Why I Don't Hate Layla
What'll You Do When You Get Lonely and Nobody's Waiting By Your Side?
The Chosen Layla is not a very popular character right now, at least not in my corner of the Black Dagger Brotherhood (BDB) fandom. To put it bluntly, she's the witch-with-a-capital-B who manipulated Qhuinn into fathering her child and is keeping him and his true love Blay apart.
I'm not happy with how it all went down, and Layla isn't on my Top 5 or Top 10 or even Top 15 list of favorite females in the series. But I don't blame her (too much) for her actions as she went into her needing. And I certainly don't think she's solely responsible for the "situation" as we go into Lover at Last (hello, Qhuinn, I'm looking at you, too).
To review, in Lover Reborn, John, Qhuinn, and Layla returned to the BDB compound while Autumn was in her needing. Layla thought she was immune because of the time she spent on the Other Side but she was wrong. Soon after her return, her needing came on while she and Qhuinn were alone together in the kitchen. Because they had both just been talking about how alone they are with no real family, Layla suggests to Qhuinn that he service her needing so that they both have something that is truly theirs in this world (a child). Great idea. Qhuinn gives it about half a second's thought, while most of his blood flow was being routed away from his brain, before agreeing.
Right, then. I'm incredibly annoyed with them both for such an epic fail when it comes to decision-making. But I don't hate Layla for it, and I don't blame her for the outcome. And I'm going to tell you why, just after the break.
Layla is a product of her environment. She was supposed to be an ehros, but after multiple rejections she felt shameful and like a failure. Then she had an opportunity at a fresh start when Phury the Primale came along and changed all the rules. She's making her way in this new world the best she can, but she feels lost and has no sense of purpose. Layla doesn't really have a mentor or anyone to guide her. She identifies with Qhuinn and, whether correct or not, believes him to be in a similar situation. I believe Layla had good intentions by proposing to have a child with Qhuinn.
I also don't hate Layla because she has been used across the BDB series primarily as a plot device rather than a character with her own arc and storyline. And when I look back at how she has been used as a plot device, I really have no worries about the future of Qhuinn and Blay.
So, there you have it. Layla's life, as a character, was leading up to this moment. Layla, as a plot device, has been used to her detriment time and time again. But what exactly do you mean, you ask? Well, let's take a closer look at these two arguments.
Let's Make the Best of the Situation Before I Finally Go Insane
Okay. First up. Who is Layla? Layla is not only a Chosen, but an ehros. Layla sees her role as a great honor and her path to being a female of worth. Only one problem. The Brothers, living in a new world and coming from a place of being honorable, choose not to use her ehros skills. Layla takes this as personal rejection; she must have some personal defect. Layla feels great shame that she was not wanted to carry out her ehros duties.
It's not just the repeated rejection that stings; the books' narration is not that kind to Layla. We first meet Layla in Lover Eternal, which set the tone for our opinion of Layla throughout the series. Rhage calls upon Layla to feed because Mary's blood is not enough to sustain him. Incidentally, necessity has required that Rhage be unfaithful to Mary; the subtext is that Mary is not enough sexually, either, to meet Rhage's unique needs (at least at that stage in the book). We first see Layla through Mary's eyes. Although Mary is understanding of the situation and Layla's role, Mary's point of view is less than charitable; we see Layla at best as a beautiful automaton, at worst as a prostitute. Indeed, the narration describes Layla as the prototypical Virgin Whore: "Layla crossed her legs, the gown splitting open to her thigh. She was a picture, sitting on that lush bed, so proper and yet so incredibly sexual." (Lover Eternal Loc 3539). Layla also commits the unthinkable by being proud instead of humble when Mary asks her to return, to be the one Chosen from whom Rhage will continue to feed. Throughout this whole interaction, Layla is proud to be of service, proud and excited to have done well enough to be asked back, and done everything she can to make Mary comfortable, but ultimately she feels rejected and that she failed because her skills as an ehros were not utilized.
As a Chosen, you were part of the whole, a single molecule among many that formed a functioning spiritual corpus . . . both critical and utterly unimportant. So woe be the female who failed in her duties lest she contaminate the rest.Just in case you were unclear about how important her role as ehros is to Layla. John Matthew transitions in this book, and becomes the second of two males to reject Layla. And, finally, before Phury has worked through his martyr issues his attempt to "save" Cormia results in Layla's third of three rejections.
Nope. You can't tell me 100% of the blame in this situation lies with Layla.
Layla, Darling Won't You Ease My Worried Mind
A plot device serves to move the action of the story or acts as the obstacle that must be overcome for the resolution of the story.
Until the infamous Needing Scene, Layla has only served as a plot device. In Lover Eternal, Layla was introduced to force Mary to deal with her jealousy and feelings of inadequacy. In Lover Unbound, Layla's story paralleled Cormia's pending failure and shame if she did not succeed in becoming the Primale's first mate. Oh, and Layla was also there to give Phury another opportunity to feed his martyr-savior complex. In Lover Mine, Layla served to push Blay into a relationship with Saxton (Layla hooks up with Qhuinn for casual sex, Blay doesn't know it's casual, Blay hooks up with Saxton). In Lover Unleashed, Layla's role as plot device is to help Qhuinn realize his true feelings for Blay. And in Lover Reborn? We really don't see much of Layla unless she's feeding someone until the Needing Scene. Which sets up the conflict and resolution to come in Lover at Last.
In Lover at Last, I think Layla will be the mother of all plot devices (sorry, bad pun penalty). Layla is THE obstacle between Qhuinn and Blay. How do you compete with a Baby Mama? In all prior books, we've had a relatively neatly wrapped HEA package. But how are Qhuinn and Blay supposed to have their own private HEA with a Baby Mama AND a baby-that's-not-Blay's around? If we, as readers, could find our own way around that conflict, we wouldn't have to read the book, would we? J.R. Ward's job is to take us on an amazing and unpredictable journey so that our joy is greater than we could have imagined when Qhuinn and Blay finally do have their HEA. In Lover at Last, I think Layla will still be nothing more than a plot device, one designed to make "Qhuay" one hell of a story.
Also, one last thing. It seems to me that Ward is setting up a pairing between Xcor and Layla, yet further proof that the way is being cleared for Qhuay. Besides, who other than Xcor would have the balls to bond and mate with a Chosen who is the mother of a Brother's (because you know it's going to happen for Qhuinn) child? Eh?
Layla, You've Got Me On My Knees
So, no, I don't hate Layla. I feel kind of bad for her. Ward has made her the whipping girl of the series. Need a Chosen of worth to feed an injured or down on his luck Brother and demonstrate his virtue at the same time? Call Layla! I wouldn't go so far as to say I pity her, because she is a strong enough woman and has the freedom to make her own choices. However, up until the very last part of Lover Reborn, Layla was a pretty small blip on my radar. Previously, she has only popped up in stories when she is needed to move the plot along, and until her and Xcor get some more page time, I think that's all we'll continue to see from her. Also, Lover at Last is all about Qhuinn and Blay. Their time has come. And I can't wait to read how Ward is going to resolve this Baby Mama issue, because it better be good.
What about you, saucy fans? Are you pro-Layla or anti-Layla? Do you think she deserves to find her own HEA, or do you just want her to go away?