The Darkest Surrender
HQN Books, September 27, 2011, $7.99
Possessed by the demon of Defeat, Strider cannot lose a challenge without suffering unimaginable pain. For him, nothing stands in the way of victory. Until Kaia, an enchanting Harpy, tempts him to the razors edge of surrender.
Known among her people as The Disappointment, Kaia must bring home the gold in the Harpy Games or die. Strider is a distraction she can’t afford because he has an agenda of his own; steal first prize, an ancient godly artifact, before the winner can be named. But as the competition heats up, only one prize will matter; the love neither had thought possible.
The Darkest Surrender is the sixth book in Gena Showalter’s incredibly sensual, tense, humorous, and action-packed paranormal series Lords of the Underworld. Once upon a time, the gods tucked twelve evil demons into a box and gifted it to Pandora to guard. One day, twelve very naughty immortal boys declared no woman could properly guard a chest filled with so much evil and decided to relieve Pandora of her “burden”; instead, they released the demons from the chest and now house those demons in their bodies as punishment for their presumptuous attitudes.
Now, the twelve search the world for godly artifacts that can destroy them forever. Each story in the series revolves around a Lord and the woman with whom they fall in love as they battle against gods, demons, and the humans who wish to see them fail.
Our hero, Strider, is the one who convinced the others to steal the box. A possessive, dominating, fearful warrior, it is only fitting that he houses the demon Defeat. An unbending, possessive man with a warped sense of humor, he has to accept and win all challenges or he suffers unbearable pain. He harbors a crush on his best friend’s girlfriend and has “challenged” himself to help fellow Lord Paris find the hunter who stole his heart.
Kaia, sister to Bianka and Gwen, is a beautiful harpy who destroyed half the harpy population when she attempted to steal another harpy’s consort as a child. Her actions caused her clan to be banned permanently from the Harpy games. Known since then as Kaia the Disappointment, she overcompensates on everything in an attempt to regain her mother’s and her clan’s respect. She desperately wants Strider, since she recognizes he is her consort, but Strider knows she slept with Paris and feels they aren’t a good match since she constantly challenges his demon. Kaia knows she could force Strider to be her consort as that is the Harpy way and she is stronger than he is, but she wants him to come to her willingly.
When all the sisters are commanded to appear at the Harpy games, they know it is a setup. The leader of the games, Juliette, has a personal bone to pick with Kaia and the games are the perfect place to settle it. For once you enter, you either win...or die. Gwen and Bianka demand that Strider attend the games with them. Blood is medicine to the Harpies, and Kaia refuses to take anyone with her. Strider refuses until he learns about the first prize being offered. Strider tries to get Kaia to steal the prize before the games, but Kaia won’t do it. Strider attempts to use her attraction to him as a bargaining point, but Kaia has more respect for herself then he has for himself:
“How magnanimous of you. To offer up your body when you so clearly have no desire for me. To lower your standards and whore yourself. To use me no matter how I will suffer in the end.”
Strider goes to the games and there he sees the true Kaia. She fights against incredible odds not only to protect her sisters and win, but also to make sure she gets the prize for Strider. There and then he realizes his mistake. She hasn’t been challenging him; she’s been challenging the world for him.
The chemistry between Kaia and Strider is blazing hot and scorches the pages. I like that Ms. Showalter doesn’t make their HEA happy. Strider doesn’t just give into his attraction; he gets to know the real Kaia, and that makes a huge difference in believing in their romance. I also like that Kaia is different from her sisters. While most harpies are written as being obnoxious, childish, and narcissistic, she is more toned down. She truly loves Strider and his happiness means more to her then her own.
Plenty of humor and laugh-out-loud scenes makes for an engaging fast-paced read. Strider and Kaia have some of the best dialogue.
“No one’s here.” he whispered.
“I know, “ Kaia replied. “I heard them abandoning ship. But I hoped there would have been a few more stragglers. Doesn’t anyone defend their turf anymore?”
She’d heard them? When he, a trained soldier, hadn’t heard a thing? No need for an ego check. He sucked.
We see plenty of Sabin and Lysander as their wives are also in the Harpy games. Sabin carries a bullhorn. Too funny. During the main story we flash to William, Paris, and Kane as they each move forward with their own agendas. We also learn why Kaia would never sleep with William, and it was well worth the wait to find out.
The ending is incredible as a series of events lead us to a climatic conclusion. We are left with a cliffhanger concerning William and Kane. Paris’s book is next and I, for one, cannot wait. The Darkest Seduction, his story, releases January 2012. This series has plenty of action, suspense, humor, and some steamy romance between the sheets.