Eat Your Heart Out: A 5-Course Meal of Horror-Romance-ish Reads For Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day. Roses. Chocolates. Cutesy stuffed animals and fancy dinners. A baby with a bow. February is a month for lovers, but even with so much sweetness in the air, there’s still plenty to enjoy for those whose tastes run a little darker. 

Beyond the tried-and-true staples of gothic romance and sultry affairs with dangerous creatures (Dracula, Jane Eyre, Carmilla), there is a veritable feast of horror options for your romantic Valentine’s Day menu. Here’s a curated five-course dining experience with some of the most heart-pumping horror out there.

Hors d'oeuvres: "Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke and Other Misfortunes" by Eric LaRocca (Titan, 2022)

Prime your palate with this tasty collection of “three dark and disturbing horror stories.” A sampler of three, each installment in this collection offers something for horror readers to enjoy—from a macabre digital romance that leads to a strange offspring between a lonely woman and her online paramour, a grieving couple in terror on a remote island, and a dangerous game between neighbors. Bram Stoker Award®-nominated and Splatterpunk Award-winning author LaRocca’s readers know to expect beauty in terrible places, and the titular story of this collection is the apple of many a deserving eye.

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Appetizer: "Hungry Business" by Maria DeBlassie (Kitchen Witch Press, 2020)

Make time for this 30-minute Valentine’s Day aperitif. If you think dating is a hard scene now, it’s even worse when there’s few warm bodies to choose from—and the cold ones have an appetite for more than a quick bite at a blind date. What’s left of humanity has been divided into two classes—the Hungries and the ones still breathing—and a lonely woman’s love life is worse than ever in this brief, tongue-in-cheek zombie “romance” story. Plus, there’s a cat.

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Salad: "Queen of Teeth" by Hailey Piper (Strangehouse Books, 2021)

Hailey Piper takes a bite out of horror-romance in this Bram Stoker Award®-winning debut. Even better, it’s not mouth-teeth this exotic novel digs in with. Piper makes vagina dentata incredibly sexy when Yaya Betancourt goes from discovering teeth between her thighs to—er—blooming into a creature that is hunted by one of the most powerful corporations in America. It’s a love story wrapped in a monster story wrapped in a LGBT romance wrapped in a sharp discourse on women’s bodily agency—and it’s divine

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Main course: "Sister, Maiden, Monster" by Lucy A. Snyder (Tor Nightfire, 2023)

Brand new this month, Bram Stoker Award®-winner Lucy A. Snyder ushers our meal into its main course. Snyder’s newest is more cosmic horror than romance, but that’s not to say it's without heart—a love letter, of sorts, to humanity’s end. There’s heartbreak, desire, amorous relationships, and even a fair bit of pretty kinky sex in this suction-cup-you-to-the-page tale of three women’s journeys to survive an apocalyptic nightmare in a world ravaged by a virus that mutates everyone in terrible ways. And that’s just the beginning.

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Dessert: "Hold My Place" by Cassondra Windwalker (Black Spot Books, 2022)

Helen Kay Chapbook Award-winning poet Cassondra Windwalker weaves a dark romance of haunting prose in this gothic novella where unsuspecting librarian, Sigrun, falls head-over-heels for a married man and soon finds herself caught up in a whirlwind romance. When Edgar’s wife passes away suddenly, Sigrun discovers that Octavia wasn't her new man’s first lost love—or even his second. As she delves into her beloved's past, Sigrun tells herself it's impossible for dark magic to be at play—the dead can't possibly inhabit the bodies of the living—but the end of Sigrun and Edgar’s love story has anything but a sweet ending. 

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We hope you enjoyed your dining experience this evening. Have a horrifically romantic Valentine's Day!

Lindy Ryan

Column by Lindy Ryan

Lindy Ryan is an award-winning author/editor, short film director, and professor. She is the founder of Black Spot Books, a small press with a mission to amplify voices of women-in-horror. Ryan previously served on the Board of Directors for IBPA, and is currently co-chair of the Horror Writers Association Publishers Council. She is an active member of the HWA and ITW, and was named one of Publishers Weekly's Star Watch Honorees 2020.

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