Animal Instincts

Catch a Mate

Heart of the Dragon

Playing With Fire

The Darkest Surrender
by Gena Showalter
(HQN, $7.99, R) ISBN 978-0-373-77581-1
The latest installment in Gena Showalterís Lords of the Underworlds series, The Darkest Surrender is sure to please Genaís fans and earn her a few new ones too.

Striderís a bad boy by any measure. Heís a man possessed by the demon of Defeat, a curse since he opened Pandoraís Box. Now, Defeat lives inside him, taking up challenges and forcing Strider to endure enormous pain when he loses, and supreme pleasure when he wins. Striderís careful not to endanger himself by taking up any challenges that he doesnít think he can win, and once he met Kaia, he knew two things: that she had a real crush on him, and that he couldnít afford the challenge of a love affair with the dangerous and seductive harpy.

Kaiaís lived for a long time as a disappointment to her mother, hated by almost every harpy due to a very bad mistake she made as a young teenager. Now, she has a chance to redeem herself by winning gold at the Harpy Games, the very place of her youthful mistake. However, the chances of Kaia winning are slim and thereís an overwhelming chance that sheíll be killed by her many enemies.

Striderís thrown into Kaiaís crazy life when she calls him to bail her out of jail, and then he quickly learns about the Harpy Games and that he must be there to help protect Kaia. He arrives, determined to keep Kaia at armís length and make sure she doesnít get too hurt when he learns that first prize for the Harpy Games is the Paring Rod, a mysterious godly artifact that he needs to stop his own destruction. Suddenly, itís imperative that Kaiaís team wins and that they save each other from imminent danger. But with both of their dangerous natures, itís difficult to determine if they will kill each other first.

The Darkest Surrender was a big surprise to me. I didnít expect to like it. However, Kaia is one big ball of easily understood feminine dichotomies, sheís vulnerable yet vicious in every way. Sheís also funny and easy to like, until she turns into a crazy scary harpy. Strider at first comes off as a cardboard cutout Ė stupid but adorable. Very quickly as we get to know him, he gets deeper and sexier. Showalter manages this naturally as we get to know Strider as Kaia does. Heís intriguing, he shouldnít come off as a hero with his nasty actions and often aloof persona, but he does anyway and itís hard not to cheer for him.

The chemistry between Kaia and Strider is gorgeous. Neither of them is hiding the more devilish and dark characteristics of their beings, and it works well. Itís easy to believe their interactions and I liked that, considering the depth of the fantasy story around them. If you can get past the underworld setting, you can almost believe that Kaia and Strider could be people you know.

The only drawback for me was there is a lot of fighting and graphic descriptions of violence in this story. Iím not so much into the blood and guts scene, I generally cover my eyes at the scary parts of Criminal Minds, so this was overkill for me.

Other than that, I loved it, and Iím sure that the fans who have been following the Lords of the Underworld series will be more than happy with the latest installment,

-- Amy Wroblewsky

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