3-ish stars???I came to the BDB party late, courtesy of Goodreads friends (Wendy!) who recommended I give them a try. So I blithely sailed through the 1st 10 books and a couple of novellas and assorted other materials before hitting the wall called "Waiting For The Next Book". And it's possible that I devoured this book too quickly, as can happen when a new book arrives that I've been anticipating; perhaps I read too quickly?I'll just come out and say it: This book and its story, even the B-Q part, didn't meet my expectations. I thought the book took a step BACK rather than any steps forward for both the BDB and the story and characters, in general.But since I'm still not sure, rather than attempt a coherent review, I'll jot down my thoughts in no particular order:THE FOLLOWING COMMENTARY COULD CONTAIN CONTENT/THOUGHTS CONSIDERED SPOILERS FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN'T READ THE BOOK! READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!!!1. Disappearing couples (again):OK, this is JR Ward's "signature", if you will... she hypes us up about the couples/pairings, and then after that couple's "book", you don't hear about them again. V and Doc Jane came up again in Payne's book AS A COUPLE, because they had some major issues to work through. But other than Beth and Wrath, we only get a sentence or two mentioning the couples in this book: Marissa in the context of the Council meeting and Butch protecting her there. Payne and Manny in the context of him helping her to and from the dinner table after her "session" with Layla. Ehlena and Rehv, Mary and Rhage, Bella and Z (after the airplane bit)... OK, I take that back. We don't hear a PEEP about Cormia and Phury. Huh... why is that?We do hear and see Doc Jane and Manny and Ehlena on the purely medical fronts, though... ugh.And BTW, JR Ward, I'm *really ticked off* that we *still* haven't seen that mating ceremony that you alluded to and that V said was definitely going to happen after Payne's book. For that matter, have Manny and Payne gone through the ceremony? Or does him not being a vampire have something to do with it? What about Tohr and Autumn?2. Speaking of Tohr and Autumn....Other than a couple of mentions about Autumn and her needing time, we literally don't see or hear from her. AT ALL. Really? 3. Xhex:We've been reading about Xhex since book 6 or so in this series, and she was featured heavily in the last couple of books. We're lucky to get 3 mentions of her in this book and only in the context of The Iron Mask and Trez. WHAT? Nothing about her and John, except Q's thinking about how lucky he is that he literally doesn't have to be by John's side at all times, esp when John and Xhex are um yeahing. We don't even see or hear about her at the mansion!!! When she greets Blay (or is it Q?) at The Iron Mask, you'd think that Xhex and John aren't even together and that she's never at the mansion.In the last book, John and Xhex had some rough stuff to work through - individually and as a couple. And they did. To the point where, correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't John agree that Xhex could fight with the Brothers again as long as he and Xhex weren't assigned out on the same night?Xhex is the reason they got the gun that V was able to prove belonged to the BoB and was used to shoot Wrath. And after all that and all the stuff with John in the last couple of books, Xhex - arguably Ward's favorite female - is relegated to a few sentences? No signs of her fighting with the Brothers?4. Brothers' Fighting:And yeah... what's up with this? We have a small run-in with a new Fore-Lesser who smokes everyone's mind by seeming to vanish, and other than checking out the lesser territory around the airplane hanger and the land/cabins, there are NO confrontations with lessers? It's "assumed", I suppose, when some of the Brothers show up during the Luhcas resue. But assuming isn't enough.The Brothers see VERY LITTLE FIGHTING ACTION in this one. Um... isn't that what these guys do? FIGHT? Lessers?Yes, there's the Council scene where the guys back up Wrath. But still...You'd THINK that with the evidence on the BoB, the Brothers would be out there not only trying to FIND and FIGHT the BoB, but bring Xcor in. Right? But no. The Brothers seem to go out nightly in search of.... WHAT? WHO? These guys aren't made to twiddle their thumbs. Even V almost has a smack down with Wrath over being able to hurt Xcor. And yet, nothing happens. Almost as if the Brothers really ARE past their prime...??? (Not that I believe that for a minute!) But if these guys can't locate the Fore-lesser or SOME lessers... c'mon.5. Pnuematic:Ward seems to like this word in this book. But I kept channeling "Princess Bride" whenever I read it, 'cuz I kept saying to myself, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."6. Speaking of words...Yeah, having Suzanne B as a writing buddy sure shows through this time, especially when Ward uses phrases like goat f*cked.And did anyone else besides me get a little tired of the "Riiiiiiiight" and "Reeeeeally?" etc, etc, ad nauseum?7. B&Q sex:OK, I'm not an authority on gay sex, but I've read a book or two. I know vampires are different in a lot of ways, but .... no prep of any kind, just go at it? I'd think at least lube would be required, right? Almost makes me think that Ward didn't do her homework or simply wrote these scenes as if they were heterosexual love scenes. Yes, there's some *hot* in there and even some *tender*, but without some sort of prep (even for Blay, but especially for Q), I can't imagine that the sex would be as awesome as the Best Sex Ever? Hmmm...8. B&Q, in general:So, sure, the "Ward way" is to have a lot of build up and misunderstandings and even some hot sex before the couple comes together. But SERIOUSLY? We've been watching these two for BOOKS! It's not like they just met. I totally get that they're each having their own epiphanies and both are scared about possibly coming together and then splitting apart again.But BLAY - what's UP with not telling Q about Saxton earlier? He watches Q almost kill Saxton, and he knows that Q might, again, if given the chance... and Blay says NOTHING to Q about him and Saxton not being together until THE VERY END OF THE BOOK?And then SUDDENLY, it's happy happy joy joy... a few paragraphs about how they moved into the same room and visited Blay's folks... and then WHAM! We're in tuxedo land, danceland, and some sort of engagement land? HUH? AFTER ALL THAT? YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME, RIGHT?I'm also not on-board with Q's Big Breakthrough. I don't get why it's important for Q to say that he's gay. It's almost like if Q doesn't admit that, he and Blay can't be together? Why? Why can't Q be bi-sexual? He might have used sex as a way of "expressing himself" and being all "iconoclast" (another of Ward's favorite words in this book), but WHY does Q have to be one thing or another? I'd think in a book that SEEMS to be going towards tolerance and accepting folks for who and what they really are would acknowledge that it's not always so black and white. And it's highly possible for Q to ONLY be in love with ONE GUY - Blay. Does that make Q gay? We know that Blay prefers men; Blay knows that, too. So, I think it's safe to say that Blay is gay. But Q? WHY does Q *have* to be labelled as one thing or another? While he's had sex with a few other guys in the midst of body configurations and that one guy when he was pretending to nail Blay, Q's sexual history hasn't been all about the guys. Q's never once shown any preferences towards men, in general, which, to me, says that he's not gay; Q is in love with Blay, but that doesn't make him gay. Period.9. TOO MANY SUBPLOTS AND TOO MANY OTHER CHARACTERS!If this were because we were getting glimpses into anything that MATTERS like, say, the lives of the Brothers in more than a superficial way, I wouldn't complain. But we have too many "new" characters and too many characters we barely know (like Assail & Trez) getting spotlight time. Why?The stuff with Assail, to me, is confusing. WHY would he think it's OK to make his empire using lessers? UM, HELLO? His own race's enemy? I get that Assail doesn't think much of humans, or "rats without tails" as he calls them. But to allow the lessers, and by extension, the Omega, to get money for weapons, ammo, and resources to fight against the Brothers and the Vampire Race???I know that Assail is only concerned about himself and his money and his business. But even THAT seems over the line for a male who gets upset about being accused of being party to assassination. He won't give up Xcor, but he'll allow lessers to sell drugs to stock his coffers? REALLY?Then there's the whole argument that in town like Caldwell, a good hour from NYC with a pop of over 1 mil or so (I think, from previous books), WHO THE HECK IS BUYING ALL THESE DRUGS? Where is all this money coming from? How does Caldwell rate a Benloise-type guy with an art gallery - who, BTW, lives much closer to NYC than Caldwell - AND a major drug player like Rehv used to be that now Assail is trying to be? Hmmm.... And are drugs really the best way to build an empire? I'd think arms-dealing/gun-running or mercs would be more lucrative.Then Mr. Assail gets himself all involved with a HUMAN female - Marisol/Sola. There's chemistry here, sure. It's fun and a bit of relief from what's going on in the heavier world of Q&B, but... what, exactly, is the purpose of this little tryst? Especially since Marisol finds herself kidnapped at the end of the book. Just another cliffhanger to keep us hooked?WHAT HAPPENED TO MUHRDER? Everyone else seems to be thrown into this mix. If we're going to go there, I'd rather know more about what's going on in HIS world. I'd even take more with the stupid ghosthunters from the previous book just to know more about Muhrder.When even the Brothers get very little airtime, it's PATHETIC to throw so much randomness at us!!!10. Trez:I like Trez and iAm. A lot. But WHY NOW do we care about Shadowland and all that? I really didn't care one bit about Trez boning everything female. Not at all. I wished that iAm would have beat his *ss over it all.It's like a giant tease. We get a little bit of info stretched out over almost 600 pages, but in the end, nothing really adds up. We learn that Trez has been promised from birth to be the husband to the First Princess of the s'Hibe world - the Shadow land, so to speak. Since they're a matriarchal society, being hubby to the princess, even when she becomes queen, sounds like more of a servant or gigolo gig - do whatever the princess/queen wants, while she's the one out in public. Not something I see Trez wanting to do. OK, I get that.But the whole high priest dropping by thing and all the alluded to threats... WHAT THE HECK? I honestly didn't CARE ENOUGH, because Ward didn't MAKE ME CARE! Mostly because she didn't give away any real info.And the skuzzy prostitute who blows a guard to get into Trez's and iAm's Commodore apartment? HUH? Seriously? Like this building isn't the Dakota of Caldwell? That was just waaaaaay too convenient. (Sorry, had to do a Ward there.)Just a very convenient and roundabout way to get Trez and iAm into the mansion. How many more rooms does this place have, anyway?Then there's the whole Selena Chosen thing... 11. Phury and the Chosen:Continuing that rant...seriously, Phury needs to get his act together and DO SOMETHING for these poor girls. They're still so ignorant of who's who and what's what, that he's seriously leaving them open for some big hurts. If he's not going to do the actual Primale duty and impregnate them to keep the race going, then why isn't he finding them suitable mates? Isn't that what he said he was going to do? If the race is dying out and if the Brotherhood needs more warriors, then WHAT IS HE WAITING FOR?He sure doesn't seem to be fighting anything worth anything. So why isn't Phury doing something with these poor Chosen before more of them end up confused and embittered like Layla. OK, maybe she's not embittered, but she could easily become so. Especially with this whole Xcor thing going on.Once again, the ball has been dropped. Since Phury, Cormia, and the Chosen aren't in our main target sites, it's like they don't exist.And to suddenly find out that Selena is mocha-skinned? Hmmm... have we ever SEEN a black or darker-skinned Brother or even vampire before? I'm not complaining, I just find it odd that it took 11 books for the discovery that perhaps there are vampires of color. Do we suddenly have to be all PC about this?12. Council stuff:OK, Marissa is the head of her bloodline. Got it. But what about Ehlena? Didn't she inherit that, too, when she and her father got back the money and property that really belonged to them? Since her father's not competent, wouldn't that make Ehlena the head of her bloodline? So shouldn't she have been present at the Council meeting, too?And did EVERY member of the Council really go speak to Elan and shake his hand? Marissa, too? 'Cuz I don't think that happened.And Havers... why is this guy still at Council meetings if Marissa is the head of their bloodline? I can see Havers being part of Elan's little group, but I don't understand why he'd be invited.Seems like a LOT of people at that one Council meeting - more than just Council members, if you get what I'm saying. Almost a glymera party.13. The whole C-Rider/Fore-lesser and Lesser stuff:BORING!!! And again, WHAT has any of this to do with anything? Other than discovering Luchas, whom we know that Lash had stashed somewhere... The whole lesser thing seemed to be a big lead up to his discovery, which was... not much.What are we to surmise about the new Fore-lesser? Is it possible to turn a vampire into a lesser? And if so, then why have the lessers and even the Omega been so bent on only killing them and not turning them? Is there another species out there that we're going to be introduced to? Or is this only another of the Omega's tricks that he's passed on?AND WHERE'S LASH? I thought he was going to make a reappearance. Seems like this would have been a good book for that.14. Luchas:Dunno. Too early to say yet. But it seemed anti-climatic. Yes, it provided some closure for Q, so I guess if that's the main thing here, OK.15. Qhuinn:The whole Honor Guard flashbacks and terrors... seems like they would have happened sooner. But I see how it plays into Ward's plot of getting him into the Brotherhood.All of his angst... good stuff and necessary, in many ways. But where's Mary when you need her? Why didn't anyone suggest that Q see Mary?16. Layla:Again, unsure... I like Layla, and I'm glad that she didn't lose the young. The Xcor thing is still so out there. It almost breaks your heart, how she's pining for him and he's pining for her. And at least the bittersweet moment towards the end is realistic in terms of this story and characters. Both know that they can't be together in any peaceable way. They're on opposite sides.17. Payne:Her healing gift was conveniently forgotten when it was needed to keep Wrath from dying in the previous book, right? But Blay says a word to Payne, and she's all about healing Layla. Now, I get that, because Payne and Layla have had many exchanges before. So it makes sense to me that she'd do what she can for Layla.But Payne says that she needs to go back to the Far Side to replenish... yet, does she ever? Does anyone help her to do so? Almost as if she's left to her own devices - dumped, 'cuz she's not central to the plot, just a convenient way to keep Layla pregnant.18. BoB, Xcor, and the new insider:Well, using the law is clever, and exactly what I'd expect someone with a law degree (like Ms. Ward) to do to try to win this power struggle. And I don't believe for a minute that Saxton has anything to do with this person, even though I wonder if Ward's not trying to throw in red herrings. Saxton has proven his loyalty time and again. But could he have hooked up with another law mind who's at the heart of this? Hmmm... perhaps why Saxton might not be long for this world. (Although that would tick me off, since the guy deserves his own HEA.)Xcor is at least seeing some reason and getting with the change in times in this book. He's trying to figure out how to have Layla and the power he wants. But if Wrath can be so easily dethroned because of a "full-blooded clause", then what... the whole society will be thrown into anarchy when they dethrone Wrath and just decide to VOTE on a new leader, like Xcor? I know that stuff happens in politics in countries every day, but it just seems too radical for this society. The glymera like to keep their traditions and their trappings; putting someone else into power from the glymera who is "full-blooded" makes more sense to me than to appoint a leader like Xcor. So, IMO, the new insider obviously has another agenda that we don't know about just yet.As for the BoB, well... a few scenes, and once again, nothing. They're supposedly fighting lessers, but we don't even really see that, except for the thrilling car scene. What's up with the Scottish talk all of the sudden? A couple of the BoB did talk that way, previously, but now Xcor's using "cannae"? Why?19. The BDB, Wrath, and "full-blooded":OK, so in a way since these guys almost seem to be sitting on their butts lately, and they deserve to have this sneaked up on them. Is it because Wrath was "engaged" to Marissa for so many centuries, and that she'd qualify for producing full-blooded heirs with Wrath the reason that NO ONE remembers this? And after Saxton just read ALL THE LAW BOOKS and he's not wise to it? OK, that's not what he was looking for, but still... which is what leads me to believe that whoever Saxton went away with or met or has been hooking up with after B is the insider. Yes, I get that the whole kid thing is a huge gamble... but Wrath doesn't even want kids. Huh? Who does he think will reign and rule when he's gone? After his scare in the Fall (which was only a few months before this book, right?), you'd think that Wrath WOULD be thinking about this issue. Not that he wants to go through that with Beth, but it's his responsibility as King to keep his bloodline going.20. The Virgin Scribe:Other than a few oaths and prayers of thanks, nothing. Nada. Zilch. Really?So, while I enjoyed the book overall, I can't say that it blew me away like I was hoping for. Even the stuff between B&Q was ... OK. Some of it was hot, but it was so hot-and-cold, I didn't know where we were headed. I honestly had to read the last couple of chapters before I was 50% through the book, just to see if I was willing to hang in there. This book simply doesn't rate up there with many of the previous books. Mostly because I wasn't willing to suspend my disbelief in so many areas. Ms. Ward didn't make me care enough to do so. And it felt as if so many potential pieces of really good stuff were simply dropped on the cutting room floor rather than explored. Nothing seemed rich or deep or satisfying. Just a bunch of drive-bys with a supposedly warm-fuzzy ending.