc. Very silly and cheesy names which I find disappointing - it's about the only complaint I can make overall about these books!
Anyway, this book follows the story of Rhage, the Vampire Brother with a curse... he has a dragon beast inside him which is released at times of great stress. In order to keep the beast under wraps Rhage has to have sex with women regularly (so THAT'S his excuse!) and get into fights with the lessers, the vampire slayers. He's pretty fed up with life - the seduction of women evidently palls after a while - and he knows he's got 91 years of the curse left before it leaves him.
Mary is a lonely woman who works at a suicide hotline in her spare time and in a law office for her main job. Her mother died four years ago and Mary has recently had leukaemia which is now in remission... or is it?
Mary's discovery of her cancer returning coincides with her meeting a young man who regularly calls the suicide hotline - a man who can't speak but can only use sign language (which Mary understands). Her neighbour Bella (who just happens to be a vampire, unknown to Mary) recognises that this young lad is 'one of them' and contacts the Black Dagger Brotherhood about him.
And thus Mary and Rhage meet. He's instantly attracted to her which of course she doesn't believe, seeing as she's a pretty ordinary looking lass and he's colossally handsome. Their paths continue to cross and Rhage goes against all the advice of his Brothers and continues to be in contact with Mary.
What's good about this book is the continuation of other plot lines and the introduction of the story of Bella and Zsadist which is the focus of the next book. Mary and Rhage's relationship moves slowly as she is so unsure of herself, of him, of her health and of his morals (and rightly so!) Butch the human is still in this book, still mooning unsuccessfully after Marisa, and he adds a little extra to the story.
Overall I very much enjoyed this book - there is character building, interesting plots, the scenes with the Lessers don't quite work for me always but they are few and far between - in fact, the Lessers are pretty weak opponents to the Brotherhood in this series. What was well written was Mary's fears about her illness and what caring for her would do to Rhage in the long run.
My only negative point about this book is that the Scribe Virgin (the Vampires' deity) comes in at the end rather as a "Deus ex Machina" to fix a significant problem in the story and it feels rather cheating and an easy way out. Still that's not a major complaint and it doesn't spoil the book.
Read and enjoy!