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EVIL IN TECHNICOLOR

Plenty of standouts are on display in this gruesome grab bag of literary terror.

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Ten spooky stories pay tribute to the wicked delights of classic and modern gothic horror fiction in this anthology.

Editor McDermott combines aspects of horror and fantasy in this deliciously dark volume probing the depths of the unexplained and the nature of evil. The collection immediately evokes an edgy rather than an overly frightening tone with Stina Leicht’s moody “Forgiveness Is Warm Like a Tear on the Cheek.” The tale features a man wrestling with ghosts from his past in a reputedly haunted, three-story Victorian house where spirits reside in an adjacent cemetery. In order to bury the unresolved demons in his past, he must confront some present-day scares (and a few apparitions) first. Fans of deep blue ocean waters will appreciate the murky mystery emerging from the depths of the Mediterranean in fantasy writer E. Catherine Tobler’s superbly disturbing “Blue Hole, Red Sea.” A female archaeology diver confronts an ominous hieroglyphic obelisk and a majestic temple honoring female gods. McDermott’s story selections conjure a devilish panoply of players, ranging from the desperate actor in Rhiannon Rasmussen’s vampiric fantasy “The Maidens of Midnight” who finally gets her big break playing a “monster and a lesbian” to a magician prodded to teach an eager follower “real magic” in Adam Gallardo’s “The Ultimate Secret of Magic” and the young, wildly imaginative writer and Ayn Rand fan who spends her summer vacation crafting a horror novel in Molly Tanzer’s “Summer Camp Would Have Been a Lot Cheaper."

Vampires, even those who are killed only to be resurrected by their younger counterparts, reign supreme in Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam’s menacingly comic monster mashup “Hammerville.” The story references the British movie production company responsible for the gothic “Hammer Horror” films of the 1950s through the ’70s. Most tales immediately sweep readers into their atmospheric nightmares, like Craig Laurance Gidney’s “Myth and Moor,” which stars a child who seamlessly converses with a witch and the ghost of a missing kid on the heath outside her home. Still others are masterful in their slow-burn narrative setups that then spring horrific denouements on unsuspecting readers. This is true of the haunted, Maine-based B&B featured in Haralambi Markov’s cinematic gorefest “The Midnight Feast,” where a final, breathless countdown spells sheer terror. In this volume, McDermott, a co-editor of the collection of futuristic crime short fiction The Way of the Laser (2020), combines novelettes with shorter vignettes to an impressive extent. His anthology will appeal to readers of both modern horror fiction and the classic genre yarns derived from the black-and-white and early color film eras. A character in A.C. Wise’s ghost-story homage to classic horror, titled “A Thousand Faces Minus One,” says a timely, eerily relevant mouthful when she quips: “People love hidden histories and conspiracy theories.” These same readers and many more will savor this collection of the sinister, the kooky, and the creepy.

Plenty of standouts are on display in this gruesome grab bag of literary terror.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-952283-03-1

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Vernacular Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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FILTHY RICH FAE

A lush, sensual page-turner for fans of urban fantasy, folklore, and dark romance.

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In Lee’s paranormal romantic thriller, a young woman in New Orleans is plunged into a terrifying but intriguing underworld after striking a bargain for her brother’s life.

Twenty-four-year-old trauma nurse Cate Holloway’s life takes a dramatic turn when her 19-year-old brother, Channing, is rushed to the ER with a gunshot wound while she’s on duty.Even more shocking for Cate is the discovery that Channing is in debt to the notorious Gage crime family, who practically rule New Orleans. They distribute the street drug “clover,” pay off all the right people, and even own the hospital where Cate works. She resolves to keep Channing safe, and directly confronts crime boss Lachlan Gage at the lavish Avalon Hotel. Lachlan presents Cate with a bargain: trade her soul in exchange for her sibling’s. Cate accepts, even though she thinks the idea is ridiculous, and seals the deal by taking a bite of an apple Lachlan gives her. She’s then transported to a realm called the Otherworld, where she finds out that the Gages are fae royalty, and that getting out of a fae bargain is almost impossible. Now tethered to Lachlan, she has to figure out how to free herself; along the way, she must navigate fae politics between royal families, a blossoming friendship with Lachlan’s sister Ciara, and her own undeniable attraction to Lachlan himself, who just might be more than the monster she thinks he is. Lee’s skillfully written dark urban fantasy novel is infused with classic fae lore, humor (“So, you claim that you aren’t pixies or garden gnomes,” Cate muses), and meticulous worldbuilding. All the major characters, and especially the fiercely independent and capable Cate and the rakish yet family-oriented antagonist/love interest Lachlan, are well developed and compelling. The book’s richly detailed descriptions of clothing, architecture, and fae customs will immerse readers in the Otherworld and cause them to linger long after the final page. Readers may particularly enjoy the steady buildup of romantic tension and appreciate that the relationship resists problematic tropes, instead emphasizing consent and mutual respect.

A lush, sensual page-turner for fans of urban fantasy, folklore, and dark romance.

Pub Date: June 25, 2024

ISBN: 9781649375773

Page Count: 364

Publisher: Entangled: Amara

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2024

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LAYLA

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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