The Darkest Kiss

Gena Showalter
June 2008, Fantasy Romance
HQN, $6.99, 384 pages, Amazon ASIN 0373772327

Grade: C
Sensuality: Hot

The heroine of Gena Showalter’s The Darkest Kiss will probably win my nomination as the most annoying of the year. She’s not TSTL (actually she’s quite shrewd), but her actions and dialogue and the fact that I couldn’t identify with her at all made this otherwise good story and interesting hero nearly unbearable. As I read, I felt excluded from the books’ target audience, which is a first for me.

As one of the Greek warriors who opened Pandora’s Box, Lucien is forced to house the Demon of Death within himself. His duty is his misery; he must escort souls to either heaven or hell for eternity, including the soul of the woman he once loved. He and his fellow warriors are constantly hunted by those wanting to rid the world of their presence and are tied up in a struggle for power between the Greek Gods and the Titan Gods. Plus, they must seek out items that could help them to discover the whereabouts of Pandora’s Box.

Anya, the minor Goddess of Anarchy, is a woman cursed. Her mother’s promiscuity and the circumstances of her own birth brought about a curse that keeps her from seeking out love. Until she spies Lucien, that is, and his darkness draws her to him like candy. After secretly helping him and his fellow warriors, she practically throws herself at him, and, to her disappointment, he resists. To compound matters, he has orders to kill her. Despite his rejection and the fact that he’s trying to kill her, Anya just can’t stay away.

Lucien, who is horribly scarred, is unable to imagine anyone being attracted to him and thinks she is seeking to destroy him. To make matters worse, even if her attraction is real, he can’t possibly give in to Anya because he will eventually have to kill her. Whether he likes it or not, however, they ultimately join forces and challenge the very ideas that keep them separated in order to find the godly artifacts that could lead them to Pandora's Box.

This was the first time I’ve ever felt as though I was not part of the audience this book was written for, which is mainly due to the heroine. Apart from using words like “twinkies” and “meanie”, the obsession with strawberries and cream suckers, and the sexual aggression combined with immaturity really turned me off. Put simply, she bugged me. For someone who’s lived for thousands of years, she acts like an extremely immature teenager – maybe the persona of anarchy and the result of her curse, but to me, just annoying. Lucien, on the other hand is tortured; he caused his own scars in order to be unattractive. Needless to say, he has some serious, but interesting, issues. I felt like he needed someone more loving and stable than Anya.

Throughout the book, I wondered how they could ever overcome their problems. The solution that they come up with is not perfect, but judging from the number of warriors there are, there should be plenty of time for all of the little issues to work out. However, as a reader of romance I want my perfect HEA. Even though this couple finds love, the cost was too high.

I was disappointed with The Darkest Kiss, but plan to continue Gena Showalter’s Lords of the Underworld series. Though the heroine was a wallbanger-worthy character, the plotting was strong, and the hero intrigued me.

-- Heather Brooks

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