“A Bit of the Dark World”
by Toni V. Sweeney, 2014
This is a tale of Lovecraftian horror... and romance??
Lisa awakes in the hospital after a terrible accident that takes the life of her husband. Now she has two saviors: millionaire Drexl von Dorff who pulled her from the accident and Dr. Daniel Walker, the physician who heals her body.
But which man will heal her heart?
And what manner of nameless horror will attempt to steal her unborn child?!
Now as a longtime fan of cosmic horror, I enjoy the mystery of an isolated family on a secluded island and the hints of monstrous entities older than the Earth itself. But like most fans of the Cthulhu Mythos, I have no use for romance novels. Not saying that love and sex don't have their appeals, but Romance as a genre is another matter. While a love interest may give characters motivation and make them more human, the romance novel of today spends a greaaaaaaaaaat amount of time delving into a heroine's throbbing heart and tortured mind. To which man will she give her love? And who gives a flaming rat's ass?
Well, there's the difference between men and women, in a nutshell.
Contrariwise, cosmic horror has long been known for its nigh exclusive male readership. Maybe only men want to read of a world of monsters and a universe without hope.
Can two so divergent genres be mixed? And what will be the result? Lest we forget, both the horror genre and the romance genre evolved from the gothic novel of the late 1700s. So in that way, horror and romance are cousins.
I'd have to say that Toni V. Sweeney makes it work. This is a thoroughly enjoyable story, with likeable characters and a growing threat from the nameless horror that has its multiple eyes on Lisa. Without that threat, the book would just be a romance.
To be sure, a lot of wordage is spent getting into Lisa's and others' heads, as they wonder about their feelings. But the creepy little village is seriously creepy. If you found yourself there you would just keep driving, trying not to see more than you had to. I think HPL would be proud of the description. The horror, when it appears, is as erotic as it is terrifying and the ending is nicely done.
The writing is very good and sometimes the language is very evocative: “Sea changelings rose from their ocean slumbers, wading to the shore, lumbering onto the sand, leaving foam-rippling wakes as the mist parted before them…”
There's also an interesting, amusing, and slightly sad subplot about Cousin Myrtice. She wants what she wants and she very stubbornly goes about getting it, little realizing she's become a tool of the forces of darkness.
Quibbles: There's a lot of smoking in restaurants in this book. As the story is set in Georgia, I'll have to presume their public health laws are behind the times.
Speaking of being behind the times, Lisa wears pantyhose. OMG.