Reviewed by Tori
“…I’m a girl and girls are made of…”
“Sugar and spice,” he interjected, remembering the rhyme.
“Wrong. Girls are made of vodka and ice. The two combined increase our tolerance for masculine nonsense.”
Driven to his death by the demon of Distrust, Baden spent centuries in purgatory. Now he’s back, but at what cost? Bound to the king of the underworld, an even darker force, he’s unable to withstand the touch of another…and he’s quickly devolving into a heartless assassin with an uncontrollable temper. Things only get worse when a mission goes awry and he finds himself saddled with a bride—just not his own.
Famed dog trainer Katarina Joelle is forced to marry a monster to protect her loved ones. When she’s taken hostage by the ruthless, beautiful Baden immediately after the ceremony, she’s plunged into a war between two evils—with a protector more dangerous than the monsters he hunts. They are meant to be enemies, but neither can resist the passion burning between them…and all too soon the biggest threat is to her heart.
But as Baden slips deeper into the abyss, she’ll have to teach him to love…or lose him forever. (Goodreads)
The Darkest Torment is the twelfth book in Gena Showalter’s popular long-running LOTU series. A fun, sexy, action-packed dark PNR that has kept us entertained through the years with her sexy dominant alphas and the insane women they choose to give their hearts to. Showalter keeps the pace frantic, the plotlines crazy, and the laughs coming in this release. I will admit I was a more than a little shocked when I first learned this would be Baden’s story. While Baden (The original holder of distrust) has been seen on and off throughout the series, we’ve never had any real interaction with him due to his actions bef The Darkest Night. But all that changes in here. Book e-The Darkest Touch-gave us some clues to what Baden has been up to and how he was going to become a more active player in the series but this wasn’t quite what I expected.
Showalter quickly brings us up to speed on Baden, the brewing war, and Hades involvement. We have learned that Baden has been released from Lucifer’s control and given corporal form by accepting Hades offer of freedom and agreeing to wear his bands. Bands that Keeley and William convinced him to take. Bands that essentially make Baden a slave to Hades. Needless to say, Baden is NOT happy about this development and begins to plot his freedom. As Baden comes to terms with the constraints on his new life, he learns that Pandora has also been released by Hades and he and she will be competing against one another with the winner taking all.
Insane pacing, strong writing, amusing narrative, and multiple storylines give us a well rounded look into everything that is going on in the Lord’s personal lives and their war against Lucifer. Even with the convoluted plotlines, Showalter keeps us firmly in hand and allows the story to unfold in an easy to understand manner of the issues at hand. She also spends a considerable amount of time developing Baden and beginning the seemingly daunting task of wrangling the overreaching arc into some semblance of order
The story starts out on a high note as William is trying to get Baden to have sex, explaining he is becoming increasingly unstable and needs some type of release before he goes DEFCON 20. Baden isn’t too keen on this as physical contact hurts him and the entity that has taken up residence in him really just hates everyone. Of course, once Baden gives in, the woman he picks is an agent for Lucifer and tries to kill him. Poor Baden. He just can’t win.
“I knew I should’ve just waited for you to weaken from orgasm.”
Baden seems to catch a break when Hades commands him to retrieve a gold coin from a human man. This doesn’t go well at all and Baden ends up kidnapping the man’s wife instead of the coin. Thus we meet Baden’s soul mate-Katarina Joelle.
Katarina Joelle is a renowned dog trainer whose biggest mistake was refusing to sell a man a pair of security dogs. Aleksander Ciernik, a vicious drug lord, bulks at being denied and forces her into a no win situation. In order to save the rest of her dogs, she must agree to marry him. At her wedding, Katarina is shocked when she gets her own version of a red wedding when Baden and his friends drop in and demand a gold coin. Alek refuses, causing not only the death of his entire wedding party but the kidnapping of Katarina.
“Taking a human is kind of a creeper move, you know that right?”
Similar in format to the prior romances, a healthy portion of the story is Baden and Katarina getting to know one another, learn each other’s backstories, and engage in a passive-aggressive style of foreplay. Katarina isn’t happy Baden kidnapped her and makes sure he knows it with repeated escape attempts and insults. Baden and his entity aren’t sure what to do with her though both of them are equally amused by her.
I loved Katarina. She fits in brilliantly with the rest of the gang. An amusing heroine who isn’t at all hampered by the fact she’s human. Intelligent, sneaky, smart-mouthed, and compassionate, Katarina has a will of steel only made stronger by a core of vulnerability that resides inside of her. Abandoned and/or betrayed by everyone she’s loved, she chooses to pour all her love into rescuing and rehabilitating dogs.
Baden is adorably grumpy in here and heaven at his worse, I couldn’t help but love him. He has some anger issues that need working out. He blames himself for what has happened to his friends once Pandora’s box was opened and has some serious guilt over his actions in the past. He doesn’t feel he is worthy of friendship or love and seeks to overcome his time spent with the demon distrust. Katarina is somewhat of an anomaly for him. She’s nothing like he thought and he truly fears for her life if she is dragged into the coming war.
The romance itself is very slow to develop; kidnapping and insults can put a damper on anyone love life and the animosity between them is strong. Katarina doesn’t just accept her circumstances but rather uses all her skills and knowledge to turn the tables on Baden and keep him on his toes. I find it hilarious she uses her dog training to try and bring him to heel.
Surviving a feral, rule one: Never show fear. Basically, fake it till you make it.
Two: Use a soft but assertive tone. Anything else could rouse hostility.
Three: Remember you get what you reinforce, not necessarily what you expect.
In this case, she ignored rule number four: Place the dog’s needs first. And skipped to number five: Find out what will work best with each individual dog.
The chemistry is not to be denied and soon it sets this couple on a fiery course with some equally steamy and laugh out loud scenes as Baden struggles to override his bossy and overprotective side to treat Katarina as an equal. He is a dominant force to the core but he visibly struggles to tone it down for her and comes across as quite the romantic at times. What I truly enjoyed was no matter what Baden said to Katarina, she was able to hold her own with him and had no issues walking away when he went too far. It was also interesting how Baden’s entity comes to love Katarina as much as Baden does. She grounds them both, much to the surprise of the others.
“And Rina? You may be able to survive the world without me, but I can’t survive the world without you. We can’t. You keep us calm. You are our home.”
The LOTU craziness we all love is had here in spades. Willam almost steals the show with his advice and help. There are multiple storylines that ride parallel alongside one another and intersect at key times; bringing some needed updating to the ongoing arc and clueing us into future couples. I was happy we are given updates on the statuses of previous characters-revealing some good and not so good news. Showalter narrows her focus on Cameo’s search for Lazarus, alerting us that her book is next, while dropping a huge bomb on William and Gilly’s relationship. I imagined a million different scenarios over the years concerning them but I never saw this one. It will certainly be interesting to see how it plays out.
There were a few issues I had with this installment. Showalter seemed to really micromanage Baden and Katarina. At times, the sheer amount of small talk and play by play descriptions became redundant and slowed the story down. There is quite a bit of filler in here and the urge to start skimming through these areas was strong. I also wished Keeley’s actions concerning certain events had been explained a little better. She does a few things in here that make no sense. I’ll be honest, after reading this book, I can’t help but think The Red Queen aka Keeley increasingly reminds me of The White Queen aka Nix (Kresley Cole’s IAD series) with her cryptic prophecies, increasing forgetfulness, and offers of help that often make the situation ten times worse. As we all know, Showalter and Kresley often drop easter eggs in their books concerning each other’s characters so I wonder if this is an indication that these series will begin to interact in a more visible fashion as we near the end of both of them.
My issues aside, Showalter once again proves to readers that she has BIG plans for her LOTU and that we ain’t seen nothing yet. The Darkest Torment takes readers on a wild roller coaster ride that will leave you will begging to ride again and again.