This book. Don’t read it. It was a Vaginal Fantasy pick, but an awful one. The plot was uninteresting, the pacing jarring, the writing juvenile and uninspired, and the characters flat and insipid.
Here’s the rub: Lucien is one of the Lords of the Underworld, punished for opening Pandora’s Box by having the demon of Death coupled to his soul. He and Death are one; they cannot be separated. He has to perform Reaper-like tasks and escort souls to their final resting places (these are boringly Judeo-Christian in description, although there is mention of Hades if the soul is not fit for either heaven or hell.) Anya is a minor goddess of chaos and anarchy, the daughter of one of the more reviled goddesses, and she is *cursed*. If she ever has sex with any man, she is chained to him forever, and will never desire any other, even if he dies or goes on to love someone else. They meet, they fall in lust, they are very possessive of each other, they are both threatened by the King of the Gods in ways that mean each of them would have to sacrifice some part of themselves to save the other.
It could have been a lot more interesting than it was, but Showalter’s writing, for all of its bombastic sexual imagery, is listless. The book lacks that delicious sense of growing tension that is present in the best of romance/erotica; the will they/won’t they is in full force by page 20 and continues on a repetitive plateau for the majority of the book. Lucien as a character was not that bad. He was textbook Tortured and Brooding (so, unoriginal) but he didn’t completely grate. Anya had the requisite skill at fighting as befit her goddess status, but otherwise came off like a 14-year-old valley girl. I was disappointed because I like the idea of a more feminine PNR heroine — seriously, the lady leads in this genre ALL seem to trade on “not like other girls”-isms — but Anya is an immature, uncouth, annoying, and petulant stereotype out of every MRA’s fantasy. She’s all “I’m a strong independent woman who don’t need no man” at the same time as she literally stalks Lucien and can’t even function when she’s in the same vicinity as him.
Along those lines, I like a story about supernaturals being mated to each other for all eternity, but the author only gets so many “his female” and “my woman” passes before I actually start picturing the hero in a fedora. By the time I was done with The Darkest Kiss, Lucien and a few of his fellow Lords each were wearing a stack about five high. I don’t read romances for the feminism, I really don’t (Courtney Milan notwithstanding.) I enjoy — to a reasonable extent — several of the genre mainstays, like the overprotective, fiercely loyal alpha male. I also have a high tolerance for cheese. But I still have this annoying tether to something called ‘reality’, and if I just can’t any longer fantasize about the hero or about the relationship, if all of the sex appeal is gone… where does that leave a book like this? In the trash and out of mind, that’s where. I’m confident that I’ll have forgotten I even read this by next week.