Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Romantic Horror, an Oxymoron?

Well, depending on your experiences in the realm of relationships, maybe not! I stumbled across this term for a Romance sub-genre when I visited the blog, Preternatura, and read an interview with author Marissa Farrar. She was talking about how the genre, at least in her case, picked the writer. She'd been drawn to scary stuff since her teens and she said she never felt she had a choice but to write horror. Even when she wrote something with leanings toward another genre the horror found its way in; hence her coining the term Romantic Horror.

I would define Romantic Horror as a strong romance plot combined with an equally strong horror plot; think Stephen King meets any Harlequin! Now, I am not a fan of horror movies. The tension tends to make me jumpy. I enjoy the plots though. Take the movie 1408 with John Cusack. I was so into that plot but man, when the crazy stuff started happening … I had to get up and leave the room. My husband laughed at me but I was so on edge, I couldn't stand it any longer. I went in my office and Googled the movie. I read the Wikipedia synopsis so I could find out how it ended!

But a book is different. The music isn't heightening the suspense and things aren't going to jump out at me every five seconds. Whatever occurs in a novel is limited to my imagination as far as visual impact goes-I can tone it downJ. So when I read Marissa's post and the blurb for her book I was intrigued rather than apprehensive. I am so glad that I pushed past any "fear"!

Alone is not, in my opinion, a "horror" novel, not like a Stephen King or Dean Koontz anyway. Alone is sooo much more than mere spooky stuff or gore and it is precisely because there is a strong thread of romance. The novel is the story of Serenity, a woman caught in an abusive marriage. She is walking down a crowded street in LA and suffers a panic attack. She takes off running through the crowds on the sidewalk and turns into an alley to try and calm herself. A man follows her and asks if she is all right; that is the start of a truly touching relationship.

The man is handsome beyond belief but it is the compassion and sensitivity Serenity sees in him that draws her. The initial meeting is brief but the memory of him lingers as she makes her way home and is confronted with the A-hole husband. I'm not going to go into too much detail here except to say that Sebastian, the man from the street, rescues Serenity from another round of abuse and their relationship blossoms from there.

Since it is on the blurb I'll go ahead and say that Sebastian is a vampire. The desperation he sees in her eyes at their first meeting draws him to her and over the course of the novel we learn that Sebastian, like Serenity, is afraid and tired of being alone. That is the focus of this remarkable book; a woman who clings to a horrid life because she thinks it is better than being alone and a vampire weary of his solitary "life" and longing for what he lost when he was made a vampire yet reluctant to bring the woman he loves into that life.

There is horror. Scenes that show how a vampire must feed are fairly graphic and the abuse scenes are visceral. That is what takes the novel toward the Horror genre, but to me this is women's fiction, romance, and I'd say it borders on pure literary fiction. It really is that good; thought provoking. This novel has lingered in my mind for over a week and I highly recommend it.

I think it is sticking with me because it touches on a theme that I have pontificated on for years; the idea that women tend to identify who they are by the man they are with. I see so many young women, teens through twenties that focus their energies on finding and keeping a man. It is as if they won't be complete without one. Then they get one, marry, and have kids. Their thirties are filled with being the perfect wife and mother. They let it consume them and subjugate their personal passions for it. Then they hit their forties and all too often discover that they resent all of the things they didn't do for themselves; Career, travel, whatever was their dream. They also tend to find that with an empty nest comes a husband they don't really know or like. This may not be the norm, but for me personally I know many women in their late forties who are divorced and finally pursuing their dreams. They are business owners, singers, writers, artists; and they are happy! While not 'man haters', they have found that they don't need a man in their lives to be content. In other words, they are comfortable being … Alone.

If you find yourself as intrigued as I was by the themes of Alone, you can get this book FREE for a limited time at Smashwords and, January 18th the author, Marissa Farrar will be joining me here! She hasn't settled on a blog topic yet so I thought if any of you want to grab a copy of Alone now, you could submit questions you might have and I will pass them along for Marissa to answer as part of her January 18th post.

So, how 'bout it? Going to read Alone? I promise it is a great read-dark, sensual, heartbreaking, poignant … I could go on but I'll restrain myself!

I'm also wondering if anyone has encountered other books that fit into the romantic horror genre. Oh, and feel free to comment on my "theory" J.



  1. What a wonderful review, Rachel. Thank you so much for writing it. I'll be coming back and re-reading it every time I have my moments of self-doubt!

  2. Excellent review. I have read Alone and Dark Road also by Marissa and concur. I was interested in what you had to say about how women change and do agree. I am some what older and have seen my friends leave their husbands too after finding out after 25 plus years that they want and need something different in their lives. For myself I know how much I have changed over the years and how I didn´t really find what I wanted to do until I was forty. Now I wish I had been born into an era where opportunities were much greater than the era I was born into. Thanks for writing Rachel.

  3. Great review! I loved ALONE as well--it injects a level of realism (in terms of the abuse, although I'm not ready to say there AREN'T vampires!) that's hard to find in today's urban fantasy/paranormal romance market.

  4. GREAT review. There were so many things I enjoyed about Alone, and yet I found I hard a hard time putting my thoughts into words because of the dark beginning.

    Your correlation with today's woman, and the changes she goes through after decades of unhappiness, made it all come together for me.

    Excellent summation and I look forward to coming back and visiting your blog again.

  5. Hi Rachel! Most excellent post. I am so not into horror, per se. I can scare myself pretty thoroughly on my own and don't need any additional creepies in the closet. However, I do enjoy the paranormals that hover on the more PG side of the horror fence. That said, and due to the ringing endorsements herein, I'm putting ALONE on my TBR list.

    Denise Golinowski

  6. Love, love, love horror. Hellraiser is one of my all time favorite movies - so that says it all. I'm going to get my copy of Alone. Will come back to visit Marissa.

  7. Hi ya'll, thanks for stopping by. I was so hoping people would drop in and find out about Alone! It didn't make it into the post but I related to Serenity because of the Alone issue. I am an only child and we lived in a neighborhood without kids; I was viewed as strange by most classmates because I was ...hmmm, smart was their perception but I think it was more the fact that I've been an adult since about 5 years old :), I was just too mature for them and couldn't relate to peers.
    Anyway, I always wanted to fit in, thought having the boyfriend would do it, even though I wasn't really interested in their immature antics, and that followed me through highschool. In fact, I married a guy three months after graduation just because he asked-yeah, I was stupid. Because of that I dropped out of college, worked a number of insignificant jobs, divorced him, went back to college, was on th right track, a friend convinced me I "needed" a boyfriend, got involved with him, moved to Virginia with him, got engaged, (of course college was long ended by that time), lived on the brink of poverty ... I could go on and on. Finally left the fiance learned I could sing and people would actually listen BUT then I met my husband. Now, that is one thing I don't regret :) but at the same time I turned down a fairly lucrative opportunity to sing on a professional Karaoke circuit (think of that Gwyneth Paltrow/Huey Lewis movie)and again put my life on hold.
    It wasn't until I hit my mid thirties that I started to resent what I hadn't done. Nobody's fault but mine (hey, a great Led Zeppelin tune!) but I still thought I'd wasted my life. I thought about going back to school, thought about and did join a local band for a while, but I didn't really know what I was looking for except recognition that I wasn't wasting oxygen.
    Writing a book was proof to myself that I could finish what I started out to do (I tend to drop things) and getting published was an affirmation that I matter and that I have a purpose; sorry about the purge of soul stuff :) BUT that is why I loved, Alone.
    My hope is that other women, younger and presumably still dumb :) will find out the error in their thinking before they hit middle age.

  8. I'm off to check out that book on Smashwords - thanks for the recommendation, I'm always looking for something on my new Nook!

    I'm going to agree with the whole "needing a man" idea of feeling whole and complete when you're young. I married young too. I'm still married to the same guy - but yes, at 40, the lightbulb went on that it was time to follow my own dreams of writing romance.

  9. This is a beautiful, great review! I have not yet read Marissa's novel, though she's a co-blogger with me on several blogs and we've both been published by Vamplit, simply because now, in my late 30's, I'm getting out of what I finally realized was a bad marriage. Not exactly abusive, but very controlling, and I'd no idea how much of myself I'd lost until I separated. It felt for years like something was missing from my life, and now I realize -- it was me!

    I do hope to get to Marissa's novel later in the year, as well as The Dark Road. Thanks for a terrific review and I look forward to following your blog, Rachel!

  10. What a great review, Rachel. After reading this, I'm not sure what else to say in my review. Maybe I'll send everyone from Goodreads here. :)
    I was honored to win Alone in a blog contest, and I'm looking forward to Marissa's post.

  11. Horror scares the bejeebers out of me. I've never been one to enjoy those types of movies. Like you, I just can't force myself to sit through them. ALONE sounds like an interesting read and I'll definitely be checking it out. I think I could handle it. Your theory? I think you hit the nail on the head. Too many women are brain-washed into thinking they have no identity if they don't have a man. I guess we're still struggling to find a comfortable spot with the independence we finally see at the end of a long dark tunnel. Excellent post!

  12. This also didn't make it into the post (hey, I have a lot to say I just can't always work it all in :)), but I think the rise of the Woman's Lib movement in the 60's came from the cycle of women I mentioned in my theory. "Donna Reed" types spent so much of their lives putting other people's needs above their own that when they snapped they went full tilt militant: I think there is a happy medium to be found.

  13. I used to watch/read Stephen King. I still think he is a literary master. I just can't get into horror anymore in the most graphic of the word. I used to fall asleep reading True Crime and all those real life detective mags, hubby and I had/have(?) every 'Dead' movie ever made. I wanted to go to a rodeo one day, in the mid 80's, on a date night- we ended up at the most recent 'Dead' movie instead. Now I leave the room/house to avoid them. But I downloaded Marissa's book. Why? Vamp hero!

    Thanks Rachel.

  14. Hey Calisa,
    Just bought Nicole Hadaway's book, Release. WWII vampires helping the resistance in Poland-a favorite time period of mine AND vampires, what's not to love? I downloaded her short story, Egypt 1906 which features the brother and sister vampires from Release: that made me go buy Release-excellent stuff!

  15. Marissa is "terror-ific" in my book! What a great review and a lovely blog. Thanks for Marissa for the heads-up.

    Nice to meet you Rachel. I'm a southern girl too (from Bama) so we gotta support each other. Ya know?