By Fresh Fiction Senior Reviewer Miranda Owen
I’m a romance reader but I like when genres mix together in films and in books. Among other things, I think that’s just truer to life. My taste in horror films runs toward cheesy slasher films with exaggerated, fake violence and classic ghost stories. One of my absolute favorite horror films is Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives.
I like the snappy dialogue, the homages to classic horror actors and directors, but I adore the unexpected romance between the beleaguered Tommy Jarvis and Megan, the sassy daughter of the sheriff. If this wasn’t a horror film, this would make a good “meet-cute.” Megan meets Tommy for the first time while he’s locked up in her father’s jail. Despite the odds, things look hopeful at the end that this couple might have a future together – hooray! That’s the kind of horror/romance mix I love. There are several books that are perfect examples of when romance and horror meet in fiction with stellar results.
To Gabriel, the cemetery symbolized the fact that he could never die, that much better people than him left this mortal realm, some far too soon, and he was condemned, by his own misconduct, to walk the earth forever without purpose. —FALLEN, Erin McCarthy
When I first started reading romance, I soon recognized the patterns and rules of the genre. While authors provided variety, I knew what to expect. I first discovered Erin McCarthy’s writing by trying her Fast Track series of hot race car drivers. After soon becoming a fan, I started reading MY IMMORTAL, the first book in her Seven Deadly Sins series. There are supernatural elements, but I don’t really consider it your typical paranormal romance. True to form for the entire trilogy, the books go back and forth between the past and the present. In New Orleans, Marley Turner meets man of mystery Damien du Bourg. What Marley doesn’t realize until finding out later, is that Damien is a blast from the past – specifically the 18th century. While this wasn’t normally the type of story I’m interested, this tale of Faustian bargains, a missing sister, a love that might be doomed, and angels and demons had me reading late into the night. As the hours passed, I was progressively freaked out with the EXORCIST vibe I got from the story. While the hero and heroine have a hopeful ending, several things left me feeling uneasy in only the way that a tale of horror and suspense can.
Although she’d begun to accept the idea that the killer was a supernatural creature, her practical mind continued to rebel against the unexplainable. —HIS FINAL GIRL, Brooklyn Ann
While some of the books I’ve discussed here just happen to resemble a horror film, author Brooklyn Ann has said that they’ve heavily inspired her B Mine series. One of the ways this series pays homage to classic horror B movies is by naming characters after notable actors and directors. Brooklyn Ann puts her stamp on these themes and creates her unique stories set in the 1980s. The first book in the series, HIS FINAL GIRL, has most of the action take place at a camp and is evocative of FRIDAY THE 13TH. Often in these books, the hero and heroine are brought together by the dark paranormal forces at work that make their newly formed connection stronger and more intense. The strengths of this series are the characters and the sense of danger whether from humans or some supernatural entity. My favorite of the series is MY SCREAM QUEEN. The villainess is a teen mean girl who kills for power. The bodies pile up quickly, but I find the deaths especially tragic because the author has you get to know the characters before they’re targeted for a grisly death. The hero and heroine get closer as they play detective.
Nika looked like a monster. A cross between a zombie and the vampire of myth. —MILE HIGH WITH A VAMPIRE, Lynsay Sands
I was drawn to the Argeneau vampire series by Lynsay Sands because of recommendations from other paranormal romance readers. I loved the early books with their mix of romance and humor. Often, I’d find myself laughing out loud to some of the farcical situations and witty dialogue. At some point, the books became more action/suspense rather than cozy funny paranormal romance. With her latest release, MILE HIGH WITH A VAMPIRE, I was both surprised and delighted by the tone of the first few chapters. When a plane carrying immortal women and two human pilots crashes, it takes the story into horror territory. Apart from the tragic death of one of the pilots, thigs get desperate and deadly for the survivors. While the immortals are normally good people, near fatal injuries have them desperate for human blood to repair their damage. The women become fierce, yet skeletal zombie-like creatures with superhuman strength to get the blood they need. The adrenaline rush for the hero and heroine, coupled with the foreboding wooded landscape, create a cinematic fearscape for readers to enjoy even as they worry over the fate of the main characters. The ethical questions and struggle for survival make me think of THE WALKING DEAD while the blood lust was reminiscent of something like NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD with vampires instead of zombies. The way the hero and heroine form a bond and foster an attraction under such unusual circumstances is a seamless marriage of romance, suspense, and horror.
Love mattered, in the end. A house without love would always fall, maybe not today or tomorrow, but in the end without love nothing could endure. —BULLET, Laurell K. Hamilton
Many readers consider Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series to be Urban Fantasy. For me, however, there’s enough romance in this series to make me happy. One of my favorite books in the series is AFFLICTION. There are loads of thrills and chills, but I would say that there is just about as much romance. Anita Blake, a necromancer and Federal Marshal with powerful Master Vampire connections and shifter abilities, is polyamorous and has several love interests. In AFFLICTION, even with all the death and danger battling flesh eating zombies or witnessing vampire possession, her lovers are there to support her physically or emotionally, making those relationships stronger. While it may not have the traditional monogamous HEA that some of my favorite romance novels have, this book has healthy romantic relationships and swoon-worthy moments. Between Anita’s relationships and so many creep-tastic scenes, this book would make an excellent movie. At one point when the rotting vampires wreak havoc in a hospital, all I can think of are the amazing animated skeletons from the 1963 JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS film.
Running into a burning building probably wasn’t the smartest move Kenton Lake had ever made. Then again, sadly, it wasn’t his dumbest either. —DEADLY FEAR, Cynthia Eden
For me, Cynthia Eden writes some of the best romantic suspense novels. The eerie settings give you chills, the complex characters pull you in, and the sex scenes are amazing. It’s also obvious from the stories themselves, as well as her posts on social media, that she’s a huge fan of scary movies. The books in her Trouble for Hire series read like smart slasher films. Likewise, her LOST series features a team of former cops, criminal profilers, and FBI agents among others with a spine-chilling twist: one of the points of view is from the unknown serial killer or psychopath. But where I think Cynthia Eden shines is when she focuses on the “Frankenstein’s monster” theme, which is best shown through her Phoenix Fire series. The evil Genesis lab keeps supernatural beings locked away and tortured through experiments to create an ultimate weapon of destruction. The science portrayed here is perverted and people unnecessarily suffer a result. The heroes or heroines of these novels are often captive and must figure out how to best utilize their powers for good rather than be manipulated or tortured for some wicked purpose. Working together to free themselves and discovering their identity creates an intense bond between these characters. Their love usually becomes a powerful force to destroy the evil entity in the story. Additionally, Cynthia Eden’s Lazarus Rising series is a mix of the Frankenstein theme and THE BOURNE IDENTITY. While shadowy government figures and evil doctors are the villains, psychos and other supervillains provide the scare factor and sense of panic, but the questions the soldiers have over their identity and memory loss may be the scariest thing for those characters.
A little of his blood seeped into her mouth. From all the hype, it was supposed to be like drinking ambrosia. Only it wasn’t. It was blood, and it tasted like blood.
So much for the Anne Rice bullshit. The taste made it a little easier to keep her mouth shut. —IF ANGELS BURN, Lynn Viehl
When I first read IF ANGELS BURN, the first novel in Lynn Viehl’s Darkyn series, it was incredibly different from any vampire romance I read before. The first book introduces and focuses on Dr. Alexandra Keller and vampire Michael Cyprien. In subsequent books, Alex and Michael’s relationship is the “B” romance and evolves in interesting, beautiful, powerful, and occasionally painful ways. The first book, however, I struggled with because I found IF ANGELS BURN to be more horror than the paranormal romance conventions I expected. I also didn’t like Alex as much as the heroines from series like Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress series or the aforementioned Anita Blake. I wondered why she couldn’t let Michael love her. But when looking at Alex from a different perspective later, when a scary vampire is trying to mess with her life and possibly change it completely, the normal reaction would be to pump the breaks in a big way, and perhaps try to flee from someone who cares for her deeply. Alex meets Michael when she is brought in to reconstruct his face, like a cross between a monster movie and mob boss saga. Michael is a charmer, but he doesn’t understand Alex’s hesitation. It’s not until after they class with the insidious and sadistic Brethren, a pseudo-religious secret society who the sworn enemies of Michael and his group of darkyn vampires, that he learns about Alex’s insistence on independence. If this book went by classic horror film rules, she would easily be the lone survivor. She’s smart, resourceful, and doesn’t fall for vampire charm easily, or become quicky manipulated. I have come to love Alex’s biting wit and how she doesn’t let the big bad monsters push her around. Although I love this series, and especially the love story between Alex and Michael, I will admit to skipping past the Brethren scenes in this first book because they’re a little too intense for my tastes.
For more reviews and recommendation columns by Miranda Owen, visit her Fresh Fiction page.