Rating: 4.25 stars
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Bump in the Night is a horror anthology from Riptide Publishing. It combines six different stories with a really nice range, each distinct from one another but at the same time all working well together. To me that is a hallmark of a good anthology and I think they have succeeded well here.
As I said, these stories are horror, and as such, not your typical romance fare. In half the stories there are clear romantic elements, and all of them contain sex (though in some cases dub con/non con and not always with the romantic partner). So there are some shades of what romance readers typically find in the genre, at least some of the time. But definitely don’t go into this expecting happy endings and traditional romance arcs. These stories vary in intensity from mildly creepy to truly horrific, with lots of gore, terror, and chills. I really liked this one and I think that with the right expectations, it is an anthology that lots of folks will enjoy.
Resurrection Man by Laylah Hunter
In the dark of night, Josef Leitner retrieves the body of his dead lover Adel St. Claire from the mortician. Before Adel’s death, the two men arranged it all. They planned the spells, arranged the bribe of the mortician, and thought through their escape. Now all that’s left is for Josef to put their plan into action and bring Adel back to life. Bringing back a body is not hard, but bringing the spirit along with it is much more difficult. Yet Josef has finely tuned his skills and is thrilled to find his lover returned to him. But power like this is not without sacrifices, and Josef finds Adel changed in many ways. But for the chance to once again be with the man he loves, Josef is willing to do just about anything.
This was a great story to kick off the anthology, with a nice creepy undertone throughout. You just know things aren’t going to be quite right, but at the same time I couldn’t help rooting for sweet Josef who just wants to return to the arms of the man he loves. This story manages to be sweet, sexy, and creepy all at once, the perfect combination for an anthology like this one. My only real criticism is that it ends rather abruptly. I thought I missed a page or two at first because things come to a close so quickly after the last big reveal. But overall I thought this one was great.
Mating Season by Kari Gregg
After his fiancé cheated with his boss, leaving him without a job or his lover, Danny has been depressed and out of sorts. He only wants a simple life — a job, a house, someone to love, to be needed and wanted. But now he is left alone with no money and the subject of small town gossip. When Danny’s best friend Keith suggests he take a few days break to camp around the lake, at first Danny is wary. Local legend warns against hiking and camping around the lake once fall comes. But Danny finally decides he needs a break from the mess of his life and decides to take a few days away anyway. At first things are great. Danny loves hiking and seeing the lake and the woods during the fall foliage and the crisp air is wonderful. But when he camps for the night, things take a horrible turn Danny could never imagine. One that changes his life forever.
So yeah, I know I left that fairly vague, but there is no way to explain the plot further without giving away too much. But I will just say that wow, this story is a doozy. Both horrifying and freaky with twists I never saw coming. It is intense and horrible, but incredibly fascinating at the same time, the way the best horror should be. I will warn you this is a very intense story. There is forced creature on man sex that is described in length and in detail (I think perhaps it goes on too long, to be honest). Danny is forced into a sexual encounter that he does not want and this is definitely full on tentacle porn. But if you can handle that, this story is fabulous. Chilling and terrifying and just plain horrifying in the best kind of scary story way. This is the story that has stuck with me for sure and my favorite of the anthology.
Flesh and Song by Ally Blue
Noah Rose has been a wanderer at sea, ever since he got his beloved boat Ligia at 17. For the last 8 months he has been searching for a mysterious island, one that can not be found by those who seek it. The island is said to give you your heart’s desire, for a price, and is known as the Land of the Beautiful Death. But Noah’s quest for adventure has kept him seeking the island, and now it appears he has stumbled upon it, waking from a storm to find himself anchored just off shore.
Noah assumes the island is uninhabited, but he sees what he thinks is a man through his binoculars. Upon rowing over to the island, Noah immediately finding himself drawn by a sing song voice, something calling him to find the person or creature that makes it. When he arrives at the waterfall, he finds a god of a man with depthless black eyes and Noah is immediately sexually drawn to him. He can tell the man isn’t human, but Noah doesn’t care about that or anything else. All he wants is to be with this amazing creature who brings him endless pleasure. As time passes, Noah loses himself more and more, falling under the spell and forgetting about the rest of the world. If he can not find his way out of the spell, Noah will lose himself forever.
This is another story that starts out seemingly normal and suddenly we find ourselves caught up in a nightmare. This time a nightmare of sexual compulsion, of a man who loses himself in pleasure and may never find his way back. I found this one enjoyable, but it didn’t have the same intensity as some of the others. I never really felt that same undercurrent of fear or horror as I did in the other stories, so this one is a bit on the lighter end. I also found myself very confused by the ending. I had to read it a few times and I am still not sure I actually understand what was happening. And it left me questioning elements of the rest of the story I thought I understood. So the ending left me sort of adrift, but overall I found this a likable story.
Out From Under by Brien Michaels
When a demon offered Brant protection against the men who were after him, he was so glad to stop running that he was willing to agree to anything. Little did he know he’d be essentially making a deal with the devil. The demon Fromunder now controls him, requiring Brant to lure men into his home for Fromunder to use by milking their sperm dry to feed and sustain the demon. At times Brant thinks death would be preferable to this life, but Fromunder threatens Brant’s lover and his family and Brant knows he has no escape. When Brant’s failure to carefully follow Fromunder’s rules causes the demon to kill Brant’s lover Jason, Brant agrees to take on one more challenge in exchange for bringing Jason back to life: kill a man named Noah and he will have Jason back. Even though it goes against everything he believes, Brant is willing to do it to bring his beloved Jason back. But little does he know that tracking down Noah is just the start of his problems.
Out From Under is the second tentacle porn story in this anthology, though this time instead of a cephalapod, Fromunder is sort of a plant demon with long viney tendrils. Michaels creates a rich and horrifying world here of a a demon that feeds on sperm, keeping his victims in suspended animation as he sucks them dry. And that is just the start of the great detail. We get to see more demons, battles, and gore along the way. I found the story quite well developed and rich in imagery. My only real issue is that midway the story takes sort of a detour, moving focus from Brant and his circumstances to focus more on Fromunder and his demon nemesis. So things got a little bit winding at that point and a tiny bit all over the place. But still entertaining and well developed. And this story probably has the closest to a real HEA of any of them. Not quite a full fledged romance, but a happy ending nonetheless.
Sleeping with Ghosts by Peter Hansen
Yordan Korvechi is a Bookman, a brother in the order of She Who Turns the Page. His job is to help babies who are about to be born without a soul by killing someone whose soul is ready to pass on, but whose body won’t let go. But turning the page on this people, killing them and releasing their souls, the order helps save these unborn children and their mothers.
One day Yordan is called to take the soul of a young man named Kardam Zavachi. He is sort of suprised, as Kardam is much younger than usual for people whose souls are ready to be taken. But Yordan knows he wouldn’t be asked to do the job if it wasn’t meant to be. Yordan completes his task, but soon realizes that all is not as it seems and there may be more going on with Kardam than he even realized.
This was an interesting story because to me it didn’t feel like either a horror or a romance (though there is a sex scene). Hansen creates an unique world here, and I loved the idea of the transferring of souls from the old to the new. I did find the worldbuilding pretty confusing through. Toward the later part of the story things are clarified a little, but for much of the first half I had trouble really understanding what these orders were or what they did (She Who Winds the Thread, He Who Loves Cold Iron, etc). And even the descriptions of the scenery and the places Yordan was visiting were hard for me to picture. The ending was quite surprising and a clever twist, though it did leave me with some unanswered questions. So I found this story creative and unique, but it didn’t quite work for me as well as the others.
Blasphemer Sinner Saint by Heidi Belleau and Sam Schooler
Tobias Sinnet considers himself a good Christian man, running a home for boys and living a devout life. When after years apart, his old friend David shows up outside his home, Tobias wants nothing to do with him. David used to be a boy at the school himself, living there as the poor child of an alcoholic father. But David was kicked out of the home and now lives on the streets, working as a prostitute. Tobias is full of riotous anger at David for the choices he has made in life. But inside Tobias is also angry at himself, for his childhood attraction to David and the way he allowed himself to be so tempted by him as a boy.
David is back asking for Tobias’ help, but Tobias doesn’t believe he deserves it. Yet spending time with David makes Tobias realize that he still has feelings for the man, and that David is worthy of his forgiveness rather than his judgment. When Tobias has a chance to give David the help he desperately needs, however, Tobias must decide what price he is willing to pay for the man he has always loved.
This is an interesting sort of redemption story in that at first it seems like David who needs the forgiveness. But as the story goes one, we see that Tobias is really the one who has failed. He holds himself up as a good man, but instead spends his time judging David for his perceived sins. Here we see Tobias learn that things are not always as they seem, that forgiveness is better than self-rightousness, and that the love he once felt for David is still there. So these were some interesting themes that I thought the authors developed well.
I do think the punishment doesn’t quite fit the crime here in terms of what Tobias must sacrifice. Although he definitely is in the wrong, he is not an evil guy. But I guess that is the nature of a horror story like this one. But at the same time the men go through some awful things (including a dub con scene), there is also a layer of romance here as well, and a chance to see these young lovers reunited, which I enjoyed. So this was a solid story and a nice ending to the anthology.
Cover Review: I just love this cover. Not only is the artwork really well done, it also incorporates many elements from the various stories. For example, the tentacles from Gregg’s story and the garnet heart from Hunter’s. Really interesting to look at as well as attractive.