Wicked Nights , the first novel in Gena Showalter’s new Angels of the Dark series, starts off with a gruesome bang and escalates from there.
Annabelle Miller has spent the last four years in an asylum for the criminally insane. Accused of killing her parents at the age of 18, Annabelle has been fighting for both her life and her sanity behind the walls of the Moffat County Institution for the Criminally Insane. Besieged by demons that torment her but no one else can see, she fights to survive their near constant attacks. Meanwhile, the doctor assigned to rehabilitate her instead abuses her at every turn.
Zacharel, a warrior angel, has been given charge of a motley crew of angels on the verge of falling. Tasked with reforming the gang of wayward angels while engaging in do-or-die missions, Zacharel soon finds himself fighting for his own soul. Dispatched to protect Annabelle and deliver her from her demonic siege the last thing Zacharel expects to do is fall in love with his charge.
Fans of Showalter’s Lords of the Underworld series will note that this series is darker and less edgy. Where LOTU relishes in trendy slang & pop culture, Wicked Nights in stark contrast is entirely devoid of those elements.
Similarities abound thought, strong Hyper Alpha males, brave young heroines, hot smexy scenes, tragic back stories, and lots of tension between friends and lovers. Perhaps as if to say that demons have all the fun, the angels in Angels of the Dark are cold, aloof and completely removed from the humans they are sworn to protect – they are the elite forces of the celestial realm. This is not to say that these angels are acetic or compassionate, instead this ragtag group of scoundrels are ruled by their passions.
Interestingly, Zacharel is a virgin whose carnal desires are awakened after centuries by Annabelle’s courageous drive for survival. As if letting her fans in on an inside joke, Showalter does allow a cross over between both series when Paris, the keeper of the Demon – Promiscuity, appears to lend a hand at one point. Showalter seems to be having fun with the juxtaposition of the angel who has never had sexual relations before and the demon who must copulate on a daily basis or die.
The end of the story brings an unexpected twist that forces Zacharel to choose between the two greatest loves of his life.
In keeping with her traditional style, Showalter delivers a HEA while introducing several secondary male characters with which to extend the series. I wish she had varied here and added more female angels or made all the angels female warriors. This slight twist would have really made the series stand out in a field of new angel themed releases.
The one thing that really spoke to me in this story was the question of faith. Showalter’s world building is thoughtful and full of references to Judeo-Christian religious tenants. Several supporting story lines revolve around issues of redemption, karmic retribution, forgiveness, and self-sacrifice. I cannot read this book without wondering about Showalter’s own views on the subject. Why did she choose to touch upon these themes in a romance novel? What does she want the reader to take away from this novel on a philosophical plane? When Showalter could have chosen any sort of angelic archetype from a variety of world religions or even have entirely created her own mythos, why did she choose to work within a Judeo-Christian framework? Perhaps – one day she will let us know the answers to these questions.