When I finished my poetry collection Love For Slaughter back in 2016, I had no idea how to send out this collection of what I dubbed “horrormance” to markets. Luckily, my macabre little creation found a home with StrangeHouse Books and was published in 2017, but the term horrormance has stuck with me ever since. To me, a work of horrormance is mainly horror, but with strong romance (or erotica) elements that help drive the plot. I love reading works that combine these elements, and this February I wanted to share some of my favorites with you!
Plus, since it’s my website, I’m allowed to self-promote — so if you haven’t checked out Love For Slaughter yet, come step into my laboratory where kisses bleed and lovers drive each other to madness.
*NOTE: This list is not meant to be conclusive (or gigantic). I just want to highlight a few that I have enjoyed — please feel free to recommend more in the comments! I’m always down for reading more horrormance.
I want to begin with two anticipated reads before I get into the recommendations.
Synopsis: “A lyrical and dreamy reimagining of Dracula’s brides, A DOWRY OF BLOOD is a story of desire, obsession, and emancipation. Saved from the brink of death by a mysterious stranger, Constanta is transformed from a medieval peasant into a bride fit for an undying king. But when Dracula draws a cunning aristocrat and a starving artist into his web of passion and deceit, Constanta realizes that her beloved is capable of terrible things. Finding comfort in the arms of her rival consorts, she begins to unravel their husband’s dark secrets. With the lives of everyone she loves on the line, Constanta will have to choose between her own freedom and her love for her husband. But bonds forged by blood can only be broken by death.”
Queen of Teeth by Hailey Piper — I want to thank Hailey so much because I asked her if she could share a little insight into her forthcoming debut novel and what role horrormance plays. Here’s what Hailey had to say:
“QUEEN OF TEETH chews at horromance when it thrusts together from page 1 Yolanda ‘Yaya’ Betancourt and Docia ‘Doc’ Hall. Shortly after a hookup where Yaya bleeds in Doc’s bed, it seems their paths aren’t again to cross until Yaya’s discovery inside her body sends her running from dangerous authorities. Sex and bloodshed paint hers and Doc’s relationship, and both assert there’s nothing more to it, but as Yaya’s condition takes on startling new elements, both must confront whether they really mean that distance or if maybe their individual troubles and trauma keep them from facing what else might be growing between them. A monster? Love? Or something stranger that’s a little of both?”
WOW. I need this book right now. Thank you for the teaser, Hailey!
Deathless by Catherynne Valente: One of my favorite books of all time. I adore Valente’s work so much. Deathless combines dark fantasy, Russian folklore, and an intense, twisted relationship between Marya Morevna and Koschei the Deathless. This gorgeous, wicked book has some of the most beautiful lines that I still think about all the time.
Two of my favorite quotes from Deathless:
“You will always fall in love, and it will always be like having your throat cut, just that fast.”
“I do not tolerate a world emptied of you. I have tried. For a year I have called every black tree Marya Morevna; I have looked for your face in the patterns of the ice. In the dark, I have pored over the loss of you like pale gold.”
The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo: What a stunning book. The atmosphere, world-building, character arcs, and overall storytelling were all things I adored. This one contains more quiet horror and darkness, but those moments are nonetheless powerful as we follow Li Lan through historical Malacca, and then through a spirit world ruled in both intrigue and terror.
From the synopsis: “After an ominous visit to the opulent Lim mansion, Li Lan finds herself haunted not only by her ghostly would-be suitor, but also by her desire for the Lim’s handsome new heir, Tian Bai. Night after night, she is drawn into the shadowy parallel world of the Chinese afterlife, with its ghost cities, paper funeral offerings, vengeful spirits and monstrous bureaucracy—including the mysterious Er Lang, a charming but unpredictable guardian spirit. Li Lan must uncover the Lim family’s darkest secrets—and the truth about her own family—before she is trapped in this ghostly world forever…”
Nightbird by David Busboom: A quick read full of rich prose, elements of the Lilith myth, and a great balance of terror and sexy. Interesting arcs and raw characters who I quickly became invested in. It looks like this book is currently out of print, but maybe the author has a few copies on hand.
Synopsis: “Sixteen-year-old Isaac just wanted to see a midnight movie. He didn’t expect to meet the woman of his dreams: more beautiful, mature, and intelligent than any of Isaac’s high-school crushes, and (best of all) willing to fulfill his fantasies! So what if she didn’t have a computer, a phone, a car, or a job? So what if she shares an isolated farmhouse with a half-dozen insatiable, love-crazed people, all aching for her attention? She was ready and willing.”
You and Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes, with the third book in the series on the way! You Love Me is scheduled to hit shelves in April, and I can’t wait. I absolutely love this series — if you’ve only watched the Netflix show and haven’t read the books yet, trust me, you NEED to read the books! Kepnes’ writing style is addictive, laced with brilliant dark humor as we follow Joe on his twisted journey to manipulate, terrorize, and consume the women who have captured his sick heart.
Burning Love and Bleeding Hearts edited by Louise Zedda-Sampson and Chris Mason: I do have a few poems in this one, but it’s a charity collection for the Red Cross bushfire appeal, and fits so perfectly with the horrormance theme! With both poetry and prose, the anthology offers a little something for everyone, and it’s for such a great cause! I also really love the cover art by Luke Spooner! Featuring work by James Dorr, Michael Arnzen, Erik Hofstatter, Nadja Maril, Kurt Newton, Claire Fitzpatrick and many more.
Synopsis: “It’s okay to watch. Watching hurts no one, as long as you don’t touch.
Elwin likes to watch. His position as star employee at a real estate agency gives him plenty of access to the homes of his clients. A camera or two hidden where no one will find it, and he can watch as often as he pleases. No one knows. No one gets hurt. But it’s hard to look without touching. Touching leads to bad things. Elwin knows this, but allows himself a moment of weakness. And then another. Soon, watching isn’t an option anymore. Not if Elwin wants his secrets to remain buried.”
Needless to say, this book goes in directions I was not expecting, and I could not put it down. I don’t want to give too much away since it’s a quick read, but definitely pick it up during this horrormance season!
Exquisite Corpse by Poppy Z. Brite: This one probably isn’t a shocker since I talk about the book all the time, but it’s pretty hard to forget after you read it. There are certain scenes that have haunted me, and at the same time, have probably helped influence my writing style. I’d recommend looking up the content warnings for this one, because it definitely isn’t for everyone, but I absolutely love this book.
Synopsis: “To serial slayer Andrew Compton, murder is an art, the most intimate art. After feigning his own death to escape from prison, Compton makes his way to the United States with the sole ambition of bringing his “art” to new heights. Tortured by his own perverse desires, and drawn to possess and destroy young boys, Compton inadvertently joins forces with Jay Byrne, a dissolute playboy who has pushed his “art” to limits even Compton hadn’t previously imagined. Together, Compton and Byrne set their sights on an exquisite young Vietnamese-American runaway, Tran, whom they deem to be the perfect victim.”
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn: Most of you have probably read the book (or watched the movie), but I’m a big fan of all of Flynn’s work, and this sick novel definitely belongs on a horrormance list. From the synopsis: “With her razor-sharp writing and trademark psychological insight, Gillian Flynn delivers a fast-paced, devilishly dark, and ingeniously plotted thriller that confirms her status as one of the hottest writers around.”
Quote from Gone Girl: “I was told love should be unconditional. That’s the rule, everyone says so. But if love has no boundaries, no limits, no conditions, why should anyone try to do the right thing ever? If I know I am loved no matter what, where is the challenge?”
Sed de Sangre by V. Castro: Three short tales of erotic horror that were such a blast to read. Bloodlust, vampires, clever women who know what they want and how to get it…Castro’s writing is hypnotic, and these sexy tales will lure you deep into their wicked worlds.
Quote from Sed de Sangre: “Two humans, I can’t say what gender, race, or age because they are nearly stripped to the bone. It doesn’t really matter who you are in this state. We are all like this underneath it all and at birth; blind, writhing meat.”
This last one I want to mention before moving on to some poetry recs (keep scrolling to see these!) is likely difficult to find anymore (at least a physical copy) since it was part of a kickstarter, but if you’re familiar with NBC’s Hannibal series, the super-fans who love “Hannigram” (the shipping of Hannibal and Will Graham) created a beautiful anthology. Raw is such a stunning example of the power of fanfiction and fan art — around 50 writers and artists contributed to the book. Don’t ever underestimate the power of Fannibals! I’ve included some photos from my copy below.
Synopsis: “Richard Siken’s Crush, selected as the 2004 winner of the Yale Younger Poets prize, is a powerful collection of poems driven by obsession and love. Siken writes with ferocity, and his reader hurtles unstoppably with him. His poetry is confessional, gay, savage, and charged with violent eroticism.”
Quote from Crush:
“Tell me how all this, and love too, will ruin us.
These, our bodies, possessed by light.
Tell me we’ll never get used to it.”
The Demeter Diaries by Marge Simon and Bryan D. Dietrich: A striking collection that draws inspiration from Mina Harker and Vlad Dracula’s deadly courtship. Each poem holds its own beautiful tale dotted with blood and danger, yet the poems play off one another perfectly. The collection flows the way a prose story does, which I think heightens its appeal to poetry lovers and those who don’t read as much poetry alike. No matter where you stand, pick up this stunning collection of love, lust, darkness, and macabre beauty. One of my favorite collections of poetry I’ve read in years. Also the artwork included within the collection is gorgeous!
“I want to sing inside you the way the dead / sing inside the sea, the way the last red / owl glows within the trunk of the last blasted tree”
If You Died Tomorrow I Would Eat Your Corpse by Wrath James White: Brutal and gorgeous, this collection mostly features erotic horror poems and be warned, it’s not for everyone. But if you’re willing to take a dive into something with no boundaries, something that creatively plays with blood and romance, take a deep breath and wade into White’s gritty, writhing collection.
Forthcoming — Lost Letters to a Lover’s Carcass by Ronald J. Murray — I had the opportunity to read this one early, and it’s such a beautiful, dark, powerful collection. It truly is a strong followup to Murray’s Cries to Kill the Corpse Flower. Keep this one on your radar! The cover reveal actually just happened two days ago, and it’s quite striking, so go check it out!!
*A short story by Kathryn McGee. I love Kathryn’s writing, and this creepy short really delivers. I can’t say too much without giving anything away, but make sure to check out “Any Given Night” over on Kelp Journal. There’s so much about the story that’s deeply unsettling, and it’s just wonderfully written.
*Horrormance music? I’ve got you covered. Check out the Love For Slaughter playlist I made over on Spotify.
*Movie Rec: Only Lovers Left Alive