Am I Asking the Impossible for Halloween?

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

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25 Responses to “Am I Asking the Impossible for Halloween?”

  1. The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James was a very satisfying romance and incredibly and legitimately creepy with the added bonus of being post world war historical – I loved it.

  2. LeeB. says:

    I definitely don’t want to read creepy or scary stories (or see creepy or scary movies) because they do creep and scare me. But I agree with Molly O’Keefe. Though it was a little creepy for me, I did enjoy that book.

  3. I definitely second the “Haunting of Maddy Clare” rec!

    You might also want to check out John Harwood’s “The Seance”, which piles on that Victorian ghost story atmosphere but ends happily.

    Also, just about anything by Barbara Michaels…. “The Crying Child” used to give me chills. Her books have that old fashioned frisson of fear and invariably include a component romance.

    • Leigh AAR says:

      Lauren Willig: I definitely second the “Haunting of Maddy Clare” rec!You might also want to check out John Harwood’s “The Seance”, which piles on that Victorian ghost story atmosphere but ends happily.Also, just about anything by Barbara Michaels….“The Crying Child” used to give me chills.Her books have that old fashioned frisson of fear and invariably include a component romance.

      Oh, I love Barbara Michaels books. While I do like her Elizabeth Peters books, I have re-read the books under the Michaels name more.

    • AAR Lynn says:

      Oh, I’m going to have to check these out – especially Haunting of Maddy Clare. I’ve read Michaels in the past and loved some of her books (Be Buried in the Rain was one that got to me when I first read it), but it’s been a long time since I reread any. I looked up some reviews and I’m thinking they must be creepier than I appreciated or remembered back in high school/college.

  4. Leigh AAR says:

    I haven’t read creepy in a long, long time. I do remember loving books by Leigh Nichols. It was revealed later that Leigh was Dean koontz. The books are more psychological thrillers and they are from the 1980′s so I am not sure how they have held up. But here they are:

    The Key to Midnight (1979) (writing as Leigh Nichols)
    The Eyes of Darkness (1981) (writing as Leigh Nichols)
    The House of Thunder (1982) (writing as Leigh Nichols)
    The Servants of Twilight (1984) (writing as Leigh Nichols)
    Shadow Fires (1987) (writing as Leigh Nichols)

    • maggie b. says:

      Koontz also wrote a book called Lightning which is intensly romantic and kinda scary. In fact, I can remember a lot of his books having romance but going over his titles on Amazon I can’t remember which they are.

  5. maggie b. says:

    I’ll third Simone St. James and add Holly Lisle to the list. They are very close to King in intensity.

    Her books are:

    Midnight Rain
    Last Girl Dancing
    Night Echoes
    I See You

    These are seriously scary but have great HEA’s.

    Erin Grady is not quite as scary or edgy but she is more intense than a lot of books out there.

    Echoes
    Whispers

  6. Eggletina says:

    Maybe Elizabeth Hand’s Waking the Moon would be of interest? Regardless of whether you like her older woman/younger man pairing, there’s no denying the book crackles with atmosphere and has some genuinely creepy moments.

  7. Jim says:

    For creepy plus romantic, Jennifer Crusie has “Maybe This Time”. It’s not a halloween story, but it definitely has ghosts.

  8. Valarie P says:

    Ok, I’ve got one, although it is a M/M romance (so fair warning)/ghost story, and it kind of freaked me out a little bit. While there was a romance in it, the story was really focused on the ghost story aspect of it and it was a great little story for Halloween. Give Abigail Roux’s The Gravedigger’s Brawl a try.

  9. Mark says:

    It’s been a while since I read it, but a trilogy by Linda Fallon might qualify:
    Shades of Midnight
    Shades of Winter
    Shades of Scarlet

  10. Gothic romances have always appealed to me because of that combination of spookiness and romance. I’m glad to see Barbara Michaels getting some love, because she is superb at that genre. (I miss her, too–I wish Elizabeth Peters would revert to Barbara Michaels long enough to give us some new gothics!)

    Although “Rebecca” is more famous, I’ve always been very fond of Daphne du Maurier’s “Jamaica Inn.” Great gothic atmosphere (although nothing supernatural happens, there’s lots of danger) and a sexy vagabond love interest for the feisty heroine.

    • AAR Lynn says:

      Oh, that sounds like a good one! I’ve read a fair amount of du Maurier’s books, but never Jamaica Inn.

      • I definitely recommend it! I avoided it for years because I thought it took place in Jamaica, which didn’t sound like a very gothicy setting–but it’s actually set on the bleak English moors.

      • Lynn, you MUST read Jamaica Inn. It’s my favourite du Maurier novel. And I’ll add my rec to the ones above for The Haunting of Maddy Clare. I read it in uncorrected proofs and really liked it–it has a great Dorothy L. Sayers meets Shirley Jackson vibe, and great characters.

  11. willaful says:

    Well, the romantic element is… unusual to say the least, and for that matter so is the horror, but Farthing by Jo Walton scared the pants off of me.

  12. NBLibGirl says:

    Great post! I’ve got a couple of new books to check out as a result. I’m not a big horror reader so my recommendations might be better for people who prefer lighter/funnier reads but I’ve put the following on a list of recommended Halloween reads:
    A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb (ghosts)
    Souless by Gail Carriger (all manner of beasties)
    Repossessed by AM Jenkins (demon/fallen angel)

  13. Another book I’ve heard wonderful things about is Tryst, by Elswyth Thane. It’s an older book, and I can’t vouch for the ending as I haven’t read it yet, but it sounded so good I went out and hunted down a copy so I could have it to read as a treat for a day when I’m needing something Wonderful.

  14. I remember Echoes by Erin Grady as spine-tingling. It got a DIK review here at AAR, too:

    http://likesbooks.com/cgi-bin/bookReview.pl?BookReviewId=34

  15. BettyB says:

    I loved Asking for Trouble by Leslie Kelly. It was a burried Treasure in 2006.