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A pointed contemporary twist on a classic horror setup.

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Dearman reimagines the classic tale of Jekyll and Hyde as a transition narrative in this queer horror novella.

Ella is struggling with the transition of her partner, Simon (formerly Simone). Even as she tries to support him, she misses the female body that she fell in love with. The two have the opportunity to start anew when Ella inherits an old inn from her grandmother in Hudson, New York. In the inn’s basement, Ella finds a diary from 1933. It tells the story of Jeannette Diamond, the bookish daughter of the original innkeeper, who spends her time studying spiritualist texts with her friend Dahlia. Jeannette has romantic feelings for Dahlia, but when Dahlia rebuffs her by saying she’s only interested in men, Jeannette decides she’ll simply use her occult books to turn herself into one. After many feverish attempts and failures, she finally succeeds: “To her astonishment, her jaw jutted out and her face seemed wider, though her nose more narrow. Brows now thickened framed dark eyes, which appeared more sunken in. A tickling of stubble covered lip and chin and felt coarse against her fingers.” But can Gilles Du Mont, as she names herself, win Dahlia’s heart before she marries another man? Or will this dark magic lead only to dark results? The author’s stylish prose possesses the right combination of camp and terror to animate this Gothic horror: “The blood washed over the clear fluid inside the syringe, giving it the slightest pink hue. With a good vein in her left arm begging to be punctured, she wrapped the rubber tubing over her bicep, tied a workable knot and pulled it taut with her teeth.” Dearman cleverly pushes the Jekyll and Hyde premise toward an exploration of gender and desire, finding a way to tie it back toward the framing narrative of Ella and Simon. Like all great horror, it capitalizes on a recognizable human insecurity, in this case one that feels particularly timely.

A pointed contemporary twist on a classic horror setup.

Pub Date: June 20, 2023

ISBN: 9798987839867

Page Count: 94

Publisher: The Shortish Project

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2023

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It's almost enough to make a person believe in ghosts.

A disturbing household secret has far-reaching consequences in this dark, unusual ghost story.

Mallory Quinn, fresh out of rehab and recovering from a recent tragedy, has taken a job as a nanny for an affluent couple living in the upscale suburb of Spring Brook, New Jersey, when a series of strange events start to make her (and her employers) question her own sanity. Teddy, the precocious and shy 5-year-old boy she's charged with watching, seems to be haunted by a ghost who channels his body to draw pictures that are far too complex and well formed for such a young child. At first, these drawings are rather typical: rabbits, hot air balloons, trees. But then the illustrations take a dark turn, showcasing the details of a gruesome murder; the inclusion of the drawings, which start out as stick figures and grow increasingly more disturbing and sophisticated, brings the reader right into the story. With the help of an attractive young gardener and a psychic neighbor and using only the drawings as clues, Mallory must solve the mystery of the house's grizzly past before it's too late. Rekulak does a great job with character development: Mallory, who narrates in the first person, has an engaging voice; the Maxwells' slightly overbearing parenting style and passive-aggressive quips feel very familiar; and Teddy is so three-dimensional that he sometimes feels like a real child.

It's almost enough to make a person believe in ghosts.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-81934-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2022

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A unique story of transcendent love.

An aimless young musician meets the girl of his dreams only to have his newfound happiness threatened by several inexplicable—and possibly supernatural—events.

The story opens as Leeds Gabriel meets with a detective while his girlfriend, Layla, is restrained in a room one flight above them. Through the interview, readers learn that Leeds was wasting both his time and his musical talent playing backup for a small-town wedding troupe called Garrett’s Band when he spied Layla dancing her heart out to their mediocre music at a wedding. When Leeds approaches Layla, their connection is both instant and intense. A blissful courtship follows, but then Leeds makes the mistake of posting a picture of himself with Layla on social media. A former girlfriend–turned-stalker wastes no time in finding and attacking Layla. Layla spends months recovering in a hospital, and it seems the girl Leeds fell for might be forever changed. Gone is her special spark, her quirkiness, and the connection that had entranced Leeds months before. In a last-ditch effort to save their relationship, he brings Layla back to the bed-and-breakfast where they first met. When they get there, though, Leeds meets Willow, another guest, and finds himself drawn to her in spite of himself. As events unfold, it becomes clear that Willow will either be the key to saving Leeds’ relationship with Layla or the catalyst that finally extinguishes the last shreds of their epic romance. Told entirely from Leeds’ point of view, the author’s first foray into paranormal romance does not disappoint. Peppered with elements of mystery, psychological thriller, and contemporary romance, the novel explores questions about how quickly true love can develop, as well as the conflicts that can imperil even the strongest connections. Despite a limited cast of characters and very few setting changes, the narrative manages to remain both fast-paced and engaging. The conclusion leaves a few too many loose ends, but the chemistry between the characters and unexpected twists throughout make for a satisfying read.

A unique story of transcendent love.

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5420-0017-8

Page Count: 301

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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