I’m Reading: Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo

Andrew’s bond with his best friend Eddie was deeper than blood or friendship, rooted in deep magic and deeper secrets. When Andrew gets word of Eddie’s apparent suicide, it tears Andrew’s whole world apart. He’s drawn back to Nashville to piece together Eddie’s last days, certain that there’s more to the death than he’s been told.

I’m picky about gothics. Not because I’m somehow an expert in the genre, but specifically because I’m not. So my favorite gothics tend to be contemporary genre crossovers with accessible writing style, vivid characters, and a strong sense of place.

Summer Sons just clicked for me. It is a slow, dark, languid dive into the Appalachians. We walk the line of social tension between the elite and the back woods, old South generational wealth and generational curses, ivory towers and street racers, queer masculinity and violence.

What I love best about Summer Sons, besides the sheer craftsmanship, is the handling of ghosts. Andrew’s powers and affinity for the dead are woven tightly into the story, heavy with dread and metaphor. There is no friendly Casper guiding the MC gently to a life lesson. The ghosts are visceral, angry, and dangerous, seducing Andrew into a spiral of his own self-destruction.

But the craftsmanship! I simultaneously disliked every single character, yet wanted to really dive into in their head and rooted for their redemption. The author pulled me into scenes and hobbies I had no interest in and made me care. The characters made terrible, toxic, self-loathing, and self-pitying decisions, but made me understand and sympathize. It is the kind of story that lingers for hours once you close the book, like the taste of coffee after you drink. It’s not the kind of book you take to the beach for a light summer read.

It’s the kind of book that haunts you.

To find a copy of Summer Sons visit the author’s website at https://leemandelo.com/

Content warnings for suicide, alcoholism, drug use, graphic violence, supernatural horror, and homophobia.

I’m Reading: Verity by Colleen Hoover

If you’re a fan of the classic gothic romance Rebecca, this modern Indie romantic suspense will give you all the steamy thrills and chills you’re looking for, with polished, sophisticated prose and sympathetically broken characters.

Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling author who travels upstate to the gloomy home of Verity Crawford, a famous author who is unable to finish her bestselling series after a tragic car accident. Tragedy has followed the Crawfords, who lost two children in the years before the accident. A sympathetic Lowen must fight her attraction to Verity’s husband, Jeremy and do the job she came for, but the discovery of a secret manuscript of Verity’s life revealed that tragedy may not be all that it seems.

Hoover plays beautifully with the gothic tropes, but in a way that will appeal to the sensibilities of modern readers. The melodrama is brought with a light touch. The twists and turns are deeply satisfying, deliciously dark, and dripping with atmosphere. I did think the ending could have used some tightening, but the effect was there and left us questioning everything we thought we knew.

I thought I’d struggle with the darker themes, with so much darkness in the world right now. Instead, I found myself tearing through the book, riveted. I finished it in a single sitting. None of the darkness felt gratuitous to me, and the pacing helped sell it as an organic part of the story development. The writing itself is excellent, with small touches of imagery and symbolism that thrill the senses of readers who enjoy the play of language. The deep POV flirts hard with elements of unreliable narrator and gaslighting essential to the gothic atmosphere.

There’s a reason why this Indie book rides so high in category rankings. It deserves its place!

Available through Kindle Unlimited. Check your local library, or visit the author online for purchasing options at https://www.colleenhoover.com/portfolio/verity/

Content notices for child abuse, trauma, neglect, death, murder, and ableism. This is a dark book with dark themes. If you have questions about any potential trauma triggers in the book, please reach out to me here or via Twitter DM @JoGeekly and I’d be happy to give you more info to make an informed consent decision on whether or not to read.

I’m Reading: Eve Silver’s Dark Gothics

When I told my partner about wanting to write some gothic elements into my current book, he asked me how many gothics I’d read and enjoyed. I’d read the classics of course, Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. They weren’t my favorites. Northanger Abbey was my second-least-favorite Jane Austen, although I found out later that it was intended as a parody of the genre. So why was I looking for gothic elements if I didn’t like gothics?

It was the modern stories that caught my excitement. The Australian Gothic bleakness of Jane Harper’s The Dry. The bleak and haunting beauty of urban decay I explored through Urbex in my 20s. The Southern Gothic aesthetic I saw living in Georgia and North Florida.

In response, he loaned me Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, the classic gothic that caught the imagination of Hitchcock. I was hooked. This was the voice I was looking for.

So when I started reading indie author Eve Silver’s Dark Gothic series, I knew what to expect from the genre. In the first book, Dark Desires, the heroine is cast out alone into the world and takes up service to a handsome and imposing doctor. The doctor proves to be a figure of mystery, and there may be gruesome secrets hiding in his secret laboratory.

I loved the unique twist of her work as an artist, putting her on some equal footing of skill with the Doctor, even if the social class structures of the time prevent her being considered his actual equal. The genre demands a damsel in distress, but as a character she is given strengths and real practical skills, instead of being a simple fainting beauty.

If readers struggle to enjoy the series, the issue might be unfamiliarity with the genre. The books are a delicious example of the classic gothic style, from language to overwrought suspicion of the love interest, to looming and evil villain. The author adds a subtly modernist social dynamic and a lot of intense steam to create a thoroughly satisfying new classic.

The erotic and romantic tension are one of the modern elements, although crafted in a classical voice that goes well with the historical setting. When Eve Silver brings the steam, she brings it! So turn down the lights, get out the wine and petit-fours, and take a journey into a world of brooding doctors with dark secrets, a murderer who stalks the streets of London, and a young artist fallen from high society who must win her way by her wits and heart.

Find the series and excerpts at evesilver.net.