THE DARKEST PLEASURE (Lords of the Underworld #3)
So, apparently I'm a little late to the Gena Showalter party. How embarrassing. She currently has 5 books in this series out now and the newest release, The Darkest Lie, will be out on June 29th. I'm currently working my way through the first five and should be just in time for the next installment.
The Lords of the Underworld series focuses on a group of immortal warriors who fell from grace. They were once in the employ of Zeus himself, and spent their time frolicking on Mt. Olympus with the gods. Zeus then decided to give the all important task of guarding a box full of demons to a female warrior, Pandora. Being the alpha males that they are, their egos couldn't handle being passed over for a woman, and they sought to teach Zeus the error of his ways by distracting Pandora from her duty. They were successful, the box was opened, and a horde of demons so evil even hell itself didn't want them in residence were released on an unsuspecting human population.
As punishment for their actions, Zeus gathered up the rampaging demons and charged each warrior with the keeping of one. Thus, each of the warriors responsible was possessed by a demon from the box and bound to him for all eternity, and the Lords of the Underworld were born. Each book tells the tale of a warrior possessed by one of the following: Violence, Death, Pain, Doubt, Wrath, Lies, Disaster, Misery, Disease, Promiscuity, Distrust and Defeat.
The Darkest Pleasure is Reyes's story, keeper of Pain, but his tale actually begins in book two, The Darkest Kiss. The world as the Lords have known it has been completely turned on it's head as the once-imprisoned Titans have overthrown Zeus and the Olympian gods, locking them away. The Lords now have new masters to whom they must answer, and these new masters are not content to leave them in relative peace as Zeus did. Instead, one of the warriors, Aeron, is given the task of eliminating four human women, with no rhyme or reason as to why he is to do so. Reyes is sent to kidnap the women and return with them to their fortress in Budapest.
Once the women are there, Reyes begins to have feelings for Danika, a fiercely protective young woman. She is taken along with her mother, sister and grandmother, and places herself in harm's way to keep attention off them and only on her. Danika eventually escapes from the Lords' control in Budapest and is on the run from Aeron, who is trying his hardest to fight the task he's been given. Reyes is haunted by his short time with Danika, and when Aeron escapes his imprisonment (the other Lords deemed it necessary to chain him in the dungeon to keep the women safe) and goes after her, Reyes feels he has no choice but to come to her aid.
The Lords are in the dark for the majority of the book as to why these specific women were chosen for assassination, but eventually the truth surfaces and Danika becomes vital to their very survival. Her life, once marked for death, becomes a beacon of hope not only for Reyes as he struggles with his demon, but also for the fate of all the Lords.
This story is my favorite of the three I've read. For me the second book, Lucien's story, had a little bit too much back and forth with the romantic feelings. There was a lot of "I want you. But I shouldn't. But I do. I should push you away. But I need you. You should go. Wait, I love you!" Some back and forth is fine, but in Lucien and Anya's case, I felt it was a bit overdone.
The relationship between Reyes and Danika is much more believable. She feels a connection to him despite the danger he's placed her in, and they both struggle with caring for someone with whom they see no possible future. Reyes, as the keeper of Pain, is forced to inflict bodily harm on himself to satisfy the demon's urges. Deep slices with a knife and leaps off rooftops to shatter all the bones in his body are the only ways he gets any relief from Pain. His demon is particularly interesting, and I found myself wondering how he's going to reveal what's he's forced to do to Danika, and what her reaction would be.
From her introduction Danika is strong and capable, she doesn't go all damsel in distress and shrink back from anything frightening. Instead, she takes her situation in stride and seeks to make herself more formidable so that she doesn't need to rely on anyone else for protection. I like how her relationship with Reyes is gradual, and they aren't instantaneously in love and declaring their undying feelings. The progression of those feelings seems natural, but there is still plenty of conflict to make you unsure as to whether their ending will in fact be happy.
One other aspect I enjoy about Ms. Showalter's series is the side characters. Much in the same vein as J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood (though I don't feel her character development is as strong or as intriguing as Ms. Ward's), she switches point of view and focuses on the other Lords regardless of whose book it is. The other Lords are equally tortured and interesting, and add depth to the overall story.
Will this series steal my loyalty from my beloved Black Dagger Brotherhood? No. But are they fun reads? Absolutely. Will I keep reading? Without a doubt.