REVIEW: THE DARKEST KISS (3.5*)
by Gena Showalter (MIRA Books, 2009)
Okay, so I’m a sucker for books with hunky men on the front, and this one’s maybe my favourite of the Lords of the Underworld covers I’ve seen so far! The second in Showalter’s series, this instalment focuses on Lucien, bonded with the demon of Death. He didn’t feature all that highly in the first book but as the leader of the Budapest warriors, and the Lord with the gravest responsibilities – to retrieve souls from their dying bodies and escort them to the fires of Hell or the gates of Heaven – his story promised to be quite intriguing. Happily, Showalter didn’t disappoint!
The Darkest Kiss begins a few weeks after The Darkest Night ended, with Maddox and Ashlyn happily curse-free and ensconced in the Budapest mansion, Aeron imprisoned in the dungeon battling his terrible bloodlust, and the tyranny of Cronus, the king of the Titans, looming large over the Greek-loyal immortal population. When Anya, minor goddess of Anarchy, erupts into their lives, Lucien’s hard-won calm and inner strength begins to crumble as he finds himself falling in love – just as Cronus orders him to kill her. What does she have that Cronus wants so badly? Could she really reciprocate his feelings, despite his scarred face and the demands of his demon? And how on earth can he escape Cronus’s threats without killing them both?
If I hadn’t already bought four of the Lords of the Underworld series, I might not have bothered reading on after The Darkest Night. Happily for me, Showalter really ups her game in this second novel. Although the sexual tension was still all but decimated by the self-conscious and jarringly graphic language – a little subtlety would have gone a long way – I liked it much better than the first book. Where The Darkest Night involved all of the Lords around the central Maddox-Ashlyn storyline, this novel focuses much more closely on Lucien and Anya, with only occasional forays into the activities of the other warriors. Where Maddox was all about testosterone and violence, and Ashlyn, as a human woman, seemed frail and insubstantial beside him, Lucien is a more complex and sympathetic character, and feisty Anya a compelling and worthy heroine. She gives as good as she gets, and provides an edge of grounded humour to what would otherwise have been a pretty dark storyline. All in all, definitely worth a read – if you liked The Darkest Night, read on, and if you weren’t so keen, give this one a try before you dismiss the series altogether!