Reviewed by Sandra Scholes
There is nothing like 15 stories of paranormal erotic romance to thrill a reader into each of them, all are different, yet all will leave them with the distinct taste of absinthe on the tongue from the sheer pleasure they bring.
A Foreword and Introduction create enough of a background to the Gothic horror story to set the scene for the stories that the reader will immerse themselves in. Kelley Armstrong goes into all the elements that make up the Gothic story, the darkness, the innocent woman, mysterious man who is interested in her, and the haunting madness that is so often the bread and butter of this genre. They don’t always work out that way, though, there are the stories that bend the rules a little, some are different in they use gay or lesbian characters instead of the usual ones everyone knows about.
Well, everyone doesn't know about these stories - they vary from each one, and all have the distinct elements of the Gothic horror within them. They can surprise, shock, and amaze-all with the intensity of the Gothic drama and feel of the age. These stories bring out an atmosphere of intrigue, full of dark and twisted emotions we can all feel in the right light...in this case it is candle light that will inspire us.
Here are a few of the stories available and my reviews of them:
Snowlight, Moonlight by Rose De Fer
A woman on a journey is attacked and left for dead on a snowy path. The coachman did not survive and the coach itself would not be useable again. Lucky for her she has someone who can help her, a man who encounters her body one night and takes her all the way back to his mansion house. There she wakes up and wonders where she is. The kind gentleman tells her where he found her, yet she has no memory of it. Everything is a blur to her mind until he mentions one thing, the things that attacked her days ago. That is what startles her.
Of particular interest to the reader will be what the man has been studying for a while, and what she really is after the accident. It interested me when a perfect gentleman could be so out of character to tie the lady to his bed - but then again, the reader will find out why. I enjoyed the atmosphere this story conjured for me, and I found it the sort of story that I could read again and again.
Cover Him with Darkness by Janine Ashbless
A young girl remembers seeing a young man tied to a slab of limestone. She sees how handsome he is, and how strong he looks, yet also how vulnerable and unhappy he is too. As she is so young, she doesn't know what the man has done to make her father have him bound so cruelly, but he doesn't tell her anything - just decides to keep her in the dark as far as explanations go. She is persistent though, and soon she will discover who and what he is. When she is older, her father's dying words are that someone has to watch over the man as he had many years ago, and it sounds like she will have to do her duty to the family.
Strangely enough, the reader might not ever find out what he is, they will have to make their own mind up as to whether he is a titan or some kind of Prometheus as Janine makes him out to be. All the reader will know is that he is a muscular and handsome man who has been imprisoned for what seems like generations.
A Rose in the Willow Garden by Elizabeth Daniels
Bierce is wandering around for that special person, but he hasn't found her yet, and being a hunter of a man he does keep on trying until he gets to her, but it isn't easy when he is trawling the bars and inns along the town in search of her. He always finds loose women there who want him as he is a seductive devil, but one eludes him, and whoever she is he can't get her out of his mind.
Readers will soon find out that he is not the sort of man she should mess with even if she does think she loves him. She does have a boyfriend already which annoys him a great deal, but he understands that she will have lovers being a handsome woman. There are things she needs to know about his past and what he has done with other women before she takes the plunge and gets with him, but it's up to her. This is an unusual story with a nice ending.
The Blood Moon Kiss by Mitzi Szereto
The Blood Moon Kiss is a vampire soap opera directed by Mark Gaitzburger and the heroine is the beautiful Christine, while the anti hero is Talen played by Kyle. He is a method actor and everyone knows how good he is at playing his part to the fullest. Christine thinks there is something wrong with him, something the other actors have missed, but she also finds him intriguing to her in a way no other man would, and that, for her...could be dangerous.
Kyle's accent could give him away as she notices it is slightly European, and has a certain twang about it. He does get ill occasionally and tends to shut himself away from the sight of others, and it bothers her that he does this. The Blood Moon Kiss reminded me of Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula, a man who finds the love of his life in the future and can't be without her. This is the perfect Gothic romance story set in the present day in this volume.
Painted by Anna Meadows
You would never think a painting could cause jealousy, but in one woman's wife, it does. She hates the very sight of it, but the husband likes it a great deal, and after winning it in a bet, he finds her dislike of the woman annoying for him. She mentions that the woman looks like a tart, hoping he will remove it some day. The woman in the painting has a certain something that Benjamin likes, and it entices him to keep looking at it even though it sends goose bumps on his skin.
Benjamin feels as though no one is taking his feelings into account about the painting, as he sees the woman in it as almost alive. He is the only one who has a connection with her, and one night when he is alone, he notices that the woman is gone. The rest of his family think Ben should get married, but he isn't interested in anyone other than the woman in the painting and he wonders who she really is. I enjoyed the setting of this story, and the presence it evoked for me.
La Belle Mort by Zander Vyne
Elizabeth Morton is due to be executed, and she is with child too. She has been tried for a crime she did not commit, she did not steal a diamond necklace from the estate where she lived, and worked but she knows who has. This is a journey back in time again to when a woman could be tricked into anything, and the gentleman would get away with it. Taken to prison before this can happen, she is made open to a life of nothingness, and doesn't expect the sorrow and pain life in jail can cause. She does have a visitor though, and he could be the answer to her dreams. When another man arrives she listens to what he has to say, mentioning that if she tells them where she has hid the necklace, they will pardon her. Unfortunately, she hasn't stolen it, and doesn't know where it is.
Elizabeth is the sort of woman from period dramas who was used in those days by rich lords who had affairs with nursemaids and servants when the wife was otherwise indisposed. Tales are numerous about what happens when these women are pregnant and can only do one thing - leave where they are or risk being kicked out anyway. In those days, servants were used and cast out, and this story tells the reality of what happened.
These are only a few of the stories in this book, and I picked my favourites out, but there will be the readers own favourites too and not all of the characters are so obviously monsters either – this is much more than a compilation of the unusual and the monstrous…it is deliciously Gothic.