Friday, July 30, 2021

Claimed by J.R. Ward Blog Tour

Is she destined to have true love... or will a soul-shattering loss ruin her forever? Claimed by J.R. Ward Blog Tour.

A heart-pounding new series set in the Black Dagger Brotherhood world, about a scientist fighting to save the gray wolves—and getting caught in a deadly trap herself...

Lydia Susi is passionate about protecting wolves in their natural habitat. When a hotel chain develops a tract of land next to the preserve, Lydia is one of the most vocal opponents of the project—and becomes a target.

One night, a shadowy figure threatens Lydia’s life in the forest, and a new hire at the Wolf Study Project comes from out of nowhere to save her. Daniel Joseph is both mysterious, and someone she intrinsically wants to trust. But is he hiding something?

As the stakes get higher, and one of Lydia’s colleagues is murdered, she must decide how far she will go to protect the wolves. Then a shocking revelation about Daniel challenges Lydia’s reality in ways she could never have predicted. Some fates demand courage, while others require even more, with no guarantees. Is she destined to have true love... or will a soul-shattering loss ruin her forever?


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Claimed by J.R. Ward

Book 1
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In so many ways, Lydia should have known. From the moment Daniel Joseph had appeared in her office doorway, there had been something about him. But she hadn’t expected... this.

“Unless you tell me to go,” he said in a husky voice, “I’m going to kiss you.”

As Lydia stared up into his face, they both knew

what she wanted. What she needed. Still, she kept them on the edge for a heartbeat or two.

“I don’t want you to leave.”

“Good,” he growled.

When he lowered his head, there was a rumble of satisfaction in his chest—and then she wasn’t hearing anything. Thinking anything. Worried about anything.

As big and strong as he was, his lips were soft against her own. Gentle, too, as if he knew she wanted to be handled with care—not because she didn’t want him, but because she did. Too much. And God, there were more reasons to pull away than get close to him, except there was no denying the chemistry. The connection. The heat.

And the experience was even better than the anticipation.

Aware that she was going to stop this sooner than she wanted, but much later than she should, Lydia lifted her arms and put them on his shoulders. His heavy body was rock-hard under his windbreaker, the muscles roping up to his neck—and that was where her hands went.

She just wanted to see if his hair was as thick and lush as it looked—

It was.

As she dug into the waves, he purred in response, like he was a great cat and she had found his favorite stroking place. And that was when he wrapped an arm around her waist. She did not feel trapped, though. She had the sense, as he continued to stroke her lips softly, that he would let her go immediately.

Not that she was going anywhere anytime the hell soon.

Inch by inch, their bodies came into full contact, her breasts against his chest, the front of her thighs meeting his, their hips brushing. And then the kiss deepened, his tongue licking into her—

Letting out another moan, she tightened her hold on his nape, in his hair, a sense of desperation making her rougher than she should have been—she was holding him to her now, grabbing on to him. But he was going with it. One of his hands traveled from her shoulder to her waist, to her hip, and she moved against his palm, imagining what it would be like to be naked with him touching her.

With those workman hands.

Daniel eased back and stroked her hair away from her face. “You’re a good kisser, you know that?”

“Am I?” She smiled like an idiot. “I could have sworn it was you.”

“I guess it’s us.” His eyes roamed her face. And then one side of his lips tilted up. “I’m going to go now.”

Lydia exhaled in surprise—but like she was going to sleep with him here on the mauve kitchen floor?

Not a bad idea, actually, she thought as she glanced down.

“Okay,” she said. “I understand. We do work together—”

“That’s not why I’m leaving.”

“So why are you?”

He traced her cheek. Then her jawline. “If I stay, I’m not going to let you get any sleep at all.” He stepped back. “You know where to find me, if you need me. And I’ll see you after we’re allowed to wake up at four-oh-one a.m.”

She nodded. “Good night, Daniel.”

Turning away, he lifted a hand over his shoulder. When he got to the door, he said, “Don’t forget to lock up.”

And then he was gone.




Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

As a diehard BDB (Black Dagger Brotherhood) fan who has re-read my series favourites more times than I want to admit, I was so excited to receive an ARC for this new spinoff series.

It isn’t until the very end of this book that the connection between the two series becomes clear. This book focuses on Lydia, a wolf researcher working in a rural game preserve. Most of the book follows Lydia as she attempts to protect her wolves from habitat destruction. Intermittently, Lydia’s story is interrupted by brief scenes from the BDB mansion, where Xhex is experiencing psychosis and attempting to discover more about the experiments done on her in the past.

Lydia’s story builds very slowly. In fact, this is a surprisingly slow read. From financial concerns to poisoned wolves, small problems in Lydia’s workplace begin to build until she is forced to rely on her center’s handyman, Daniel, to keep her safe when the threats become personal. As this is set in the BDB world, I kept waiting for action scenes and supernatural excitement that didn’t happen until the very end.

I didn’t realise until the end that this book is the start of a longer story arc for Lydia and Daniel. Where the BDB books were classic paranormal romance with a new feature couple in each book, it seems that this whole series will belong to Lydia and Daniel. It’s only in the last 20%, that readers begin to understand how Lydia and Daniel might connect to the BDB characters. I found the ending frustrating, especially as an ARC reader, because it ends just when the book starts to get exciting. We’re left with a million questions and the promise of at least a few answers in the next book. The result is a very slow first book that feels like a 500-page tease. I like where the series is going but I don’t feel like I got much of anything out of the first story.

Longtime fans of the WARDen's BDB series no doubt have a few questions before picking up Claimed, not that they'll hesitate in their grabby-hands action. The following Q&A is for both longtime fans and new readers.

1: Is it necessary to read BDB first?
Eh. I'm on the fence here. This is marketed as the debut in a new series, a spin-off of the BDB. It's hard for me to be objective as I feel like a bit of a BDB expert. I do believe it would be best for a reader to have knowledge of the world building from BDB. I don't believe they need to have read every title in the series. But I do believe it necessary, not seeing this as a first in the series when it comes to connective characters and their shared world building. New readers would be lost/confused, or at least not get an emotional response reading the novel.

2: Is The Lair of the Wolven the same format as BDB?
No. Instead of a novel per couple, as the series progresses, each novel doing foreshadowing for future couples, this novel/series focuses on Lydia and Daniel. A progressive romance.

3: Is Claimed paranormal romance?
Not by my estimation – I felt this more Urban Fantasy, which isn't a bad thing, as that happens to be one of my favorite genres. If you're looking for some steamy action like in earlier BDB novels, you're not going to find it. There's a slow-burn vibe shared between Lydia and Daniel, not necessarily an overtly erotic one.

4: What is the tie between the series?
Xhex. I won't go into detail as it revolves around the actual plot, other than explaining how it ties to her nightmarish captivity in a clinical setting.

Straight out the gate, I'd read the WARDen's shopping list and find it entertaining. Her voice, the witty comebacks, intriguing way she writes the world around her characters, the badassery, it's all there on the pages. But I will be honest, I found Claimed a little dry, slow and meandering, not truly invested in the story as I would be with the brothers. Simply because it's not a one and done story connected to the next and the next by a common theme, but a series unto itself.

Lydia is intellectual, cerebral, highly detailed, and some of those details are not interesting in the least (not at all as interesting as say, Ward's shopping list). A wolf researcher on a nature preserve, Lydia's inner monologue is detailed, which slowed the pacing. To be honest, I just couldn't connect with her, not truly invested in her as a character as much as what was happening with the wolves.

The mystery surrounding the wolves was intriguing, carrying the story, which isn't a bad thing. Which is why I felt the novel was more urban fantasy than paranormal romance. It's not so much character-driven as plot-driven.

While thrilled to hear from Xhex, I always find Ward's format of switching between points of view jarring. When I reread BDB, I skip all the Lessors portions, and struggle in the latter books because of the upwards of 30+ narrators ping-ponging all over the place. In this case, the reader isn't sure what the connection is, so it's jarring and odd to have Lydia's story interrupted by Xhex. New readers would be LOST. Don't get me wrong, I loved being back in the mansion, seeing the brothers in action, but... while it makes sense later on in the novel, it didn't make for a smooth read.

I wanted to love Claimed but gave it four stars. Those four stars are out of being a total WARDen fangirl, as I think if I were a new reader, the rating would have been considerably lower. The ending isn't necessarily a cliffhanger, but the reader finally understands the world building, the characters, and how it all connects, which means book two should be a heck of a lot faster paced, more exciting, and more engaging. If I were a new reader, I would have found the sheer volume of pages tedious and exhausting to wade through, giving up before I got to the meat of the story, then missed out on what is promising to be an amazing sequel.

Fingers crossed the sequel delivers as promised.

Recommended to hardcore WARDen fantatics. Definitely not recommended to new readers. Go pick up a copy of Dark Lover and immerse yourself in Wrath and Beth, you won't be disappointed. (Now I'm hankering to do just that.)

Last question: Would I reread it like I have the BDB (more than a dozen times for each novel up until The King)?
Nah. I'd reread the last portion as a refresher for the sequel, but there is no way I'd wade back through all that tedium again. Not something I enjoy admitting.

I'll be honest, I love the BDB series. I have not read them all but I've read several. I was super excited to start a new series by this author. Unfortunately, this one didn't grab my attention and hold it like I was expecting. This book was super slow to me. There was no steaminess, and I was just disappointed. I must not have read the BDB book with Xhex in it or if I did, I don't remember it. It seems like this series will revolve around Lydia and Daniel and not a new couple each book. That is fine, but I hope things speed up because if the next book is paced the same, I might have to tap out.



Author Bio

J.R. WARD is the author of over thirty novels, including those in her #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling series, The Black Dagger Brotherhood. There are more than 15 million copies of Ward’s novels in print worldwide and they have been published in 25 different countries around the world.

After graduating from law school, Ward began working in healthcare in Boston and spent many years as Chief of Staff of one of the premier academic medical centers in the nation. She lives in the south with her incredibly supportive husband and her beloved golden retriever. Writing has always been her passion and her idea of heaven is a whole day of nothing but her computer, her dog and her coffee pot.

Connect with J.R.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Claimed (The Lair of the Wolven #1) by J.R. Ward to read and review for this tour.

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