Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood, #15
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Date of Publication: April 04, 2017
Started On: February 28, 2018
Finished On: March 03, 2018
At long last, JR Ward presents readers with the story of Xcor, the leader of the Band of Bastards, the traitor who tried to assassinate Wrath, the King of the Vampire race to take the throne for himself. However, along the course of his desire for the throne, Xcor’s destiny takes a turn; his meeting with Layla, the Chosen. Their story is one that has kept me enamored throughout, waiting on tenterhooks for any and every glimpse of the formidable warrior and Layla, the equally gentle and when it needs be, and fierce in her own right, Layla. And I am pretty certain that I would have not been the only one.
At the same time, what took place seems to have pissed off a few of the die-hard fans, especially in light of the turn that Vishous took when it came to his relationship with Jane. I will get to that later, but right now, I just want to soak in the thousand and one feels that still courses through me whenever I think about Xcor and Layla, together at last. Nothing is going to take away the warm fuzzies owing to that happy fact and its going to stay that way!
The Chosen kicks off a couple of weeks from when The Beast finishes, with Xcor in captivity under the watch of the Brothers, and Tohr itching to take his life as was promised by Wrath that it would be rightfully his for the taking when the time came. But Xcor had come to them incapacitated and in a coma from the blow to his head, and days pass before events finally come to a point where Layla confesses to Qhuinn, the father of her twins that it was Xcor and their parting that was putting a huge damper on Layla’s emotions, enough to plunge her into deep depression.
Qhuinn’s reaction was by far, one of the “assholiest” reactions I have come across in the series towards any turn of events. Filled to the brim with casting stones on Layla and her behavior, and I am like, yeah, nice one to talk Qhuinn, plus the fact that Qhuinn let his anger get the better of him, going into a fit of rage that could have done serious harm to the mother of his kids and the twins themselves was unforgivable. I can understand becoming unhinged to a point because from Qhuinn’s viewpoint, Layla had been with the enemy, possibly putting herself in danger, and in the process the twins.
But, the total lack of disregard to Layla as a person in her own right, and not just a womb to carry their children, that was what rankled. I expected better from Qhuinn, someone who had never had family to belong to, an outcast on his own right, and while Layla was cut from different cloth, she had had the same kind of loneliness hound her for a long time. Layla and Qhuinn’s bond had been forged out of that loneliness, and the decision Qhuinn had taken to service Layla in her needing had been one he had taken knowing the ramifications of what it would bring – that theirs would always remain a bond strengthened through the birth of their children.
Right about the same time, which coincides with the anniversary of Wellsie’s brutal death at the hand of lessers, which has Tohr itching to get his hands on Xcor to teach him a thing or two, or to take his frustrations out on something other than his mere existence and the unfairness in life when it came to taking his Wellsie away from him, Xcor finally wakes up.
Tohr and Wellsie’s story is another point of contention with me when it comes to couples in the series. I actually thought that Tohr having gone through all that he did during his and Autumn’s story, where they both had grief that had to be dealt with before they could be together, would have actually made him better able to deal with a lot of things. But with the issue of Trez and his beloved Selena fresh on his mind, Tohr is ready to slide back into a place of darkness once again.
I guess I would never fully be able to understand the bonded male and their connection to their mates. But, I always feel like Autumn holds the short end of the stick when it comes to Tohr and his love. She does not seem to come even as the second, but sort of like a mere afterthought and that rankles in so many ways. But then again, Autumn is a big girl, tough in a way that she is able to see right through Tohr, to understand him on a level that I suppose I never would be able to. But I hope that one day, Ward writes about them in a way that makes better sense out of their relationship – perhaps time and unconditional love from Autumn would change the direction of Tohr’s tormented mind that takes a turn for the worse when things get too much for him.
In the end, Xcor’s “savior” comes in the form of the Brother that is the least likely to give into the sentimental stuff, i.e. Vishous. Though Vishous believes he does it more out of that calculating mentality of his which always lets him plan ahead and keep a cooler head than the rest of the Brothers, it is also partly owing to the strange feelings that have of late taken over Vishous in terms of his relationship with Dr. Jane.
The missing elements between him and Jane, that feeling of being left adrift while the rest seem to be anchored in a way he has never been; all this and more leads Vishous down a path that most readers would have found problems with. But I understood it. Vishous is highly intelligent, is the son of a deity, and his emotions aren’t that of the average Vampire, or even a Brother. Plus, growing up at the merciless hands of the Bloodletter and his mummy issues has left Vishous in a place that is far different from the rest and it is an often dangerous trajectory that his wisdom takes him on and I believe that plays a huge role in his decision making as well.
While people often say there is no excuse for cheating, sometimes it is not owing to one, but rather because of the place one finds themselves at – as hard as it might be for most to fathom. There is no excuse to be had for any type for bad behavior that reflects badly on the other person, or hurts other people, but there you have it. It is often part and parcel of human nature, and I guess we would encounter cheating spouses/partners till the end of times.
For me, the best part of the story hands down, was how Layla and Xcor finally got together. Their union was that much more precious because Xcor waited all that time, first because he didn’t believe himself to be worthy of someone like Layla, and secondly because she was pregnant throughout a huge part of their “courtship” – as strange as the application of that word might be in their context. So when they finally did get together; a whole lot of fireworks, gentleness, and then the strength that is Xcor unleashed on the woman who holds his heart and soul in her hands. I loved every single moment of it.
I loved Wrath for having the foresight of the leader that he has turned into. He could have asked any of the Brothers to take down Xcor, and could have been shitty towards Layla because she had consorted with the enemy. But Wrath is the King, elected or otherwise, for a reason. He has to lead people, and often the issues that come up are not going to be easy to wade through. For that, one requires level headed thinking.
Xcor was a traitor – there are no two ways about it. Even though he is my second favorite character in the series, I am honest enough to admit that. But Wrath being who he is, decided to get down to business and talk it out with him, a chance he gives Xcor only because of Layla and the entangled web their lives had become. Imagine the consequences of the hatred that would have been born out of the tragedy had Wrath given into his baser instincts and ordered that Xcor be tortured and killed? Now that would have taken centuries to right and led to infighting, which would not have solved anything. The vampires have enough enemies on the outside, so it is prudent that you do not go around making new enemies of the people who are closest to you. Period.
Throe and his inner psychology was also a bit more closely revealed in this book, through Xcor’s reasoning on how he came to be. How Xcor’s own mother had abhorred him and only put up with him because Xcor’s father promised to seek her out if she harms him, until the day she receives the news that Xcor’s father had no need for Xcor as an heir and that his mahmen was finally free of him.
The fact that she left him in the wilderness, chained like a dog, without any means to defend himself; that speaks volumes of the kind of mother she was. Xcor had survived, against all odds, and even went through the training at the Bloodletter’s camp, believing the Bloodletter when he had lied to Xcor about being his father.
In Xcor’s grief over Throe and what he had become, Xcor believes that the same humiliation that Throe had been subjected to at Xcor’s hands had rendered him psychologically to take a different path – a more destructive path in the future where his ambitions had found an outlet with the dark arts and the havoc that could potentially cause the Brothers in their fight to keep the race and their King safe from harm.
Ultimately, the story leaves one with a lot of questions regarding Throe and his ambitions; whether the Omega has any hand in it is one of the most prominent ones. There is also the fact that Lassiter is the new “Scribe Virgin” – there has got to be a new title for the position because calling someone as virile as Lassiter a “virgin” just seems all wrong somehow.
Interesting times ahead (not that there is any period of time that lapses into boredom when you are reading about the Black Dagger Brotherhood), but the way Ward keeps the twists and turns coming? That is number one reason why I would pick up a BDB book over any other, any day.
Final Verdict: The Chosen is a book that has been anticipated for a long while; the story of the Chosen Layla and Xcor. Their love is fiery and gentle at the same time, a love like no other that I fell for in every single sense. There is a beauty to Xcor’s character that can only be found in the the deeply scarred and wounded.
When he finally broke the contact, he smoothed his palm down her hair. “May I enter your bedroom, female?”
His eyes were so beautiful, shining and hot, the deep navy blue nearly black from the lust he had for her. And to her, his face was handsome, everything that was strong and masculine and powerful, the defect in his upper lip not anything she noticed or dwelled on. In fact, it was the whole of him that appealed to her, his power and his vulnerability, his savage nature and the polite effort he was making, the warrior in him and the protector who came out for her.
“Yes,” she whispered.
Except when his pelvis came back down to hers, he still had his sweatpants on.
His arousal had been freed, however. And her eyes fluttered shut as his blunt head brushed against her.
“I’m trying to go slowly,” he said through gritted teeth.
“You don’t have to.”
With that, she shoved her hands down, found his thick, hard length, and brought it to her in just the right place. Digging a heel into the duvet, she moved herself up—
He slid into her and the fit was perfection. It was home and it was the whole galaxy at once, and she was so overwhelmed, tears speared into her eyes—because she knew he was equally affected: Xcor orgasmed the second he was fully inside of her, his warrior’s body beginning to empty into her—and yet he recoiled, his head jerking back, alarm marking his face even as his body continued to release.
“Layla,” he begged.
One by one, she sucked at his fingers, loosening his hold on his erection, making him so weak that his hands fell away from his sex not because he willed them as such, but because he lacked the strength in his arms to do aught else.
Freed from constraint, his cock jutted straight out from his hips, the water from the shower making the proud length glisten. Fates, he wanted her to do what she was about to, craved the feel of her lips on his head, his shaft, wanted the suction and the—
“Fuck,” he groaned as her mouth captured him.
Xcor lunged at her, moving so fast he wasn’t aware of making the decision to get on her. And he was rough, shoving her hand out of the way and sealing his mouth on her sex, taking what he wanted, what she had teased him with.
Now she was the one throwing hands out, looking to keep herself in some semblance of physical order. But he was having none of that. He yanked her down flat on the tile, slapped his palms on the inside of her thighs, and butterflied her open, going in deep with his tongue, consuming her.
She came hard against his face, her hands spearing into his damp hair, pulling at it until it hurt. Not that he gave a shit. All he cared about was getting into her, making her say his name, marking her with his lips and tongue.
He pulled out at the last minute, rising above her, his shoulders blocking the spray of the shower. Grabbing his erection, he was even more brutal with himself than he had been with her, yanking at his sex, making himself come.
So that he covered her.
It was the marking of a bonded male, a practice done so that any other male in her presence would be fully warned that if he approached her, he had best beware.
She was another’s.
Not as property. But as something far too precious for others to toy with.
Sitting himself next to her, he took a piece of toast off the stack and began the buttering process.
“I can do that,” she muttered. “I should like to serve you.”
Then drop your pants, she thought as she eyed the huge thighs that strained the seams of the black nylon sweats he was wearing. And then there was the way the bottom of the sleeve of his T-shirt struggled to hold the thick circumference of his bicep. And the shadow of beard growth that darkened his jaw.
Sinking her nails into her knees, she looked at his mouth. “Xcor.”
“Hmm?” he asked as he moved a mathematically precise layer of butter over the toast with a knife.
“Enough with the food.”
“I’m almost finished here.”
And I’m totally finished over here, she thought.
“Honey,” he murmured. “I think it would be rather good indeed.” Layla looked at the honey pot. “I believe you’re right.” Reaching forward, she picked the thing up and arched her back. “Honey is good on a lot of things.”
Swirling the dipper, she took the thing out and held it over her breast, and as the honey spooled and fell, her nipple caught the sweetness. The tickle made her bite her lip, and then more of the amber glow dripped onto her skin, a river of it easing down to her abdomen.
When he glanced over at her, he did a double take—and dropped the toast on the tray. Which was a relief because, really, if she couldn’t win a competition with carbohydrates for his attention she was seriously in trouble.
His navy blue eyes were instantly hot and very, very locked on the way the honey slowly, tantalizingly hit her breast drop by drop and meandered down, down … down.
“I wonder,” she said in a husky voice, “whether honey is sweeter than me?”
With rough hands, he freed his sex and then he was inside of her, pumping while he kissed her, their bodies finding a rhythm that was so rough the sofa itself rocked and banged against the wall.
Harder, faster, deeper, until they couldn’t keep their mouths together anymore. Reaching up, she held onto his surging shoulders, the muscles under his smooth skin like an ocean that was storming—
Pleasure broke like a lightning strike, but also made her whole—and then he found his own release, pouring himself into her.
And Xcor didn’t stop.
Or slow down.
In spite of his injuries, he pulled her into his lap and wrapped his arms around her. And then he was kissing her collarbone. And her throat … and her lips.
That now-familiar heat rose again, and when he eased her up and over his hips, she split her thighs to straddle him and was glad the partition was up for their privacy.
Shifting around awkwardly, she took one side of her leggings down and moved her panties out of the way as he pulled up the hem of his hospital gown.
“I’ll be careful,” she said as he grimaced from pain.
“I won’t feel anything but you.”
Xcor stood his erection with his hand and she slowly slid herself onto it.
“My love,” he breathed as his head fell back and his eyes closed. “Oh, you make me whole.”