Jeremy Jenkins has lived a life of abuse, neglect, and mistreatment by everyone who should have loved him. Up to and including his current boyfriend, who is currently attempting to stab Jeremy to death. Jeremy has been beaten down by life long enough that he had given up hoping for more. But in those last moments, Jeremy can’t help but long for revenge, for a chance to finally get back at all those who have treated him so horrifically all his life. And he gets that chance when, in his final moments just between life and death, he makes a deal with a demon.
Ozark is a demon who feeds on revenge. There is nothing that makes him happier than helping a human bring torment upon someone who has done him wrong. And poor Jeremy has been hurt by so many people. In exchange for Jeremy’s life and his soul, Oz will help him get revenge. Normally, Oz doesn’t think much of the humans with whom he contracts. But something is different about Jeremy. Not only does Oz find him very attractive, but Jeremy’s zeal for revenge and the way he thrives on the experience just heats Oz up even further.
As Oz helps Jeremy exact revenge on those who hurt him, the men also find their desire for one another is insatiable. However, once Jeremy’s revenge is complete, his contract means that he will join the ghouls in hell, forever tormented and out of Oz’s reach. But Oz is determined to find a way to keep Jeremy, before he loses this connection he never expected to find.
Best Served Cold is an intense, revenge-fueled romance. It is very different from E.M. Denning’s usual style and you need to be all right with super dark themes and some intense violence and gore. But I think the set up here is really interesting and I found this one to be a unique story.
The book opens with Jeremy literally being stabbed to death. He is almost resigned and accepting, as he has been beaten down by life and failed by everyone who was supposed to care about and protect him. Part of Jeremy is almost ready to just have it all end. But there is a spark there of something more, of something angry, and his imminent death finally frees Jeremy to let out those feelings of just wanting to destroy everyone who ever hurt him. And that is exactly what Oz gives him a chance to do. Oz thrives on revenge, he sustains himself on it. So he makes a deal that spares Jeremy’s life in exchange for getting to enjoy giving Jeremy the outlet to exact his revenge.
As I said, this one is super dark. Jeremy’s revenge is violent, bloody, often horrific torture of those who hurt him and much of it is shown on page. There was one scene that was honestly too much for me to read in detail, it was so brutal. The satisfaction of exacting this revenge is also an enormous turn on for both men, and Jeremy is constantly hard and horny at the act of destroying those who hurt him first (as well as being around Oz in general). So like I said, dark, violent, and men getting turned on by hurting people. I think Denning does a good job helping us understand Jeremy’s background enough that his reason for wanting revenge is clear, though little is explained in detail about his past. I was a little less clear how much of this desire to destroy his tormenters is coming from himself, versus how much is fueled (or enhanced) by Oz. It seems like it is a little of both. But either way, Jeremy revels in his new life, in his new power to hurt those who hurt him, and in his sexual connection with Oz.
I found the story interesting in sort of a voyeuristic way, like seeing something horrible that you just can’t look away from. I think many people have a fantasy, maybe buried deep inside, of how they would get back at those who wronged them. And through this story, we see someone actually getting to do that, just dialed up to 11 and with a side dose of murder. And Jeremy doesn’t just get revenge, he revels in the brutality and gets turned on by hurting those who hurt him. So I found it interesting as a reader to watch him go through this, even as I was pretty horrified by his actual actions. I had incredible sympathy for Jeremy for his horrible life and I found his past heartbreaking, and myself angry at those who had done him wrong. But I had trouble with the idea that brutally murdering people and then getting so turned on you can barely wait to have sex was an acceptable reaction in the real world. It made it harder for me to identify with Jeremy, or to fully root for him. All of which I think is fine for this story. I didn’t need to agree with Jeremy or warm to him fully as a character for this book to work for me. Like I said, this is a dark romance, and I think Denning does a good job crafting the story as such. I did find it felt a little repetitive after a while, though. A lot of the story is brutal revenge, followed (and proceeded) by lots and lots of sex and a lot of revenge-fueled lust. There is a subplot involving another demon who is obsessed with Oz that does add a little more plot, but I did sort of feel like we were re-treading the same ground at times.
I think this story succeeds in being a dark romance that feels both interesting and horrifying. It is not for the faint hearted, as this is grisly and intense and neither Jeremy nor Oz have any guilt or remorse for what they do. But if you are up for some intense scenes, and enjoy dark heroes who revel in the chance for revenge, this one is worth a look.