Happy Valentine’s and Galentine’s Day! Many people tread on Valentine’s Day but it’s one of my favorite days. I don’t think of it as a Hallmark holiday at all. I think of it as a day to tell those I love what they mean to me, whether my significant other, my kids, my friends. It’s all about showing love. Plus I just really adore the color red, hearts, flowers, and…..CHOCOLATE. So get in the spirit gang, whether you have a lovey dovey for a date or not, make it fun. Spoil yourself if you have to!
As a writer of speculative, horror, thriller, suspense… you name it… I also love digging into the dark side of romance and relationships. I think I’ve loved this ever since I watched the film “Single, White Female” when I was a teen. Ha!
Last year I wrote a post all about various ways I’ve explored bad relationships in my writing and gave some ideas for fantastic love day fiction. There is a flash fiction also to read I wrote last year, a tale of revenge and witches, available free at The Horror Tree site called “Sinking Hearts.” I don’t want to re-hash all that again in a post, but feel free to peruse HERE if you like tales of revenge or love gone wrong.
This year, I’m suggesting some novels of obsession and troubled marriage perfect for a Valentine’s weekend cuddled up with a new, plush heart-shaped pillow and some raspberry truffles. You might not need a box of Kleenexes for most, but maybe a few stiff drinks.
Providence by Caroline Kepnes
Providence is a supernatural thriller that is the re-telling partly of Lovecraft’s The Dunwich Horror and part Beauty and the Beast, essentially wrapped into a mystery. It’s an over arching love story in which two characters are kept apart no fault of their own but due to his new found “powers.” It’s one of the most heart-wrenching novels I’ve read and I was devastated by the end. So not a novel of obsession in the normal, evil sense, and the love gone wrong is defined differently, but still a love story that’s dark, tender, and thought-provoking. Once you read it, you won’t forget it. This might be the one time over the weekend you need a Kleenex.
About the book…
Best friends in small-town New Hampshire, Jon and Chloe share an intense, near-mystical bond. But before Jon can declare his love for his soul mate, he is kidnapped, and his plans for a normal life are permanently dashed. Four years later, Jon reappears. He is different now: bigger, stronger, and with no memory of the time he was gone. Jon wants to pick up where he and Chloe left off—until the horrifying instant he realizes he possesses strange powers that pose a grave threat to everyone he cares for. Afraid of hurting Chloe, Jon runs away, embarking on a journey for answers.
Meanwhile, in Providence, Rhode Island, healthy college students and townies with no connection to one another are inexplicably dropping dead. A troubled detective prone to unexplainable hunches, Charles “Eggs” DeBenedictus suspects there’s a serial killer at work. But when he starts asking questions, Eggs is plunged into a shocking whodunit he never could have predicted.
With an intense, mesmerizing voice, Caroline Kepnes makes keen and powerful observations about human connection and how love and identity can dangerously blur together.
Perfume: The Story of Murderer by Patrick Suskind
This book is one I haven’t read but is on my TBR pile because it was recommended to me by a special friend whose taste I implicitly trust. Also, I’ve always heard that Kurt Cobain, and Nirvana being one of my favorite bands of all time, said this book was the inspiration for the song “Scentless Apprentice.” I found a copy unsuspectingly at a thrift store a few weeks ago and was very excited. I’m also really into perfumery and I’ve always been intrigued by how people can smell various scents and be influenced by them. As well I love 18th century France and I read that Suskind, a German author, writes this time period with such flair and pens with deep character and mood development.
About the book…
An acclaimed bestseller and international sensation, Patrick Suskind’s classic novel provokes a terrifying examination of what happens when one man’s indulgence in his greatest passion—his sense of smell—leads to murder.
In the slums of eighteenth-century France, the infant Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is born with one sublime gift—an absolute sense of smell. As a boy, he lives to decipher the odors of Paris, and apprentices himself to a prominent perfumer who teaches him the ancient art of mixing precious oils and herbs. But Grenouille’s genius is such that he is not satisfied to stop there, and he becomes obsessed with capturing the smells of objects such as brass doorknobs and fresh-cut wood. Then one day he catches a hint of a scent that will drive him on an ever-more-terrifying quest to create the “ultimate perfume”—the scent of a beautiful young virgin. Told with dazzling narrative brilliance, Perfume is a hauntingly powerful tale of murder and sensual depravity.
Translated from the German by John E. Woods.
The Poison Artist by Jonathan Moore
The Poison Artist is one of my favorite books of all time. This book is obsession-based but in the smooth style of the best liquor and 1920’s glam. I will never stop thinking of this book so in some ways I guess my obsession is with it! Stephen King said it was the scariest thing he read since Red Dragon, and I think that’s because the darkness is so sinister yet in plain sight. This book held me hostage as Caleb searched for Emmeline… and Emmeline mesmerized me as much as she did the protagonist. You can read the full review I wrote five years or so about it HERE.
About the book…
A gripping tale of obsession and deadly mystery, where the secrets of salvation and the most devastating desires are all written in blood
Dr. Caleb Maddox is a San Francisco toxicologist studying the chemical effects of pain. After a bruising breakup with his girlfriend, he’s out drinking whiskey when a hauntingly seductive woman appears by his side. Emmeline whispers to Caleb over absinthe, gets his blood on her fingers and then brushes his ear with her lips as she says goodbye. He must find her.
As his search begins, Caleb becomes entangled in a serial-murder investigation. The police have been fishing men from the bay, and the postmortems are inconclusive. One of the victims vanished from the bar the night Caleb met Emmeline. When questioned, Caleb can’t offer any information, nor does he tell them he’s been secretly helping the city’s medical examiner, an old friend, study the chemical evidence on the victims’ remains. The search for the killer soon entwines with Caleb’s hunt for Emmeline, and the closer he gets to each, the more dangerous his world becomes.
From the first pages up to the haunting, unforgettable denouement, The Poison Artist is a gripping thriller about obsession and damage, about a man unmoored by an unspeakable past and an irresistible woman who offers the ultimate escape.
Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
Who doesn’t like Phantom of the Opera? You can find the book in many forms and take your pick, or watch the movie if you prefer, but this is the ultimate story of love and obsession. It’s been my wish for three decades to see this performed professionally on the stage!
I’d like to highlight a particular copy available as of January 2020, and that’s the Haunted Library Horror Classics series presented by the Horror Writers Association and published with Poisoned Pen Press.
It’s an unabridged edition of the novel that inspired the famous Andrew Lloyd Weber musical. I have no idea how it’s formatted or printed or what it looks like in real format, but I hope it’s a nice addition to anyone’s library. The cover here is this edition. At any rate, I collect it in different forms with variant covers whenever I see it!
About the book…
Deep beneath the Paris Opera House, a masked man lives in silence…
Every night at the Palais Garnier, hundreds of guests sit on the edge of velvet-covered seats, waiting for prima donna La Carlotta to take the stage. But when her voice fails her, La Carlotta is replaced with unknown understudy Christine Daaé, a young soprano whose vibrant singing fills every corner of the house and wins her a slew of admirers, including an old childhood friend who soon professes his love for her. But unknown to Christine is another man, who lurks out of sight behind the heavy curtains of the opera, who can move about the building undetected, who will do anything to make sure Christine will keep singing just for him…
This curated edition of The Phantom of the Opera, based on the original 1911 English translation by Alexander Teixeira de Mattos, brings an iconic story of love and obsession to today’s readers and illuminates the timeless appeal of Leroux’s masterpiece.
The Method by Duncan Ralston
This is another favorite thriller of mine where a couple who is struggling with their marriage goes on a marriage retreat but soon things get crazy. I love when things get suspenseful, and you, along with the characters, wonder if they are being watched. Though not really a tale of one person’s obsession, it does fall under the obsessed to survive mantra. It’s action-packed, full of relationship struggles, torturous, and a page turner. Definitely for fans of thriller that don’t mind the horror notched up a bit more than usual.
About the book…
How hard will you fight for the one you love?
Frank and Linda’s marriage is falling apart. When old friends tell them about an “unconventional therapy retreat” called The Method, they jump at the chance to attend.
Dr. Kaspar’s Lone Loon Lodge is a secluded resort deep in the Montana wilds. The staff is friendly. The other couple joining them is intense. But when a death occurs events quickly spiral out of control, leaving Linda and Frank unable to trust anyone but each other.
Nothing is what it seems, and only one thing is certain: Love Is Pain.
The Tunnel Ernesto Sabato
This is definitely a novel of obsession and paranoia, and a dark and spiraling one at that about a painter who’s murdered a woman he had become obsessed with in a painting (not a spoiler as in synopsis and beginning of novel). I’m definitely all for eating up any novel in this vein no matter how dark it is and I’m a huge fan of any foreign writer doing them. I’ve always felt that they get the psychological components down so well whether for books or TV and film. It won’t be for everyone’s tastes but it’s definitely one to consider if you like the dark aspects of the obsessive brain.
About the book…
An unforgettable psychological novel of obsessive love, The Tunnel was championed by Albert Camus, Thomas Mann, and Graham Greene upon its publication in 1948 and went on to become an international bestseller. At its center is an artist named Juan Pablo Castel, who recounts from his prison cell his murder of a woman named María Iribarne. Obsessed from the moment he sees her examining one of his paintings, Castel fantasizes for months about how they might meet again. When he happens upon her one day, a relationship develops that convinces him of their mutual love. But Castel’s growing paranoia leads him to destroy the one thing he truly cares about.
One of the great short novels of the twentieth century—this cover and link here is to an edition marking the 100th anniversary of the author’s birth. Ernesto Sabato (June 24, 1911 – April 30, 2011) was an Argentine novelist, essayist, painter and physicist. According to the BBC he “won some of the most prestigious prizes in Hispanic literature” and “became very influential in the literary world throughout Latin America.”
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
How much do I really need to say about this novel? If you haven’t read it, DO. And if you have, curl up and be drawn into it again. This gothic novel of passion that’s almost bordering on obsession, will make you want to tear your heart out.
About the book…
Emily Brontë’s only novel, Wuthering Heights remains one of literature’s most disturbing explorations into the dark side of romantic passion. Heathcliff and Cathy believe they’re destined to love each other forever, but when cruelty and snobbery separate them, their untamed emotions literally consume them.
You can take your pick of many different formats and covers. I always see copies when I’m thrift shopping as well and own several versions. Just make sure it isn’t marked up by college students or buy your own new lovely version.
Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris
I read this thriller when it came out because I love the sub-genre of thrillers called domestic thrillers. I love to hate characters like Jack and I’m always rooting for redemption at the end for the one on the receiving end of the drama/trauma. This definitely is a tale that qualifies as obsession because any man that is an abuser in this way is to me in some regards obsessed not only with the other person but with control. This was an engrossing read that I devoured. You will too.
About the book…
The perfect marriage? Or the perfect lie?
Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace. He has looks and wealth; she has charm and elegance. He’s a dedicated attorney who has never lost a case; she is a flawless homemaker, a masterful gardener and cook, and dotes on her disabled younger sister. Though they are still newlyweds, they seem to have it all. You might not want to like them, but you do. You’re hopelessly charmed by the ease and comfort of their home, by the graciousness of the dinner parties they throw. You’d like to get to know Grace better.
But it’s difficult, because you realize Jack and Grace are inseparable.
Some might call this true love. Others might wonder why Grace never answers the phone. Or why she can never meet for coffee, even though she doesn’t work. How she can cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim. Or why she never seems to take anything with her when she leaves the house, not even a pen. Or why there are such high-security metal shutters on all the downstairs windows.
Some might wonder what’s really going on once the dinner party is over, and the front door has closed.
From bestselling author B. A. Paris comes the gripping thriller and international phenomenon Behind Closed Doors.
Thomas’s Want by Latashia Figueroa
Full disclosure on this one, Latashia is my editing client. But I felt I could override that because it so fits under the umbrella of novel of obsession. It is book two in her series, but it’s a perfect representation of a man going mad, and the lengths he will go to in order to keep control of his obsession. It’s a thriller but with definite horror tones by the end. Told in the second person as with Kepnes’ YOU (which is another great tale of obsession I didn’t include since I chose another by Kepnes instead), this is a tale of love gone wrong that you’ll read in one sitting.
About the book…
Thomas has haunting memories of his childhood: his obsessive, paranoid father and beautiful, loving mother. And he cannot forget the lovely face covered in blood, the lifeless body at the bottom of the stairs. All the love and beauty stolen from his life, forever.
Now, as an adult, Thomas struggles with relationships and is not sure if he is capable of love. Perhaps it is because he has tried hard not to become like his father. Until Thomas meets Deana, and all he can do is think of her, and only her. As their relationship grows, Thomas begins to understand his father and the disease that plagued him. The disease that took away Thomas’ mother, and nearly drove his father to madness. Thomas has inherited the disease of Want. A disease that has deadly side effects.
Follow Me by Kathleen Barber
Follow Me publishes on February 25, 2020 and I appreciated receiving an advanced reading copy from Gallery Books. It was such a fun read that I breezed through in two nights. Drawing on the modern age of Instagrammers and likes and the letting of everyone in on our every move through this social media platform, this is absolutely a tale of obsession. The book transports us through the story via the protagonist, Instagrammer Audrey, juxtaposed with her friend, Cat, but as well we also have snippets of chapters by “HIM.” We don’t know who he is until the big reveal at the end, but we get a glimpse into just how far, and how scary, his obsession with her goes. Plus trust me there is more twist than that but I’ll let you discover for yourself. I loved it! I highly recommend for your reading list this year.
About the book…
From the author of Truth Be Told (formerly titled Are You Sleeping)—now an Apple TV series of the same name—comes a cautionary tale of oversharing in the social media age for fans of Jessica Knoll and Caroline Kepnes’s You.
Everyone wants new followers…until they follow you home.
Audrey Miller has an enviable new job at the Smithsonian, a body by reformer Pilates, an apartment door with a broken lock, and hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers to bear witness to it all. Having just moved to Washington, DC, Audrey busies herself impressing her new boss, interacting with her online fan base, and staving off a creepy upstairs neighbor with the help of the only two people she knows in town: an ex-boyfriend she can’t stay away from and a sorority sister with a high-powered job and a mysterious past.
But Audrey’s faulty door may be the least of her security concerns. Unbeknownst to her, her move has brought her within striking distance of someone who’s obsessively followed her social media presence for years—from her first WordPress blog to her most recent Instagram Story. No longer content to simply follow her carefully curated life from a distance, he consults the dark web for advice on how to make Audrey his and his alone. In his quest to win her heart, nothing is off-limits—and nothing is private.
With “compelling, suspenseful” (Liz Nugent) prose, Kathleen Barber’s electrifying new thriller will have you scrambling to cover your webcam and digital footprints.
Pre-Order Now / Available Feb. 25, 2020
Pick up at local indie store on release day or go to bookshop.org
That’s a wrap! As for me, I’ve been stuck inside working for a week and I’m heading OUT for Valentine’s Day weekend, even if I end up staying in Friday night. I’m going to spend the rest of it taking in some live women’s basketball, do some book shopping, go to the movies, eat yummy food, and hopefully get chocolates. If I get a big, fluffy Valentine pillow, I’ll make time to read a book with it soon.
Whatever you do enjoy your weekend. If you have books of obsession you really liked, please leave recommendations in the comments below.
Now, go eat chocolates and tell someone you love them!