Seven Spooky Stories #Halloween #LuckyNumber

I am an enabler. That’s what my friends call me, anyway. An enabler. The one they turn to when they need a good book recommendation. Back in the day (before ebooks) I used to run an informal lending library, and if a book was really fantastic I’d buy multiple copies so I’d be sure to have one on hand if someone wanted to borrow it.

Enabler or addict? Not sure.

Though it’s possible to lend ebooks, it’s not as easy as throwing a paperback in your purse and passing it off to someone. But back in the day I didn’t have blogging opportunities, either, so I guess there are trade-offs. I can’t hand you a paperback, but I can still tell you about some really good books…

giphy ghosts

I’m not much for truly frightening stories – I’ve only read one Steven King novel, never read The Amityville Horror, couldn’t finish The Passage – but for this post I did want to keep things seasonal, you know? So I came up with a list of seven spooky, romantic stories that I would totally lend you if I could.

Hainted
Amazon

Hainted by Jordan L. Hawk

This book is amazing! I’ve reread it at least four times because it’s just that cool. Dan is a haint-worker, which means he has the skills to lay the dead to rest when they crawl up out of their graves. Leif shows up on Dan’s doorstep in the North Carolina hills, asking for help in fighting an evil necromancer. Leif’s got secrets, Dan’s got a few of his own, and the haints keep rising. I love the setting and the mythology and the intensity of the attraction between Leif & Dan. Good stuff.

Secret Casebook of Simon Fleximal
Amazon

The Secret Casebook of Simon Fleximal by KJ Charles

Simon Fleximal is a ghost hunter, and his novel is really a series of linked stories. A couple of the stories had been previously available as free downloads, and while they were good, reading them in the context of the larger work made them even better. Simon is grim and fairly frightening, and his stories are told by his lover Robert. The dark, Victorian atmosphere in this one is about as spooky as I like to get, but it makes a wonderful setting for Ms. Charles to explore human nature. 

The Haunting of Maddy Clare
Amazon

The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James

Another ghost hunter story, but this time the ghost is really, really pissed off. I read this book in July, in my parent’s RV, near the shore of Lake Crescent, which is one of the loveliest spots on earth – but in my head I was off on a misty English countryside. Set right after WWI, there are some romance-y bits, some frightening moments, and a tight mystery plot. Overall, though, my memory of this story is of a lovely vacation from my vacation, and a thoroughly entertaining read.

Gravedigger's Brawl
Amazon

The Gravediggers Brawl by Abigail Roux

This is a contemporary story with a cool historic feel. Wyatt works at a museum, and Ash’s personal style has a heavy Gasslight vibe (which basically means he coordinates his tongue rings with his suspenders.) Somewhere I read that Gasslight is like Steampunk without the steam or the punk, but that angle – and the character of Ash – were pretty damned appealing. The mysterious haunting, the fun contemporary/historic vibe, and the nice little romance made for a fun read.

Restless Spirits
Amazon

Restless Spirits by Jordan L. Hawk

It’s Science vs Spiritualism in this fabulous we’re-trapped-in-a-creepy-old-house-with-a-ghost story. Henry’s an inventor who’s determined to prove his Electro-Séance machine can identify spirits faster than any old human, while Vincent is the real deal: a medium who can connect with spirits on the other side. No one is exactly what they seem, some of those spirits aren’t very friendly, and Henry and Vincent could lose more than their lives in this race. Restless Spirits recently gained a sequel, Dangerous Spirits, and though I haven’t read it, I have on good authority that it’s just as much fun – if not quite as spooky.  (And yes, this is the second book by Jordan K Hawk on my list. Whatever. She writes good fright.)

Fish and Ghosts
Amazon

Fish and Ghosts by Rhys Ford

Fish and Ghosts is another trapped-in-a-haunted-house story, but in this book one hero owns the place while the other is a professional skeptic. Tristan’s family hires Wolf Kinkaid to prove Tristan’s crazy so they can get their hands on his money, but the thing is, he’s as sane as they are. His house really is haunted – though he thinks the ghost hunter is hella sexy. This book is a happy combination of scary bits and naughty bits and a whole lot of fun.

Bitter Spirits
Amazon

Bitter Spirits by Jenn Bennett

In 1920’s San Francisco, Aida’s making her living as a medium at the Gris-Gris speakeasy. The thing is, she’s legitimately talented, and is really capable of summoning the dead. Winter’s a bootlegger with a curse problem, and it isn’t long before he has a thing for Aida too. Their chemistry is somewhere close to a 10 out of 10 (he has VERY big hands), the whodunit is fun to figure out, and I do love a good historical. Visiting the Roaring Twenties was a blast, making Bitter Spirits a terrific near-Halloween read.

There you have it. Seven Spooky Stories to keep you company while the little ones are fighting over Halloween candy. Hope you found at least a couple of them intriguing, and Happy Halloween!

The Romance Hero, or, The Man With The Biggest Hands In The World

Like every good author, I try to read in my genre. For me that means romance, and there seems to be a unifying theme in the last few books I’ve picked up.

The Big Corn And Pea Man

The heroes are HUGE.

Just yesterday I finished Bitter Spirits by Jenn Bennet. Lovely book. Loads of fun. Would read more by the author in a second. But damn, is the hero Winter Magnussen ever a big man. He’s described as a bear, as a wall, as a bull.

And yeah, in case you were wondering, ALL of his anatomy is proportional.

In contrast, the heroine Aida is petite, delicate, fragile. She’s spunky, and saves his butt more than once, but there’s always the feeling he might break her if he moves wrong.

Along the same lines, a couple weeks ago I read Silk Is For Seduction by Loretta Chase. A 2012 RITA finalist, it’s a grand book that did a tremendous job of carrying me back to 1830s England. And our hero, the Duke of Clevedon? He’s tall, and broad, and his hands are large. In fact, there were so many descriptions of his exceptional size, with particular attention to his big hands, that by the end the visual I had was of a pale, curly-haired Shaquille O’Neal dressed in Regency garb.

Perhaps not the image the author was after…

And like Bitter Spirits, the heroine in Silk is petite and feisty. I liked her and I liked the story, but as a writer, I had to wonder about the subtext. I think it’s pretty clear that by creating characters who are at the extremes when it comes to size, authors are throwing cultural expectations into hyperdrive. For some perspective, here’s a quick quote from a highly authoritative source (eHarmony.com):

“For example, taller men may be seen as more powerful and attractive, so women who are with taller men benefit by attaining a higher social status.  In addition, if height signals physical dominance, it is likely that taller men make women feel smaller, protected, and perhaps more “feminine” as well.”

Readers identify with the POV character, and these books seem determined that for the time it takes you to finish the book, you’ll see yourself as 5’1” and 105 pounds with a big ol’ stud of a man trying to get you into his bed.

It kind of creeps me out a little. Because of the extreme emphasis on size, there’s an underlying dominance/submission thing that makes me uncomfortable. It’s one thing to feel feminine and protected, quite another to worry about getting broken.

Night Circus

Not all books roll that way. Delphine Drydens BDSM/Erotic romance The Theory Of Attraction has an overt D/s storyline, and while yeah, Ivan is taller than Camille, his dominance comes from an intellectual/emotional place rather than being a result of his physical size. (And if you haven’t read Theory, you really should. It’s one of the best examples of integrating the D/s lifestyle into a character that I’ve ever come across. You end up with the feeling that Ivan pretty much had to be a Dom, that nothing else would have worked for him.)

I also don’t generally find the same subtext in m/m romance. In Hainted, Jordan L. Hawk’s fabulous book about magic workers in Appalachia, Lief is taller than Dan. There are a few references to the height difference, mostly in terms of how comfortable it was for Dan to rest his head against Leif’s shoulder. Both characters are powerful men. They have different abilities, but if somehow things changed dramatically and they started scrapping, I’m not sure which one would come out the winner.

In fact, I tried hard to think of a romance hero who WASN’T a really big guy, and the closest character I could come up with is Micah, one of Anita Blake’s boyfriends. Though he’s not technically a romance hero, he’s handsome, hung, and just about the same height she is (~ 5’3″). Their partner Nathaniel’s only about 5’7″, which makes him the giant in the threesome. And you know what? While I get that Anita’s very attracted to both of them, they do NOTHING for me. I love Micah’s emotional maturity and I love Nathaniel’s ability to ground Anita, and I’ve sure read my share of sex scenes involving them, but meh. Can’t see myself in Anita’s shoes, and not just because she’s not wearing any and in the middle of several men at once…

So as usual in my blog posts, I make some observations but don’t really have any conclusions. What do you think? Have you read books where the hero is a giant and the heroine is tiny? Do you enjoy that kind of energy, or does your inner feminist rise up screaming? Conversely, can you think of a romantic hero who’s NOT a bug guy?

It’s food for thought, if nothing else…

Peace,
Liv