The Black Dagger Brotherhood, a mega-selling mass-market Paranormal Romance series by J.R. Ward is a publishing phenomenon. These books sell like the proverbial hotcakes. As of this writing, there are ten books published and more to come. Ward has brewed a heady mixture of the standard Gothic Romance conventions- tortured hero, female in jeopardy, suspense, adventure, hero redeemed by love for same female in jeopardy- added in large doses of somewhat kinky erotica and violence and put the whole mess on a steroid regimen- with vampires!
The basic premise is this- the vampires of mythical Caldwell, NY are a separate species, not at all the undead but pretty much immortal, at least until someone slaughters them. A centuries long war with a group called the Lessening Society is being fought to save the vampire race. Enter the Black Dagger Brotherhood, lethal, mega-sized, leather-clad, trash-talking, booted and vice-ridden vampires who battle the evil Lessors, who really aren't all that scary, especially since they are colorless and smell like baby powder(?). No kidding. You want tortured heroes with hideous childhoods-these brothers are the ones for you. But they mate for life and are redeemed by the women they love. Well, not really, but they do cut down on their self-destructive behaviors and come to terms with their various hideous childhoods.
I really don't know how I stumbled across the first book in the series, Dark Lover, but to say that I was underwhelmed is an understatement. First of all, I laughed my way through the glossary of terms that appears at the beginning and does so in every book. I'm still snorting my way through that glossary. Then, there are the names of the original brothers: Wrath, Rhage, Zsadist, Vishous, Phury and Tohrment. Are you seeing a pattern here? Throw in some extraneous letters- they still sound the same. After the original six brothers are dealt with in the series, we have Rehvenge, Dhestroyer and John Matthew (huh?). As the series progresses, female warriors have been added, along with a quasi-religious and social system that is mired somewhere circa 1174. The most recent entry introduces a cadre of Slayers from Europe who are even more anti-social than the original Brothers. I counted Dark Lover as a waste of good trees. However, I kept hearing buzz and decided that I must have missed something. No, not really.
So, after my snide comments-why am I still reading them? Well, I don't really know. Despite the names, the weak world-building, the egregious "branding" sprinkled throughout each book, the street lingo that I can't believe is spoken anywhere on this planet and the general silliness, I am hooked. Enough to download them free from the library, anyway. In spite of, or maybe because of all their faults these books are oddly compelling. Ward is one heck of a story-teller and the Black Dagger books have a breakneck narrative flow that just drags you with it. The best analogy I can come up with is the compulsion to rubber-neck a traffic accident. It's a guilty pleasure and so is the Black Dagger Brotherhood.