I was super excited about picking these books up. I read the prequel novella as soon as it became available on eHarlequin, and posted a review. I could tell Ms. Showalter had a plan, though it was fuzzy through the novella, but I felt confident she'd do it more justice in a full length novel. Part of what got me so juiced, I have to admit, was the covers. They are the pinnacle of beauty when it comes to any book cover I've seen lately. HQN hit the jackpot there. And as we all know, covers go a long way.
Right off the top, I can say that I love the premise. Ms. Showalter says she didn't like the idea of a woman being blamed for all the evil in the world, so she tweaked the old myth and placed the blame for the opening of Pandora's Box on a band of immortal warriors. (Love it!) As a result, each of these warriors was punished by the gods to carry one of the demons from the box around inside of him. Love that too.
I even love Ms. Showalters writing. She clearly has talent, and oodles of creative energy that justify my envy of her blaze to stardom in the ranks of paranormal romance.
Sadly, though, this book just didn't do it for me. Maddox is the keeper of Violence. He was actually the one who killed Pandora, so as an extra punishment, he must die every night, with the assistance of two fellow 'Lords' - those who carry Pain and Death.
Ashlyn Darrow has the gift of clairaudience. She can hear conversations that have taken place at any given time in the place she is. It's overwhelming and has caused her intense suffering her whole life, though she works in a sort of psychic investigative agency and puts her gift to use.
Like I said, I love the ideas. And I can't pinpoint what it is that doesn't quite punch through to me. But I think I can sum it up by saying, the really poignant ideas felt under-done. I hate to use the word 'shallow' because of the negative connotation, but in this case, it really fits.
The story felt more like a caricature of what it could have been. Maddox is the typical brusque, tortured hero who finds his heart softening for the lovely woman clinging to him. Ashlyn finds that only Maddox's presence can give her peace from the voices in her head. And this contrived attraction is stretched out with overwroght tension through most of the book.
Later, we're introduced to more characters and learn more of the backstory and dive into some more world-building.
It could be that I've reached a saturation point from all my reading in the genre, but this book just felt like more of the same, up to and including the hints that each member of the 'brotherhood' of lords will get his happy ending in the coming books. It just didn't ring my bell. I never felt truly connected to the characters, surprised by anything, or deeply moved.
It was entertaining, well-written, and as I've said several times, the series has tremendous potential. I have the next two books at home, and I will be reading them - hoping to see Ms. Showalter find a groove and really knock my socks off.
Two and a half Bleeding Hearts.