Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: paranormal romance
Series: Lords of the Underworld #11
Published by Harlequin HQN on November 25th 2014
Purchasing Info: Author's Website, Publisher's Website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository
From New York Times bestselling author Gena Showalter comes the long-awaited story of Torin, the most dangerous Lord of the Underworld yet…
Fierce immortal warrior. Host to the demon of Disease. Torin’s every touch causes sickness and death—and a worldwide plague. Carnal pleasure is utterly forbidden, and though he has always overcome temptation with an iron will, his control is about to shatter.
She is Keeley Cael. The Red Queen. When the powerful beauty with shocking vulnerabilities escapes from a centuries-long imprisonment, the desire that simmers between her and Torin is scorching. His touch could mean the end for her, but resisting her is the hardest battle he’s ever fought—and the only battle he fears he can’t win.
I read the first several books in this series when they came out. The series has a pretty neat premise, all to do with Pandora, her box, and all the demons that were trapped inside. While the myth says that the demons all escaped and went out to wreck havoc among humanity, that myth doesn’t get into the details of exactly how they went out. Flying seems to be assumed, at least in the versions I remember.
But what if, and don’t most interesting stories start with “what if?”, what if instead of just disembodied evil spirits flying around, those demons took over bodies, specifically in this case the bodies of the warriors who mistakenly opened the box. Those are the Lords of the Underworld, the 12 now immortal warriors who are each sharing a body and a consciousness with an extremely malevolent demon.
In the series, it is now the 21st century, and those warriors have been around for centuries. Even being an immortal badass gets tiresome if you do it long enough. The humans who are hosting those demons are sick and tired of causing death and destruction wherever they go. They are holed up in a castle outside of Budapest, trying to avoid messing with humanity as much as they possibly can.
Because this series is paranormal romance, the stories do have a pattern. Probably why I stopped reading in the middle, as much as I enjoyed the individual books, the pattern becomes fairly obvious and more than a bit repetitious six books in.
The pattern is fairly simple. The immortal warrior finds the one person who can deal with his particular demon. While the warriors are mostly male, there are a few females in the bunch, and their pattern is the same, with the genders reversed.
For example, in The Darkest Surrender the demon of Defeat finds a warrior-woman who is stronger than he is, so that she can give him the defeats that he craves. While it is a BDSM relationship, it works for them. It’s actually the only thing that could work for them.
There is also an overarching theme to the whole series. The Lords are hunting for Pandora’s old box. They believe they have a way to extricate the demons from their bodies, if they can only get together all of the correct tools and find the way to make them work. Both Hades and Lucifer make a bad habit of interfering with that plan, for nefarious reasons of their own. That Hades and Lucifer exist in the same time-stream is bizarrely fascinating.
But the story in The Darkest Touch is the story of someone who must absolutely be the universe’s oldest virgin. Torin is the host to the demon of Disease, and anyone he touches catches something painfully deadly and dies within hours. The few who survive his deadly touch become carriers themselves. All the big documented disease outbreaks in history, from the Black Death of the 1400s to the Spanish Flu of 1916, can all be traced back to Torin.
Finding a woman who can survive his demon is a major challenge. In the darkest cell of an interdimensional prison, Torin finds Keeleycael, the Red Queen, when he accidentally kills her best friend and fellow prisoner, Mari.
Keeley is a Curator, and her species is one of the few that is strong enough to survive Torin’s demon, not just once, but over and painfully over again. At first they are enemies, as Keeley vows to destroy Torin for killing her friend. But as they are forced to band together to defeat their mutual enemies, particularly Hades, they discover that they are perfect for each other – if they can just find a way around his little demon problem.
Hades holds the key to their happy for now. But he loved and lost Keeley once, and he is determined to win her back. At any cost.
Escape Rating B: This was fun. I enjoyed reading The Darkest Touch quite a bit. At the same time it made me remember why I stopped reading the series a few years ago. One book in a pattern is fun and even refreshing. This was a light read and I had a good time doing it. At the same time, because it had been a few years since I last dipped into this series, I didn’t see every path coming a mile away. More like two or three miles away.
On that other hand, by having skipped all the books between 5 and 10, I missed the relationships of some of the couples who are part of the larger “family”. When this series began the 12 Lords are all living together in the castle, isolated, unhappy, and often fighting with each other just to keep their demons happy and their doldrums at bay. By this point in the series, 10 and now 11 of those Lords have found their destined mates, some are married and a couple have babies on the way. Things are more than a bit different on the home front. Most of them are much happier, but they also have much more to lose when they get caught in a showdown between Hades and Lucifer.
And yes, it does make the head spin to have Hades and Lucifer, with their historical backstories intact, co-exist in the same universe. Cool but weird.
But all of the above gives me a headache about recommending whether The Darkest Touch can be read as a standalone or whether you need to read the rest of the series first. I think the answer is yes. I wouldn’t recommend reading them all, particularly not all at once, but it probably helps a bit with understanding the whole setup if one reads at least the first book, The Darkest Night.
This story stands or falls on the strength of the two main characters. This is true for every book in this series, because those two main characters, and how their relationship does or doesn’t work is the one element that changes from book to book.
The interesting thing about both Torin and Keeley is that they both have deep issues revolving around acceptance and inclusion. For very different reasons, neither of them has ever been fully part of any group.
While the Lords see Torin as one of their own, they also keep him literally at arm’s length in everything they do. He’s always on the outside of every gathering, because no one can touch him. And they can’t take him with them when they fight, because in combat, well, everybody touches everybody sooner or later, and anyone who didn’t end up immediately dead would spread Torin’s plagues.
Keeley seems to be the last of her kind. And it’s a kind that rejected her at every turn. Keeley’s people, the Curators, seem to be invented specifically for this mythology, but Keeley’s story is unfortunately all too familiar. Her family gave her away as a child bride to a powerful and abusive leader. When she finally killed him, she was rejected by her people. Then she threw herself at the first man who paid her any attention. Unfortunately, Hades was even more abusive and manipulative than the bastard she had been married to. He imprisoned and tortured her for centuries, all because he was afraid that she might be more powerful than he was. And he was so very right about that.
That Keeley and Torin find each other seems almost inevitable. They are perfect for each other. The way that they banter and flirt, is both fun and sad at the same time. They fall for each other in spite of their rocky start, because in the end they understand each other better than anyone else ever could.
~~~~~~ TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~
As part of the tour, Gena is giving away a complete signed set of the entire Lords of the Underworld series!