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The Darkest Secret by Gena Showalter

Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Lords of the Underworld, Book 7
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Length: 410 Pages
Formats: Mass Market Paperback, Kindle

The Darkest Secret (Hqn)
Secret Concerns

Amun, keeper of the demon Secrets, is suffering unimaginable torture from the demons he absorbed in hell while on a rescue mission with Aeron and William to save Aeron's pseudo-daughter Legion. The voices and urges from hundreds of beings of pure evil are quickly driving him mad and putting him in danger of death from the cadre of angels sent to prevent those demons from escaping. No one can get close to Amun without feeling their sadistic influence. No one can stop Amun from tearing his own body apart in misery. No one, that is, except the one woman all the Lords loathe, a woman named Haidee. The Hunter responsible for their brother Baden's beheading.

She was alive, again, and driven by revenge to wipe the Lords from the earth. Forced to reanimate every time she died, Haidee had lived a thousand lives, hunting evil in its demonic form. Just recently she and her crew went after the demon Defeat in the Lord Strider. She didn't die, but she didn't win either, and now she was a prisoner in their stronghold.

When she hears a voice in her head cry out for her and tunnels her way into the room beside where she's being kept, she sees who she thinks is her brutally tortured boyfriend Micah and is driven by a deep, dark connection that was foreign to their relationship. Regardless, it made her determined to save him from the Lords and their heinous punishments.

Strider can hardly believe it, but the woman he captured, the woman who he beheaded a thousand years ago for the death of his friend, was not only somehow alive, but her presence seemed to soothe Amun as nothing else did. As nothing else was supposed to be able to do. No matter how much he may sexually desire the beautiful, deadly enemy, no matter how he resented her obvious and instantaneous attachment to Amun, he would give her to his closest friend. Until they found a cure for him. Then Strider would happily take Haidee's head once again.

As the truth of the their identities is revealed to Amun and Haidee and the bond between them grows as strong as it is inexplicable, they realize that both his friends and hers will do anything - give anything - to end their lives as soon as Amun's demons are released. Regardless that Haidee is the key to that release. And as he spends more and more time with her, Amun starts to wonder how he could ever conceive of letting her go, no matter that his feelings for the murderess could cost him his friends...and his life.

It's hard to believe that we're already reached the seventh book in the Lords of the Underworld series. Showalter is definitely one of the premiere paranormal romance authors out there. I've followed the series since the beginning, liking some books more than others, but throughout it all I have admired her writing style, her slick narratives full of mythology and series-born mythos, complicated plots, conflicting agendas, and sizzling romance. Showalter has a way of writing an exceptionally readable book that pleases my preferences for romance and offers yummy alpha males, ribald humor, and a bit of bloodshed to make it all matter.

In The Darkest Secret, in fact, the romance was once again the center of the book plot, and thankfully so, as the lack of same was one of my main complaints with the previous book. There were far fewer ancillary plot threads, far less muddying of the romantic waters. And there was all that hot sex that Showalter does so well. In that regard, the book was definitely one of the better installments I've read recently.

There's a flip side, though. There were aspects of the plot of this book that struck me as being a little too convenient throughout, like the fact that Haidee was the only one who could hear Amun talking in her head, or the bookbag that filled as needed and requested, or Micah's fate. Too many little conveniences like those made things seem a little too easily resolved whenever the crap started hitting the fan. Then there were the major conveniences that pop up at the end - but I'll get back to that in a minute.

Also a problem for me were some things that weren't very well detailed or explained, such as the Bad Man's identity or the full scope of Haidee's ice, or that struck me as treading dangerously close to being plot holes, such as why Haidee's "infection" seemed to initially affect everyone who had extended contact with her except for Amun, or why she returned to her cave when the angel said she wouldn't. There was also one particular pendulum that had swung a little too far in the other direction between this book and the last.

I felt The Darkest Lie suffered a dearth of romantic plot development but had a messy overabundance of secondary series arc plot development coupled with too many ancillary plot threads. The Darkest Secret went in the opposite direction. It had plenty of romantic development, but didn't seem to further the series arc at all. Ancillary plot threads that progressed the subplots of Promiscuity's spiraling self destruction and William's issues with Gilly, as well as those that introduced Defeat's forthcoming romantic arc were blended together well, but were very brief and largely superficial.

Despite all that, I was liking this book just fine for the strength of the romance alone, which I felt was the best all-around blend of appealing character and storyline since The Darkest Whisper. Then I got to the end and once again felt the same frustration I've felt to varying degrees for every ending of every book since and including The Darkest Whisper. And in this case, the frustration level was very high.

Not only did the resolution leading to the conclusion far too closely resemble an ending from a previous book, but a pivotal character acted in a manner that directly contradicted previously developed character definition for no reason other than some sort of  nebulous "I don't know why I feel this way but I won't tolerate it" bullshit that came out of nowhere. And to top off that rather distasteful set of issues, there was nearly an entire chapter dedicated to a most loathsome literary device, the told-not-shown synopsis of events.

When those issues combined, I found the last few chapters of The Darkest Secret almost painful and very frustrating. And I've got to be honest, my concern for this series is growing with each installment. I feel like we're treading water in the war between the Lords and Hunters, Galen and Sabin, and Cronos and Rhea until everyone hooks up with their forever loves, and while I'm all for romance, there has been extensive groundwork laid for a major conflict and final resolution for the Lords. I'd like to get to that eventually. Hell, by this point I'd settle for appearing like we're at least moving in that direction.

Disclosure: This book was provided to me free of charge through the Amazon.com Vine program for the purpose of an honest review. All thoughts, comments, and ratings are my own.

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Ratings Guide

Here is a rundown of what the star ratings mean to me! It's not a perfect system, so you may see me add in a .5 star here and there if my impression of the book falls somewhere between these:

5 Stars - Loved it
4 Stars - Liked it
3 Stars - It's okay
2 Stars - Didn't like it
1 Star - Hated it

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2014 Reading Challenge

2014 Reading Challenge
Tracy has read 22 books toward her goal of 175 books.
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Zero at the BoneHead Over HeelsLord of the WolfynIn Total SurrenderA Win-Win PropositionNorth of Need

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