Gothic Reviews

A Reliable Wife

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He placed a notice in a Chicago paper, an advertisement for a “reliable wife.” She responded, saying that she was “a simple, honest woman.” She was, of course, anything but honest, and the only simple thing about her was her single-minded determination to marry this man and then kill him, slowly and carefully, leaving herself a wealthy widow. What Catherine Land did not realize was that the enigmatic and lonely Ralph Truitt had a plan of his own.

Whatever you think this book is about when you pick it up, prepare to have your expectations totally blown out of the water. In A Reliable Wife three characters get tangled in a web of lies, deceit and shame as they all struggle with difficult life situations, hidden and open desires, and bitter and terrible pasts. These are not good people, and yet each in their own way beg for redemption even while believing they deserve none. It is a riveting book about the pain people can inflict on one another and themselves, the bitterness that grows out of that, the helplessness of some people to continue the cycle and the ultimate despair from the belief that the long cold winter will never end.

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The House of Mechanical Pain

by Chaz Brenchley


Let me start by saying that “The House of Mechanical Pain” really resonated strongly with me. I really empathized with the female character in this one, and I will get into why in just a sec, but if that skewed my review of this story so be it. Actually this story hit so close to home I had a very hard time coming to terms with my reactions and then writing about them on this blog. If it wasn’t for this month’s theme of the Social Justice Challenge I might not have posted this at all. It’s a bit of a tender spot, to say the least.

“The House of Mechanical Pain” is a horrific short story from The Years Best Fantasy and Horror 2008 it is also included in the book Phantoms at the Phil: The Third Proceedings. It is about a woman named Tasha who wants her friend Jonny to come home with her to her family’s mansion where her father is about to sell off several items from the family estate that she holds dear. Part money grubbing move, part power play in this damaged and dysfunctional family, Jonny is supposed to take pictures of everything that is going into the sale, but really he is there as moral support for Tasha.

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Cousin Kate

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Kate Malvern is in desperate straights. She has no family left in the world to take her in, she believes, and so stays with her old nursery maid while considering a job in the working class as a governess, companion or abigail. At her old nurse’s urging a letter is sent to some distant relations in the neighborhood, to everyone’s surprise the relations respond and soon Cousin Kate finds herself settling in at a place called Staplewood with her aunt and uncle and cousin Torquil. The family is strange though, her cousin lives off in one wing, while her uncle lives in another. No one is responding to the letters she sends, and bizarre events begin to unfold. Her aunt’s unexpected generosity may have come at a steep price.

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[openbook booknumber=”0760748616″]


The book Dracula is nothing like any of the movies or TV shows that try to depict him. There are no capes, unnaturally pointed faces or strangely coiffed hair, and no one ever says, “I vant to suck your blood!” Dracula is actually a fairly handsome gentleman with good manners (to a point) that does everything he can to appear as a normal human being: fashionable mode of dress, normal hair, polite conversation and if he is a little pale and his teeth just the slightly bit pointed, what of it? His good manners extend even to the point of entertaining his guests with jokes and stories that keep them laughing and listening well into the small hours of the morning. To his advantage.

If you take everything you ever heard or have seen about Dracula from modern media and toss it aside, the book Dracula is actually a fairly creepy tome in it’s own right, and with it’s own unique nature actually can be construed as even scarier. The best of the technology they had on hand seemed to do nothing to stop him and old wives tales and primitive treatments were their only protection in a war that no respectable person would have believed they were fighting. The insane that did believe them had their own ends for their belief, and I believe the lunatic in the novel was one of the freakiest literary characters I’ve ever come across, Dracula and his brides not withstanding. This was one of the original horror novels, upon which all others are today based.

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Duty and Desire

[openbook booknumber=”0743291360″]


The second in the series by Pamela Aidan, this novel chronicles the second part of Pride and Prejudice from the viewpoint of Mr. Darcy. This novel takes place during the quiet time over the winter when Mr. Darcy drops off Elizabeth Bennet’s radar. What happened that fateful winter? Apparently, a lot!

The novel starts off with a lot of what one would expect. Christmas at Pemberly, meeting Miss Georgiana Darcy, and of course getting to see Darcy in his element working with his staff and tenants and going about the business that he was raised to do. This was fascinating to read and revealed even more about Mr. Darcy and his family and friends.

After Christmas things take a turn and the novel takes on a new tenor. It strikes out into the uncertain waters of a Gothic romance. The creepy castle, the strange guests, the even stranger going-ons will all have you on the edge of your seat wondering about this new mystery and what is going to happen next. I especially enjoyed the revelation of the close relationship between Darcy and his valet Fletcher which was shown in good light in this novel.

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