Romance novels as we know them now wouldn’t seem to be the most natural choice for a Halloween read. We don’t think of scary stories as ending with current romance’s prescribed Happily Ever After or even Happily For Now. But most of the romance writers I know are avid fans of horror as a genre, and a lot of them, myself included, are deeply influenced by the darkest elements of horror narrative, even in their lightest works. And to us, it makes perfect sense.
And actually, horror and romance have been going steady since the beginning of both genres. Dr. Frankenstein’s monster tortured his creator not for spite but to force him to make him a mate. Bram Stoker’s Dracula is more about female sexuality and the male Victorian’s terror of the female orgasm than it is about sucking blood. Wuthering Heights is both a terrifying ghost story and a tragic romance. Most of Edgar Allan Poe’s poems and stories include some kind of love story—that raven was quothing “Nevermore” about the poet’s lost beloved. Early gothic novels like The Monk and The Castle of Otranto always featured a heroine in peril who must be rescued from a fate worse than death at the hands (or other parts) of a monster by a stalwart hero. Even that paragon of clear-eyed sensibility, Jane Austen, knew the genre well enough to parody it brilliantly in Northanger Abbey. Both horror and romance require a similar kind of heightened reality to work. Both take place in a world where emotions run high, where every day mundane reality gets put on hold, where the characters are standing at a crossroads, in crisis, ready to save or lose or change their lives forever. In romance, the presence of horror makes the love story that much more exciting. It raises the stakes to a place a story about a book editor choosing which stock broker to marry just can’t reach.
In my own work, the connection between horror and romance has always been blatantly obvious. Most of my books are paranormals; I write happy endings for witches, vampires, angels and faeries. I would call my most recently-published paranormal romance, Strange as Angels, an extremely scary horror story which just happens to have a romance at its center. The heroine, Chelsea, is an artist who has just lost her husband to cancer, an event horrific enough all by itself. Broken by grief, she is on the verge of suicide when she is noticed by Tristram, a seraph who decides to help her, to save her by keeping her alive until she can save herself. In the process, he falls in love with her and brings her to the attention of Lucifer himself (known here as the accuser), who makes it his mission to seduce her to evil, drive her to kill herself, then take her soul to hell:
“No,” Tristram ordered. “Don’t you dare.”
“Oh, brother, I dare,” the accuser said, cutting him off. “And why should I not? As long as I do not directly cause her death, I can do whatever I like.” The leer on his face was much uglier than the scar. “As often as I like . . . for as long as I like. I can even make her like it.”
He fails in the end, of course—it’s still a romance. But the journey this couple takes to their happy-for-now ending is anything but hearts and flowers. It’s the only romance I can think of where the hero literally follows his love to hell and back.
Buy Strange as Angels at these links:
Purple Sword Publications: http://purplesword.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=148
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/strange-as-angels-lucy-blue/1116999037?ean=2940148632498
With my latest book, Christabel’s Tale, I’ve lightened up a lot, but the horror DNA is, 2014.... just in time for Halloween.
About the Author: I usually write paranormal romance, including Strange as Angels, a gothic horror love story with angels and demons, and my upcoming release, Christabel’s Tale, a contemporary fairy tale, both published by Purple Sword Publications. I have also written some straightforward, non-magical contemporary fiction, including the on-going Scarlett Cross series about a Hollywood princess, which began with my current release Alpha Romeo, also with Purple Sword. I used to be a mid-list writer of historical fantasy romance for Pocket Books back when mid-list writers were still a thing. For Pocket, I wrote the Bound in Darkness series, a trilogy of dark vampire romances, and the Falconskeep series, gothic faery tales of a witching dynasty in the castle culture of medieval England. My books have sold thousands of copies in paperback and e-book worldwide and have been translated into German and Italian.