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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Gena Showalter: LORDS OF THE UNDERWORLD

Author:  Gena Showalter
Series:  LORDS OF THE UNDERWORLD
Plot Type:  Soul Mate Romance (SMR)
Ratings:  Violence4, Sensuality4, Humor3
Publisher and Titles: Harlequin
      "The Darkest Fire" in Into the Dark (prequel, 2010)
      The Darkest Night (2008)
      The Darkest Kiss (2008)
      The Darkest Pleasure (2008)
      " The Darkest Fire" & "The Darkest Prison" in Into the Dark (2010) 
      The Darkest Whisper (2009)
      "The Darkest Angel" in Heart of Darkness (2010)
      Dark Beginnings (3 novellas: "Darkest Prison," Darkest Angel," & Darkest Fire," 2010)
       Into the Dark (3 novellas: "Darkest Prison," The Amazon's Curse," & Darkest Fire," 2010)
     The Darkest Passion (2010)
      The Darkest Lie (2010)
      The Darkest Secret (2011) 
      The Darkest Surrender (2011)
      The Darkest Seduction (2012)
      The Darkest Craving (7/2013)
      The Darkest Touch (11/2014)
      The Darkest Torment (6/2016)

     This post was revised and updated on 6/4/16 to include a review of The Darkest Torment, the twelfth novel in the series. That review appears first, followed by an overview of the world-building and reviews of books 7-11. 

            NOVEL 12:  The Darkest Torment            
PUBLISHER'S BLURB: 
     Gena Showalter returns with her most explosive LORDS OF THE UNDERWORLD tale to date, about a fierce warrior on the brink of sanity who will stop at nothing to claim the exquisite human with the power to soothe the beast inside him.

     Driven to his death by the demon of Distrust, Baden spent centuries in purgatory. Now he's back, but at what cost? Bound to the king of the underworld, an even darker force, he's unable to withstand the touch of another…and he's quickly devolving into a heartless assassin with an uncontrollable temper. Things only get worse when a mission goes awry and he finds himself saddled with a bride—just not his own.  

     Famed dog trainer Katarina Joelle is forced to marry a monster to protect her loved ones. When she's taken hostage by the ruthless, beautiful Baden immediately after the ceremony, she's plunged into a war between two evils—with a protector more dangerous than the monsters he hunts. They are meant to be enemies, but neither can resist the passion burning between them…and all too soon the biggest threat is to her heart. But as Baden slips deeper into the abyss, she'll have to teach him to love…or lose him forever.

MY REVIEW:
Sam Heughan as Jamie Fraser
     In another lengthy tale (466 pages plus a 40-page "Insider's Guide"), Showalter tells the tormented love story of Baden (formerly Disease), who was beheaded by Galen before this series even began. Baden is now under the control of Hades, but he has moved into the Lords' mansion in Budapest. (Note: Baden is supposed to be a dead ringer for Outlander's sexy red-head, Jamie Fraser, and for once the cover art matches the author's description.) This new relationship between Hades and Baden has two important elements: 
1. Baden is wearing Hades' serpentine wreaths (metal bracelets shaped like snakes) on both arms. (See the cover art.) As long as Baden wears them, he is subject to Hades' will, but if he allows them to burn all the way into his arms (a very painful process), they will disappear and he will get his will back. The longer he wears the wreaths, the more he succumbs to Hades' powers.
2. Baden is now possessed by a Berserker spirit named Destruction who has Hades' own memories—an inner demonic spirit who believes that no one can be trusted, that extreme violence is the solution to every problem, and that everyone is a potential enemy and should be killed. Baden must learn to control the Beast and to drown out its voice in his head or else he will kill (or at least try to kill) some of the Lords and/or their mates.
     Currently, Hades and Lucifer are at war, and the Lords are supporting Hades. Hades is using Baden and Pandora (who is also back on earth and wearing Hades' wreaths) to do his dirty work—like stealing magical objects, killing enemies, and so forth. Hades has set Baden and Pandora against one another in a contest that will end with one living winner and one dead loser—or so Hades claims.

     Baden's first task is to retrieve a magical gold coin from Aleksander Ciernik, a despicable human gangster who happens to be right in the middle of his wedding to Katarina Joelle, his very unwilling bride. Aleksander is determined to wed Katarina, and he has gone so far as to kill her fiancé, get her brother addicted to heroin, and threaten the lives of her pet dogs. Just as Katarina says, "I do," Baden bursts in and demands the coin. When Aleksander refuses to give it up, Baden kidnaps both the bride and the groom and takes them to Budapest, where Aleksander is dumped in the dungeon and Katarina takes up residence in Baden's bedroom.

     Katarina is a dog trainer by profession, and she dearly loves, loves, loves dogs. In fact, the primary reason she agreed to marry Aleksander was that he kidnapped her three dogs and promised he would kill them unless she married him. Yes, she is that crazy. She agrees to marry an evil, murderous, horrible liar because she believes that he will let her dogs live if she does. So…not very smart. 

     When Katarina falls in lust with Baden, she decides to train him just like one of her dogs—to remake him into a less dictatorial man because she wants to be the alpha in their relationship. As the two indulge in an ongoing series of arguments over one another's control issues, she finally admits what she has been doing and then can't understand why her words set him off on a rampage: 

     She stomped her foot. "I'm done trying to train you. You failed my class. F plus plus."
     His nostrils flared as he bared his teeth. "You were training me? Like one of your dogs?"
     "Of course." She fluffed her hair. "You're a beast, are you not?" 

     So no, this heroine is not very likable at all. Even though she knows next to nothing about the dangers that Baden is facing, she makes all sorts of demands and jumps to all kinds of wrong conclusions based on her very limited experience in his world. The two get along only when they are in bed or in the shower, but as soon as their lust is sated, she begins sniping and picking at him and he begins commanding her to do this or that, and so on and so on. It's a very familiar romantic road that they stumble along, and with such a bratty heroine, it's not a pleasant journey.

     Baden is a typical alpha hero who wants what he wants…NOW! His possession by the Berserker amps up his potential violence to the breaking point, so he is always balanced on the edge of killing everyone in sight. As Baden completes Hades' tasks, he is constantly analyzing Hades' words and actions and soon figures out Hades' hidden agenda. He is much smarter than Katarina, who keeps insisting that she is just as strong and dangerous as he is.

     Although Katarina does her best to adjust to Baden's world, she is shocked when her devotion to her dogs manifests in some major canine weirdness. Eventually the earthly romance and the underworld action merge in the requisite showdown scene in which Baden and Katarina confront Hades and make some life or death decisions.

     As usual, Showalter includes brief updates on the few remaining unmated characters:
> Cameo (keeper of Misery and the only female Lord): Now that she is back in Budapest with the Lords, she vaguely remembers that she had some type of relationship with Lazurus, but her memory is not working at the moment, so she steals some artifacts and sets out to find him.
> William the Ever Randy and Gilly, a young human woman: Gillian turns eighteen, becomes mortally ill, and nearly dies, but William refuses to bond with her to make her immortal, leaving that job up to someone else—a newcomer to the series. When William learns what Gilly did, he goes off the rails—and that's where we leave him in this book.
> Galen: The hated traitor, former friend and now enemy of the Lords. He is still trying to locate his lost love, Legion (aka Honey).
    As the book ends, the Lords are still searching for Pandora's box and for Cameo and the artifacts she stole.

      This is another action-packed, suspense-filled love story that moves the series plot along—but just a few tiny steps. Between their arguments, Baden and Katarina have lots of graphically described bedroom/shower scenes that should satisfy those who love the erotic side of this series. The love story in this book is one of the weaker ones, and that is primarily due to the obnoxious heroine. To read or listen to an excerpt from The Darkest Torment, click HERE to go to its Amazon.com page and click on either the cover art or the "Listen" icon.

     Let's hope that the arrival of the next book is timelier than the arrival of this one. A two-year gap between books tends to cause readers to lose track of characters and plot elements. Perhaps that is why Showalter had Katarina ask Baden for a "Who's Who to Whom in the Underworld." Her "Insider's Guide" at the end of this book includes the following:

"Who's Dating Whom?": A series of two-line verses that match up the Lords and their mates.

 "The Darkest Day": A short story starring Maddox.

"The Authors Want to Know": A Q&A in which Showalter asks questions about writing to some of her favorite friends (for example, Nalini Singh, Karen Marie Moning, JR Ward, Jeaniene Frost, Kresley Cole, and Kristen Painter).

"Recruit Or Kill": A note from the private files of Hades, one of the nine kings of the underworld.

An annotated character list of the Lords, their mates, and other key characters in the series.

"Top Ten Hellhound Rules for Humans": Here's an example: Rule 3"Every time you issue a command, you get bit. It's a rule. Deal with it."

"The Who's Who to Whom": An annotated list of characters that explains who they are and to whom they are connected.

                    WORLD-BUILDING                      
LOU Butterfly Tattoo
     For those who haven't delved into this series yet, here is the set up: Eons ago, the Lords of the Underworld (LOU) were immortal warriors battling the enemies of the gods. When Zeus chose Pandora to guard a special box full of demons, the warriors became jealous. They killed Pandora and opened the box, allowing all the demons of Hell to escape. Zeus then decreed that each escaped demon would be bound to one of the unfortunate warriors, each of whom would spend eternity under the effect of that demon For example, Torin is bound to Disease, so everyone he touches dies from a deadly plague; Paris is bound to Promiscuity, so he can have sex with a woman just once; Gideon is bound to Lies, so he can never speak the truth. Each lord has a butterfly tattoo on some part of his/her body to remind them of their curse.

     Here is Kaia, the Harpy, thinking about Strider as she summarizes the Lord's sad story: "Strider....was an immortal warrior who'd long ago stolen and opened Pandora's box to 'teach those ass-hole gods a lesson' for daring to pick a 'mere woman' to guard such a 'dumb relic,' and because of his rampant senselessness, he and the friends who'd helped him—the infamous and deliciously frightening...Lords of the Underworld—had been cursed, forever forced to carry the demons they'd set free inside themselves. Strider...was possessed by the demon of Defeat. He couldn't lose a single challenge without suffering debilitating pain." (The Darkest Surrender, pp. 24-25)

Character List: There are twelve warrior lords (11 males, 1 female) in the original cast of characters. Following are their physical descriptions, as taken from Into the Dark, where the list is entitled “Files from the Private Records of Dean Stefano, the Hunters’ Second-in-Command.” 

Aeron - Demon: Wrath

Height—6'6''; Hair—military-cropped, brown; Eyes—violet; Butterfly tattoo—middle of back; Other distinguishing marks—A pair of black gossamer wings hidden by slits in his back when not in use. Face and body are covered with tattoos of war scenes, weaponry, and the demon's victims. Two eyebrow rings.

Amun - Demon: Secrets
Height—6'6''; Hair—brown; Eyes—brown; Butterfly tattoo—right calf; Other distinguishing marks—dark skin

Cameo - Demon: Misery
Height—5'7''; Hair—long, black; Eyes—silver; Butterfly tattoo—lower back, wings spreading around to both hips; Other distinguishing marks—Her voice is enough to make you want to kill yourself. Earplugs are needed when around her.

Gideon - Demon: Lies
Height—6'3''; Hair—dyed blue; Eyes—blue, kohl-rimmed; Butterfly tattoo—right thigh; Other distinguishing marks—multiple piercings and general Goth appearance.

Kane - Demon: Disaster
Height—6'4''; Hair—mixture of brown, black, and gold; Eyes—hazel; Butterfly tattoo—right hip; Other distinguishing marks—We are still searching.

Lucien - Demon: Death
Height—6'6''; Hair—black, shoulder-length; Eyes—mismatched—one brown (normal eye) and one blue (believed to allow subject to see into the spiritual world); Butterfly tattoo—upper left shoulder, front of chest; Other distinguishing marks—Face and body are covered in scars. Subject emits an odor of roses presumed to be linked to his demon.

Maddox - Demon: Violence
Height—6'4''; Hair—black; Eyes—violet (Note: eyes glow red when angry); Butterfly tattoo—upper left shoulder, wrapping around to his back.

Paris - Demon: Promiscuity
Height—6'8''; Hair—varying shades of brown and black; Eyes—blue; Butterfly tattoo—lower back; Other distinguishing marks—Subject is widely regarded as the most physically appealing of all the Lords.

Reyes - Demon: Pain
Height—6'5''; Hair—dark brown; Eyes—brown; Butterfly tattoo—chest and neck; Other distinguishing marks—deeply tanned skin; frequently sports scabs caused by self-mutilation.

Sabin - Demon: Doubt
Height—6'7''; Hair—brown; Eyes—gold-brown; Butterfly tattoo—right ribcage and waist; Other distinguishing marks—wears a necklace believed to be a gift to him from his deceased friend, Baden, demon of Distrust, the Hunters' first victim.

Strider - Demon: Defeat
Height—6'5''; Hair—blond; Eyes—blue; Butterfly tattoo—left hip; Other distinguishing marks—Subject was created, not born, yet has a birthmark on the right side of his buttocks—small, brown and jagged at the edges.

Torin - Demon: Disease
Height—6'5''; Hair—white, shoulder-length; Eyes—Green; Butterfly tattoo—stomach; Other distinguishing marks—always wears long black gloves.

     After the theft, Pandora's mysterious box disappeared, and for centuries, bands of human Hunters have searched for the box and for the Lords, believing that the Lords are to blame for all of the troubles in the world. They want to capture the Lords, find the box, tear the demons out of the Lords, and lock the demons back in the box. In the meantime, the Lords have spent the past thousand years learning to control their demons, living quiet lives in a castle in Budapest.

     As the series begins, there are rumors that the box will soon be found. The Lords know that if the Hunters rip out their demons, their bodies will die, so they want to find the box first. The series focuses on both groups' search for four godly artifacts that are needed to locate the box. Each book also tells one Lord's story as he meets his soul mate—sometimes an immortal and sometimes a virginal human woman who is able to mitigate the effects of his curse through her own particular supernatural talent.

     Each couple's path to a happy ending is filled with danger from various villainous enemies and with lots of sexual tension, as each couple attempts to deny the sparks of mutual attraction that are lighting up their lives and burning up the pages. Humor is provided through an abundance of boys-will-be-boys quips and squabbles among the Lords. 

Here is a list of the couples who fall in love in each book:


  > The Darkest Night: Maddox (Violence) & Ashlyn (mortal)

  > The Darkest Kiss: Lucian (Death) & Anya (goddess of anarchy) 
  > The Darkest Pleasure: Reyes (Pain) & Danika (mortal)
  > "The Darkest Prison": Atlas & Nike (Greek God & Goddess)
  > The Darkest Whisper: Sabin (Doubt) & Gwendolyn the Timid 
  > Into the Dark: Geryon (Guardian of Hell) & Kadence (Goddess of Oppression)
  > "The Darkest Angel": Lysander (angel) & Bianka (Harpy)
  > The Darkest Passion: Aeron (formerly Wrath) & Olivia (fallen angel)
  > The Darkest Lie: Gideon (Lies) & Scarlet (demon-possessed human, keeper of Nightmares)
  > The Darkest Secret: Amun (Secrets) & Haidee (demon assassin)
  > The Darkest Surrender: Strider (Defeat) & Kai (Harpy)
  > The Darkest Seduction: Paris (Promiscuity) & Sienna (dead demon hunter resurrected as an angel)
  > The Darkest Craving: Kane (formerly Disaster) & Josephina ("Tinker Bell") Aisling (half Fae/half human)
  > The Darkest Touch: Torin (Disease) & Keeleycael (The Red Queen) 
  > The Darkest Touch: Baden (formerly Distrust) & Katarina Joelle (humanbut not for long)
  Still to come: Cameo (Misery); Galen (Jealousy and False Hope); William (Immortal Warrior and father of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse); Pandora (the Immortal Warrior who started the whole thing with her locked boxthe dimOuniak)

     On her FAQ page for LOU, Showalter answers questions about al of her series. Click HERE to go to a page on Showalter's web site with links to LORDS OF THE UNDERWORLD excerpts. Showalter has also written a nonfiction e-book guide to the series (priced under $2.00) in which William (an immortal warrior and maybe something more) interviews the Lords: The Darkest Facts: A Lords of the Underworld Companion (2010).

      Showalter has another seriesANGELS OF THE DARK—which begins with Wicked Nights (6/26/12) and Beauty Awakened (2/2013). That series is an offshoot of LORDS OF THE UNDERWORLD and features Zacharel and his band of angel warriors. In the first book, the cold-hearted, unemotional Zacharel finds his true love in an institution for the criminally insane. Click HERE to read my reviews of the ANGELS OF THE DARK novels.

     My reviews of the LOU novels begin with novel 7 because I read all of the earlier novels well before I began this blog.


                      NOVEL 7:  The Darkest Secret                      

     At the beginning of the seventh book, you might think that Strider (keeper of Defeat) has found his soul mate, but...not so fast. Don't jump to a speedy conclusion, because you'll be wrong. Instead, this book tells Amun's story. Amun's demon is Secrets, and his curse is to read the minds of humans (alive and dead) and know all of their deepest, darkest thoughts. In order to keep those demonic secrets from getting out into the general population, Amun does not speak. Instead, he signs his words with his hands. In the previous book, Amun went to Hell to assist in a rescue, and there he absorbed the horrible secrets of thousands of demonic spirits.

     As this book begins, Amun is guarded by angels and confined to a locked bedroom where he keeps trying to kill himself to get rid of the demons in his mind. If he doesn't get them under control soon, the angels plan to kill him so that there is no chance that the demons will escape and harm mortals. When Strider brings home a captive Hunter (Haidee) to whom he is strangely attracted, the situation immediately gets a little crazy because Haidee and Amun are mutually attracted. One of the angels tells Amun that the only way to release his demons is for Amun to make a return trip to Hell accompanied by Haidee. Haidee has secrets of her own, one of which is that she keeps dying and being reborn—so she's not quite as human as she looks. In the meantime, Strider tries to get Haidee out of his system with an all-guy vacation with Paris (keeper of Promiscuity) and William (an immortal), but his trip is interrupted by the appearance of Kaia, a Harpy he has admired from afar.

     In an improbable soul-mate connection, Paris's dead lover (Sienna) shows up as an angel. Looks like we've got two future soul-mate couples! (The next book tells Strider's story, followed by a book that finally resolves Paris's anguished love story.)

                      NOVEL 8:  The Darkest Surrender                      
     As the story opens, Strider and Kaia are lusting after one another, but Strider is in total denial. He believes that he can't bed Kaia because she has already slept with the best—Paris—and if Strider can't be the best, his demon will punish him severely. Kaia is just as sure that Strider is her one and only consort, and she is determined to snare him. In the meantime, Kaia and her sisters are invited (i.e., commanded) to participate in the Harpy games for the first time since Kaia disrupted the games by letting loose a powerful immortal who killed most of the harpies at the games. Every since then, Kaia has been nicknamed "Kaia the Disappointment" and has been shunned by all the Harpies, including her mother.

     The main plot focuses on Strider and Kaia as they develop their relationship and try to stay alive at the Harpy games (which reminded me a bit of Suzanne Collins's Hunger Games). Angst-filled interior monologues abound as both Strider and Kaia muse about their dread that their love is doomed to remain unfulfilled. Never fear, however. Each Lord in this series eventually gets his woman.

     Secondary plot threads involve Paris's quest to rescue Sienna from Cronus and William's revenge on Gilly's parents. Another story line follows Kane as he is summoned to appear in front of the Fates, where he receives some terrible news about his, and the world's, future. Since Kane's demon is Disaster, this can't be good. When Kane drops in on William, they are both captured by a group that appears to be Hunters...but are they? The excessive interweaving of subplots (in essence, the introductory plots to later books) lengthens the book and interrupts the main story line, which can be annoying at times. Otherwise, however, this is a typical LORDS book, with strong characters overcoming terrible romantic odds. Most books include a glossary of characters and terms.

                      NOVEL 9:  The Darkest Seduction                       
     If the word "seduction" is in a LORDS OF THE UNDERWORLD title, it has to feature Paris, with his demon of promiscuity. In Showalter's introduction, she admits that she has tortured Paris enough in the previous books. In her recapitulation of his life so far, Showalter explains that since the Lords were first introduced, Paris has:

    1. Lost the only woman he was able to bed more than once;

     2. Given up his chance to find her by choosing to save one of his friends instead;
     3. Formed an addiction to an illicit substance [ambrosia];
     4. Choked out any light of goodness inside himself;
     5. Turned into a war/fighting machine.

     As the story opens, Paris is still trying to track down Sienna Blackstone, the only woman he has been able to bed more than once. He tells himself that he just wants to save her from Cronus, but his demon knows the truth of his lust for her. Both Paris and Sienna betrayed one another during their first two meetings. Now, Sienna is imprisoned in a castle in the Land of Blood and Shadows, so their future isn't looking too bright. Meanwhile, up in Heaven, the angel Lysander instructs the angel Zacharel to assist Paris in rescuing Sienna but then to separate them, bringing Sienna to Heaven where it is prophesied that she will help win the war against darkness.

     The plot follows Paris as he and Zacharel travel to the castle accompanied by William the Dark, who has some Hellish connections that are not entirely clear to the Lords (or to the reader) at this point. Secondary story lines include Kane, who is still trying to escape from Hell (where he landed in the previous book); Galen, whose demons are hope and jealousy and who is the leader of the Hunters; and Cronus, who is supposedly the ruler of the Lords but mostly spends his time scheming for more and more power. Cronus has captured Sienna and addicted her to ambrosia so that he can use her against Galen, who is pledged to support Cronus' estranged wife, Rhea. (I advise against reading this book as a standalone because so much of the plot reaches back to previous books.)


     Eventually, of course, there is a huge, climactic battle in which Cronus gets his comeuppance and Paris and Sienna get their HEA. The long-awaited love story is quite satisfying, with plenty of anguished interior monologues (maybe a few too many) and lots of emotional and physical sufferingjust to make the happy ending worthwhile.


                      NOVEL 10:  The Darkest Craving                      

     In this lengthy novel (466 pages), Showalter tells the angst-filled love story of Kane, keeper of Disaster, and Josephina Aisling, the half-Fae/half-human daughter of the Fae king and his late concubine. To review the demon situation: Kane's demon causes constant catastrophic events in his life and in the lives of his friends. "Like any other living creature, Disaster experienced hunger. Unlike others, fear and upset were his favorite foods. So when he yearned for a meal...he caused some sort of catastrophe for Kane as well as those around him. Sometimes, those catastrophes were small. A light bulb would short out, or the floor would crack at his feet. Too many times, those catastrophes were large. A limb would fall from a tree. Cars would crash. Buildings would crumble."

     As the book opens, Josephina has just rescued Kane from a few weeks in Hell, where he was constantly tortured by demonic minions who wanted his seed so that that they could have his child. Kane managed to keep that from happening, but he suffered terribly in the process. When he wakes up in a grungy motel room with Josephina by his side, he can't remember much about the rescue, but she reminds him that he made her a promise, and she expects him to keep it. That promise is to end her life—to kill her so that she doesn't have to go back to being a blood slave in Séduire, the realm of the Fae. According to Fae tradition, the royal family punishes Josephina every time her full-blooded half-sister does something wrong—and Synda does something wrong almost every day. In addition to the blood slavery, Josephina's role is Cinderella-esque, in that she is expected to scrub floors, wait tables, and be a general household drudge; along with the heartless half-sister, she even has an evil stepmother.

     The last punishment Josephina received from her family was a brief trip to Hell, and that is where she found Kane. Kane is surprised to learn that the Fae have been spying on the Lords for centuries and that their scribes have been printing books about their adventures for all to read. In Séduire, the Lords are like rock stars, and the females even have fan clubs for each Lord.

     Both the romance plot and the action plot center on Kane and Josephina. The romance is, of course, the primary focus, with the lovers suffering through many anguished moments and angst-filled interior monologues. The action plot has three story lines, with one involving an outside threat against Josephina, another dealing with Josephina's cold-hearted Fae family, and the third following Kane's desperate attempts to subdue his demon. The outside threat comes from a Phoenix from whom Josephina partially drained the life force in order to get enough strength to rescue Kane. That Phoenix is now determined to track down Josephina and enslave her for a century or two. The story line involving Josephina's family focuses on Kane's plans to free her from her blood slavery and make life better for her. The final story line deals with Kane's demon, who is ramping up his powers and trying to take over Kane's life. Kane wants to kill the demon once and for all, but he has been told that if he does this, his physical body will also die. In an additional complication, Kane has received a prophecy that he will either marry William's daughter, White; marry the keeper of the demon of Irresponsibility; or cause an apocalypse. When he learns that Synda is the keeper of Irresponsibility, he pretends to agree to marry her in order to work out a strategy for freeing Josephina.

     All this is very complicated and there are many setbacks (which accounts for the length of the novel), but the action is compelling and there is definitely never a dull moment. Both Josephina and Kane have had horrible lives so far, and the reader empathizes with them throughout the book.

    In the long-standing LOU tradition, we also get the beginnings of two new love stories and the continuation of anotherthe last three major characters who still haven't hooked up with their soul mates:

     > Torin (keeper of Disease) and Mari, a mysterious young woman who is still being imprisoned by the now-dead Cronus: This story will be completed in The Darkest Touch (mid-2014).


     > Cameo (keeper of Misery and the only female Lord) and Lazarus, an immortal warrior: They find themselves trapped together in a mysterious space within realms.

     > William the Ever Randy and Gilly, a young human woman: They have had a tortured relationship during the past few books.

     Although there are a few silly moments (e.g., the silly, swooning female members of the LOU fan clubs) and the action plot is a bit on the light side, this is still a strong addition to the series. Now that the Hunters have been destroyed, there's not a lot of conflict in the LOU worldexcept for the fact that they still have to find Pandora's Box. That search plays a part in one of the story lines, and I imagine that since most of the Lords now have found their soul mates, Showalter will turn their attention to that final task in future books.

     Showalter is a great story teller, and she pulls out all the stops in making this love story extremely heart-rending. If you're a series regular, you'll enjoy the book, but if you haven't been following the series, this is not the place to begin because you won't understand the significance of any of the supporting LOU characters. Click HERE to read an interview in which Kresley Cole interviews Gena Showalter about this book.



                      NOVEL 11:  The Darkest Touch                      
     Showalter tells the long-awaited love story of Torin (Disease) in an extra-long (484 pages) novel filled with angst, deception, betrayal, lust, and answers to some long-debated questions. It is obvious that Showalter is nearing the end of the series, with just a few more mysteries to be solved and with only one unmatched lord (actually a lady) from the original castCameo (Misery). Just to keep us guessing, Showalter briefly checks in with the following unmated characters as she unrolls Torin's story:

     > Cameo (keeper of Misery and the only female Lord) and Lazarus, an immortal warrior: Turns out that Lazarus has been keeping some secrets from Cameo, but just as Cameo discovers his deception, the two are kidnapped and separated. Keep in mind that Cameo was Torin's former girlfriend, so their former relationship has a rather negative effect on Torin's new romance.


     > William the Ever Randy and Gilly, a young human woman: They have had a tortured relationship in the past few books, and nothing changes in this novel, except for the fact that Gilly is just days away from her 18th birthday, a day on which everyone expects William to make a big play for his young ward. William is just as obnoxious as ever, but his supernatural skills do come in handy a few times.

     > Baden: Torin's former best friend. Centuries ago, he was the first Lord to be killedat the hands of the traitorous Galen. Baden has been living in the afterlife in spiritual form ever since and is now imprisoned there with the spirits of Cronus, Rhea, and Pandorathe one who started this whole mess.


     > Galen: The hated traitor, former friend and now enemy of the Lords. He shows up in Budapest looking for his lost love, Legion (aka Honey).


     O.K…Back to the romance: Torin has been imprisoned by Cronus for what seems to him to be several days, but which actually has been several months. During his imprisonment, he was visited daily by a beautiful young woman named Mara, who wanted him to kill her so that Cronus would set free her friend, a prisoner in an adjacent cell. (No one in the prison knows that Cronus has been murdered.) Since Torin is the demon of disease, anyone who touches his skin dies immediately of a horrible disease, or if they survive, they become a carrier of the disease. Torin refused Mari's pleas, but, alas, she managed to touch him and as the story begins, she has just died. Torin is heartbroken and filled with guilt, but the prisoner next door is enraged that Torin has killed her only friend. Torin learns the scary identity of Mari's friend when she introduces herself to him: "I am Keeleycael, the Red Queen, and I will be more than happy to take a coat hanger and fish out all of your internal organs...through your mouth." It's obvious from the very beginning that they're going to make a great couple!

     Keeley is the last known Curator. The Curators were spirits of light back at the beginning of time, but their race died out after they mated with cursed fallen angels. Some call the Curators parasites because they can bond imperceptibly to others and use those bonds to siphon strength and power. Keeley has led a painful, tragic life, sold by her father to a cruel King and then sold by Hades to Cronus for a barrel of whiskey. Hades provided Keeley with her gorgeous female body, not as a favor, but so that he could attach brimstone to her skin to take away her powers. Cronus put Keeley in his dungeon, where she has been a prisoner for centuries. Keeley distrusts everyone
especially menand has never learned to control her powers. During the single day that she was a queen, she managed to kill most of her subjects when she lost her temper. The only friend she has ever had in her entire long life was Mari.


     Torin and Keeley manage to escape from the dungeon, and after trading insults and threats for awhile, they agree to a shaky truce so that they can pool their powers to get back to the real world. Naturally, their journey is fraught with danger as various villainous supernaturals and horrible monsters attack them while they make their way from realm to realm. Along the way, Keeley decides not to kill Torin after all because she realizes that he feels so terrible about Mari's death
and about every other death caused by his touch. In fact, the two become more and more attracted to one another until Keeley touches Torin in the heat of passion and nearly dies of the plague. This sequence of events occurs numerous times: passionate moment, fatal touch, terrible disease for Keeley, and tons of guilt and shame for Torin. Keeley is willing to risk death for passion, but Torin keeps trying to break up with her to save her life. Each time, though, lust always overcomes them both, and the worst happens again and again. This routine is so frequent and repetitious that it makes the book much longer than it needs to be.


     Eventually, the two make their way back to the human realm, and Torin takes Keeley home to Budapest, where the Lords and their mates confront her with hostile rejection. Anya, in particular, has had some very bad dealings with Keeley in the past and vows never to forgive her. But when the Lords learn that Keeley has the power to rescue Cameo and Viola (who vanished after they touched the Paring Rod) 
and find Pandora's box, they call a truce. The rest of the story follows Keeley and Torin through the ups and downs of their relationship and their attempts to save their friends.


     Regular readers of the series will definitely want to read this book because it reveals the identity of the person who originally stole Pandora's box (and then lost it). Also, we get new information about the oh-so-important contents of the box and about the real reason the Lords were punished. I'm actually beginning to believe that it is possible for the Lords to be rid of their demons in the not-too-distant future.


     Once again, Showalter tells a great story that is packed full of action, drama, and suspense. Torin's love story is just as angst-filled as you'd expect it to be, and his true love is tough enough to take whatever is necessary in order to be with him. They have some erotic
but unorthodoxbedroom scenes in which they remain mostly clothed but go as far as they can to achieve maximum pleasure (if you know what I mean). To give you an idea of how tough Keeley is, the first friend she makes at the castle is Strider's soul mate, Kai, the sarcastic, vindictive (and highly entertaining) Harpy. To read an excerpt from this book, click HERE to go to its amazon.com page and click on the cover art.

2 comments:

  1. The author's web site says the next book is about Strider and Kaia, titled "The Darkest Surrender" and is scheduled to be released 09/27/2011.

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  2. In your review above you state "There are twelve warriors, with one Demon per big handsome warrior:..." however, one is a female, Cameo, Keeper of Misery.

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