Ever since I was a kid reading ghost story collections, I’ve enjoyed reading scary stories. There’s something about unsettling tales that just unlocks the imagination even if it does sometimes make one want to sleep with the lights on. I devoured(and got freaked out by) the works of Shirley Jackson, Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft, and any of a number of other storytellers of the bizarre, ghostly and disturbing. As Halloween approaches, I find myself trying to find the perfect Halloween story for a romance lover. Is there something out there both genuinely romantic and also creepy?
Romance readers certainly don’t shun things that go bump in the night. The plethora of books featuring vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters, ghosts and so on stand as testimony to that. Some of Nora Roberts’ books have a ghostly element, and I have certainly enjoyed paranormal romances striking a variety of tones, from the painfully earnest Twilight to Sookie Stackhouse to Erin Kellison’s Shadow series. However, while these books have been fun, romantic, and sometimes seriously steamy, I can’t say that they gave me the creeps or kept me up at night.
On the other side of things, I read In Cold Blood and had no desire to be home alone or out in the country by myself for weeks, Heart-Shaped Box certainly shook me up, and more than a few of Stephen King’s works have taken my mind down never-before-explored and not entirely comfortable paths. As with many romance readers, I’ve also enjoyed the very chilling Rebecca, though when one thinks about the nameless heroine’s fate, it’s not one to sweep one off one’s feet. As you can probably guess from my tone, I did enjoy these books, but I can’t say I found them romantic. At times, I’ve wondered if the need for an HEA is what keeps the horror and dark fantasy I’ve read from having much by way of a well-developed romance. However, I’ve read plenty of good books where the main characters find safety and what appears to be a happily (or at least hopefully) ever after in the end, so an upbeat ending alone certainly isn’t enough to rid a book of its genuine creepiness.
So, what am I looking for? I’d love to see the best elements of romance and horror combined if such a thing exists. I’d love to read something otherworldly where neither the romance nor the horror gets short shrift. I want a romance to move me, and I want an element of the supernatural that really is spooky. Devising lists of paranormals or ghost stories that feel romantic is pretty easy, and I can come up with a decent-sized list of spooky reads. Coming up with even one good read that is romantic while still having some genuinely scary moments eludes me.
That’s where readers come in. Help me out! Have you read a good and genuinely spine-tingling romance? Share the suggestions below because I’d love to find a fun ghost/vampire/etc… book for this time of year!
– Lynn Spencer