Published November 21, 2022 LAYERS OF INSPIRATION BY KEITH ANTHONY BAIRD Living as I do in England’s Lake District area, I’m immersed in a ...

Published November 21, 2022


Living as I do in England’s Lake District area, I’m immersed in a truly inspiring region which is matched in its beauty by a rich history going back into antiquity. Quite aside from the breath-taking scenery which includes rugged mountains, sprawling lakes, lush forests, and rolling hills, there’s a lore which permeates every glade and valley. The Romans were here, as evidenced in their lasting marks upon the landscape. The Celts too, with numerous stone circles dotting the moors and fells which speak of druidic rites and a shadowy nature we’ll never fully understand.

As a writer in the sphere of dark fiction there’s much in the way of inspiration to draw upon. Just about every major town here has some trace of its glorious past still intact. Castles, inns, and manor houses litter the countryside, each with a story dating back centuries. And it’s in these settings we find tales of the supernatural which provide yet another layer of interest to an already overflowing pot. With its annual visitor numbers in the millions, the district plays host to tourists from all corners of the globe. Many experience encounters with what can only be described as the ‘otherworldly’. 

One well-known spot is Kirkstone Pass. The gateway to Patterdale valley, the pass is often closed in harsh winters due to its lofty position. In days of yore, it would have been treacherous for those travelling on foot or by horse-drawn carriage, and one such tale has given rise to a particular haunting which has become synonymous with the inn there. It is the story of Ruth Ray, who was on her way from Patterdale to see her sick father with her small child in tow. As so often happens, the weather unexpectedly took a turn for the worst and snow quickly fell, making it impossible to walk in any direction with certainty. When Ruth had not returned home, her husband set out to look for her, only to find her frozen and lifeless. The baby was wrapped up heavily and survived. To this day, Ruth still haunts the Kirkstone Inn. It is thought she warns walkers of the weather and the dangers of the pass.

Another tale tells of a young boy who was killed by a coach outside the inn. It is reported that a photograph of a 17th century coachman was captured while he was lurking in the bar. The ghost was apparently the great, great grandfather of the family who took the picture, and it’s said that his spirit followed the visiting family home. There are accounts too of a grey lady and the ghost of a hiker who once worked at the inn, who is believed to be the culprit of poltergeist activity there. Another restless spirit is that of a woman who was hanged nearby for the murder of her child. It’s said she haunts the tree on which she met her end.

Tales of the Kirkstone Inn are just a few of the many which are commonplace in an area steeped in such a rich heritage. The aforementioned castles and manor houses have their fair share of hauntings too, and even the very hills themselves, according to a number of sightings. If legend is to be believed, the fellside on the edge of Blencathra mountain is home to a ghostly procession that has been witnessed on a few occasions at Midsummer. The first time they were seen is said to have been during the evening of Midsummer's Day in 1735, where a servant claimed to have watched a line of soldiers, both on foot and horseback, marching their way across the fell.

So it’s easy to take inspiration from everything around me here in the Lake District. I sincerely hope my fellow writers, wherever you are, have an equally wonderful setting in which to thrive in your writing.

Keith Anthony Baird is the author of The Jesus Man: A Post-Apocalyptic Tale of Horror (Novel), Nexilexicon (Novel), And a Dark Horse Dreamt of Nightmares (Book of Shorts), This Will Break Every Bone In Your Heart (Novelette) and Snake Charmer Blues (Short), and a psychological/horror novella titled A Seed in a Soil of Sorrow. His works can be found on Amazon and Audible.

The Diabolica Britannica horror anthology was his brainchild, in which you will find his own contribution Walked a Pale Horse on Celtic Frost. 2021 saw the release of the Diabolica Americana and HEX-PERIMENTS anthologies, the latter in partnership with author Ross Jeffery.

His dark fantasy novella In the Grimdark Strands of the Spinneret is coming from Brigid’s Gate Press in November 2022.

He is currently querying a dystopian/cyberpunk novella titled SIN:THETICA and writing a vampire-themed novella called A Light of Little Radiance in collaboration with fellow British author Beverley Lee.

He lives in Cumbria, in the United Kingdom, on the edge of the Lake District National Park.


 Get ready to pad your TBR, here are just a few of June's new releases!  If you've missed the previous lists ( January ,   February ...

 Get ready to pad your TBR, here are just a few of June's new releases! 

If you've missed the previous lists (January, February, March, April, May, June), you can still check those out. And if you are looking for what's still to come, you can see the whole list for 2023 here.

If you have a book releasing this year and want to get on the list, click here and I'll get you added!


 At the End of Every Day by Arianna Reiche 

Expected publication: July 4, 2023 by Atria Books

In this haunting debut novel—perfect for fans of Iain Reid, Jeff VanderMeer, and Julia Armfield—a loyal employee at a collapsing theme park questions the recent death of a celebrity visitor, the arrival of strange new guests, her boyfriend’s erratic behavior, and ultimately her own sanity.

Delphi has spent years working at a vast and iconic theme park in California after fleeing her childhood trauma in her rural hometown. But after the disturbing death of a beloved Hollywood starlet on the park grounds, Delphi is tasked with shuttering The Park for good.

Meanwhile, two siblings with ties to The Park exchange letters, trying to understand why people who work there have been disappearing. Before long, they learn that there’s a reason no one is meant to see behind The Park’s curtain.

What happens when The Park empties out? And what happens when Delphi, who seems remarkably at one with The Park, is finally forced to leave?

At once a novel about the uncanny valley, death cults, optical illusions, and the enduring power of fantasy, Reiche’s debut is a mind-bending teacup ride through an eerily familiar landscape, where the key to it all is what happens At the End of Every Day.

A Good House for Children by Kate Collins 

Expected Publication: July 4, 2023 by Mariner Books

Once upon a time Orla a woman, a painter, a lover.

Now she is a mother and a wife, and when her husband Nick suggests that their city apartment has grown too small for their lives, she agrees, in part because she does agree, and in part because she is too tired to think about what she really does want. She agrees again when Nick announces with pride that he has found an antiquated Georgian house on the Dorset cliffs—a good house for children, he says, tons of space and gorgeous grounds.

But as the family settles into the mansion—Nick absent all week, commuting to the city for work—Orla finds herself unsettled. She hears voices when no one is around; doors open and close on their own; and her son Sam, who has not spoken in six months, seems to have made an imaginary friend whose motives Orla does not trust.

Four decades earlier, Lydia moves into the same house as a live-in nanny to a grieving family. Lydia, too, becomes aware of intangible presences in the large house, and she, like Orla four decades later, becomes increasingly fearful for the safety of the children in her care. But no one in either woman’s life believes the stories that seem fanciful, the stuff of magic and mayhem, sprung from the imaginations of hysterical women who spend too much time in the company of children.

Are both families careening towards tragedy? Are Orla and Lydia seeing things that aren’t there? What secrets is the house hiding?

A feminist gothic tale perfectly suited for the current moment, A Good House for Children combines an atmospheric mystery with resonant themes of motherhood, madness, and the value of a woman’s work.

Love the Sinner by Mo Moshaty

Expected publication: July 5, 2023 by Brigids Gate Press, LLC

According to Dante, a sin is the misdirection of love - the human will, or essentially, the direction of our beings. Love the Sinner is an examination of just how those sins can kaleidoscope into horrific consequences creating a distorted and deadly landscape. These stories stand stark before you in full glaring misstep and macabre to show the human psyche in all its twisted reality.

From grief and its rage to medical meddling to ensure a new world order to bloody revenge within a quantum leap, these stories seek to solidify one absolute man is the scariest monster.

Whisperwood by Alex Woodroe

Expected publication: July 11, 2023 by Flame Tree Presss

A journey into the wild woods with a character who just needs a break—and the terrible things that stare back at her.

When curious nomad Anna hears about Whisperwood, a town that’s not on any maps, that nobody goes to, and nobody comes from, she sees an opportunity to hide from her violent witch-hunting ex.

But not everything is peaceful in the isolated community. A vanishing town, a gruesome funeral rite, an emergency field surgery—these surprises and more test Anna's resolve.

Prevented from leaving the frontier settlement by folk magic she doesn’t understand, Anna lends helping hands everywhere she can, but quickly finds that investigating the forest too closely could end up being the last thing she does.

Burn the Negative by Josh Winning

Expected publication: July 11, 2023 by G.P. Putnam's Sons

In this incendiary mash-up of horror and suspense, a notorious slasher film is remade…and the curse that haunted it is reawakened.

Arriving in L.A. to visit the set of a new streaming horror series, journalist Laura Warren witnesses a man jumping from a bridge, landing right behind her car. Here we go, she thinks. It’s started. Because the series she’s reporting on is a remake of a ’90s horror flick. A cursed ’90s horror flick, which she starred in as a child—and has been running from her whole life.

In The Guesthouse, Laura played the little girl with the terrifying gift to tell people how the Needle Man would kill them. When eight of the cast and crew died in ways that eerily mirrored the movie’s on-screen deaths, the film became a cult classic—and ruined her life. Leaving it behind, Laura changed her name and her accent, dyed her hair, and moved across the Atlantic. But some scripts don’t want to stay buried.

Now, as the body count rises again, Laura finds herself on the run with her aspiring actress sister and a jaded psychic, hoping to end the curse once and for all—and to stay out of the Needle Man’s lethal reach.

The Beast You Are by Paul Tremblay

Expected publication: July 11, 2023 by William Morrow

A haunting collection of short fiction from the bestselling author of  The Pallbearers Club ,  A Head Full of Ghosts , and  The Cabin at the End of the World. Paul Tremblay has won widespread acclaim for illuminating the dark horrors of the mind in novels and stories that push the boundaries of storytelling itself. The fifteen pieces in this brilliant collection,  The Beast You Are , are all monsters of a kind, ready to loudly (and lovingly) smash through your head and into your heart. In “The Dead Thing,” a middle-schooler struggles to deal with the aftermath of her parents’ substance addictions and split. One day, her little brother claims he found a shoebox with “the dead thing” inside. He won’t show it to her and he won’t let the box out of his sight. In “The Last Conversation,” a person wakes in a sterile, white room and begins to receive instructions via intercom from a woman named Anne. When they are finally allowed to leave the room to complete a task, what they find is as shocking as it is heartbreaking. The title novella, “The Beast You Are,” is a mini epic in which the destinies and secrets of a village, a dog, and a cat are intertwined with a giant monster that returns to wreak havoc every thirty years. A masterpiece of literary horror and psychological suspense,  The Beast You Are  is a fearlessly imagined collection from one of the most electrifying and innovative writers working today.

The After-death of Caroline Rand by Catherine Cavendish

Expected publication: July 11, 2023 by Flame Tree Press

A chilling, dark fantasy, in the slipstream of Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.'

At a weekend house-party at ancient Canonbury Manor, Alli is caught between fantasy and reality, past and present, in the life of Caroline Rand, a famous singer from the late Sixties, who reportedly killed herself in that house. Alli soon learns that evil infests the once-holy building. A sinister cabal controls it, as it has for centuries. Before long, her fate will be sealed, and she will learn about her role in the after-death of Caroline Rand.

It begins with a chilling "Welcome to The Columbine, Miss Sinclair. You are expected."

Silver Nitrate by Silvia Moreno-Garcia 

Expected publication: July 18, 2023 by Del Rey

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Daughter of Doctor Moreau and Mexican Gothic comes a fabulous meld of Mexican horror movies and Nazi occultism: a dark thriller about the curse that haunts a legendary lost film--and awakens one woman's hidden powers.

Montserrat has always been overlooked. She’s a talented sound editor, but she’s left out of the boys’ club running the film industry in ’90s Mexico City. And she’s all but invisible to her best friend, Tristán, a charming if faded soap opera star, though she’s been in love with him since childhood.

Then Tristán discovers his new neighbor is the cult horror director Abel Urueta, and the legendary auteur claims he can change their lives—even if his tale of a Nazi occultist imbuing magic into highly volatile silver nitrate stock sounds like sheer fantasy. The magic film was never finished, which is why, Urueta swears, his career vanished overnight. He is cursed.

Now the director wants Montserrat and Tristán to help him shoot the missing scene and lift the curse . . . but Montserrat soon notices a dark presence following her, and Tristán begins seeing the ghost of his ex-girlfriend.

As they work together to unravel the mystery of the film and the obscure occultist who once roamed their city, Montserrat and Tristán may find that sorcerers and magic are not only the stuff of movies.

A Guide to the Dark by Meriam Metoui

Expected publication: July 18, 2023 by Henry Holt

You can check out of Room 9, but you can never leave.

The Haunting of Hill House meets Nina LaCour in this paranormal mystery YA about the ghosts we carry with us.

Something is building, simmering just out of reach.

The room is watching. But Mira and Layla don't know this yet. When the two best friends are stranded on their spring break college tour road trip, they find themselves at the Wildwood Motel, located in the middle of nowhere, Indiana. Mira can't shake the feeling that there is something wrong and rotten about their room. Inside, she's haunted by nightmares of her dead brother. When she wakes up, he's still there.

Layla doesn't see him. Or notice anything suspicious about Room 9. The place may be a little run down, but it has a certain charm she can’t wait to capture on camera. If Layla is being honest, she’s too preoccupied with confusing feelings for Mira to see much else. But when they learn eight people died in that same room, they realize there must be a connection between the deaths and the unexplainable things that keep happening inside it. They just have to find the connection before Mira becomes the ninth.

Readers won't be able to put down this tender thriller that includes over thirty interior black and white photos by the author!

Camp Damascus by Chuck Tingle

Expected publication: July 18, 2023 by Tor Nightfire

A searing and earnest horror debut about the demons the queer community faces in America, the price of keeping secrets, and finding the courage to burn it all down.

They’ll scare you straight to hell.

Welcome to Neverton, Montana: home to a God-fearing community with a heart of gold.

Nestled high up in the mountains is Camp Damascus, the self-proclaimed “most effective” gay conversion camp in the country. Here, a life free from sin awaits. But the secret behind that success is anything but holy.

They Lurk by Ronald Malfi

Expected publication: July 18, 2023 by Titan Books

This collection contains 4 novellas by one of dark fiction's finest writers.

Novellas include:


When three teenagers disappear in the redwood forest of the Pacific northwest, private detective John Jeffers is hired by the families to find out why the local police seem to be covering things up. Jeffers travels to the shore town of Coastal Green to investigate...and learns of a terrible secret in the process...

The Separation

In an effort to help an old friend through the breakup of his marriage, psychotherapist Marcus Llewellyn arrives in Germany to find up-and-coming prizefighter Charlie Pronovella in a state of such deep depression, he takes his old friend on as a client. But soon Marcus's faith in his own abilities to help Charlie comes into question when Charlie's behavior grows increasingly bizarre. Is Charlie suffering from a nervous breakdown, or are otherworldly forces at work?

The Stranger

It happened outside a motel in rural Florida…

A strange thing, a peculiar thing. At first, David thought it was simply a mistake—the stranger who sat behind the wheel of David’s own car in the parking lot of the roadside motel. Had the man gotten into the wrong car? Was he lost? Hurt? But when the doors are locked from the inside and a gun is set on the dashboard, David realizes this was no mistake.

And that was when the insanity started…

After the Fade

It was a typical evening at a local Annapolis tavern, until a girl walked in, collapsed and died.

The cause of her death was anything but natural. Something had latched itself to the base of her skull. Some type of creature unlike anything seen before.

And it didn't arrive alone.

Now, the patrons of The Fulcrum are trapped, held prisoner within the tavern's walls by monstrous things that flit across the night sky, trying to find their way in.

Her Little Flowers by Shannon Morgan

Expected publication: July 25, 2023 by Kensington

Francine Thwaite has lived all her fifty-five years in her family’s ancestral home, a rambling Elizabethan manor in England’s Lake District. No other living soul resides there, but Francine isn’t alone. There are ghosts in Thwaite Manor, harmless and familiar. Most beloved is Bree, the mischievous ghost girl who has been Francine’s companion since childhood.

When Francine’s estranged sister, Madeleine, returns to the manor after years away, she brings with her a story that threatens everything Francine has always believed. It is a tale of cruelty and desperation, of terror and unbearable heartache. And as Francine learns more about the darkness in her family’s past—and the role she may have played in it—she realizes that confronting the truth may mean losing what she holds most dear.

The Woman in the Castello by Kelsey James

Expected publication: July 25, 2023 by A John Scognamiglio Book

In this beguiling midcentury historical fiction novel set in 1960s Italy, an ambitious American actress and single mother snags the starring role in a mysterious horror movie shooting on location in a crumbling medieval castle outside Rome...

Readers who enjoy the moody gothic allure of Kate Morton and Silvia Moreno-Garcia or the immersive settings of Lucinda Riley and Fiona Davis will be enthralled by Kelsey James' spellbinding web of intriguing mystery, family secrets, forbidden love, and midcentury Italian flair.

Rome, 1965: Aspiring actress Silvia Whitford arrives at Rome's famed Cinecitta Studios from Los Angeles, ready for her big break and a taste of la dolce vita. Instead, she learns that the movie in which she was cast has been canceled. Desperate for money, Silvia has only one choice: seek out the Italian aunt she has never met.

Gabriella Conti lives in a crumbling castello on the edge of a volcanic lake. Silvia's mother refuses to explain the rift that drove the sisters apart, but Silvia is fascinated by Gabriella, a once-famous actress who still radiates charisma. And the eerie castle inspires Silvia's second chance when it becomes the location for a new horror movie, aptly named The Revenge of the Lake Witch--and she lands a starring role.

Silvia immerses herself in the part of an ingenue tormented by the ghost of her beautiful, seductive ancestor. But when Gabriella abruptly vanishes, the movie's make-believe terrors seep into reality. No one else on set seems to share Silvia's suspicions. Yet as she delves into Gabriella's disappearance, she triggers a chain of events that illuminate dark secrets in the past--and a growing menace in the present . . .

Cruel Angels Past Sundown by Hailey Piper

Expected publication: July 25, 2023 by Death's Head Press

TNew Mexico Territory, 1882: She comes to the Klein ranch at sunset, a strange naked pregnant woman dragging a cavalry saber. Annette Klein and her husband have built peace between their marriage and secret relations beyond, but their serenity dies in bloodshed tonight through a cannibalistic demon and a mad preacher.

Annette barely escapes the bloodbath to the nearby town of Low’ s Bend, where she might find safety with a shotgun-toting barkeep, two no-nonsense boarding room ladies, and the gunslinging bounty hunter who’ s captured Annette’ s heart.

But hell is at her heels. If she’ s going to survive until dawn, she’ ll have to forget everything she knows about peace and mercy, and face a hollow malevolence more ancient and ruthless than she’ s ever imagined.

I'm Having Regrets by Caitlin Marceau

Expected publication: July 28, 2023 *update coming September 2023*

I'm Having Regrets follows the story of Madeleine, a recently widowed mother of two, who's desperate to put her life back together in the wake of a tragic fire. Despite her sister's concerns, Madeleine finds herself seeking comfort at a local support group for the bereaved that's run by a religious group known as Our Lady of Porete. While she's hesitant to attend their week-long retreat with the rest of the congregation, her increasingly strained homelife convinces her to go. With her two children and sister in tow, Madeleine heads out into the middle of nowhere to discover who she really is and what the group's intentions with her and her family really are. I'm Having Regrets looks at the dark side of community and what happens when we're unable to make peace with the things we've done to survive.

Published June 2, 2023 by Macfarlane Lantern Publishing A cynical twentysomething must confront her unconventional family’s dark secrets in...

Published June 2, 2023 by Macfarlane Lantern Publishing

A cynical twentysomething must confront her unconventional family’s dark secrets in this fiery, irreverent horror novel from the author of Such Sharp Teeth and Cackle.

Nobody has a “normal” family, but Vesper Wright’s is truly…something else. Vesper left home at eighteen and never looked back—mostly because she was told that leaving the staunchly religious community she grew up in meant she couldn’t return. But then an envelope arrives on her doorstep.

Inside is an invitation to the wedding of Vesper’s beloved cousin Rosie. It’s to be hosted at the family farm. Have they made an exception to the rule? It wouldn’t be the first time Vesper’s been given special treatment. Is the invite a sweet gesture? An olive branch? A trap? Doesn’t matter. Something inside her insists she go to the wedding. Even if it means returning to the toxic environment she escaped. Even if it means reuniting with her mother, Constance, a former horror film star and forever ice queen.

When Vesper’s homecoming exhumes a terrifying secret, she’s forced to reckon with her family’s beliefs and her own crisis of faith in this deliciously sinister novel that explores the way family ties can bind us as we struggle to find our place in the world.

As a fairly recent newcomer in the horror scene, Rachel Harrison made her debut with The Return in 2020. The subsequent releases of Cackle in 2021, and 2022's Such Sharp Teeth and Bad Dolls have made it abundantly clear that she doesn't plan on slowing down anytime soon. Zombies, witches, werewolves, possessed dolls, and magic 8-balls have all been story fodder so it only seems natural that her next step would be Black Sheep's cult.

Having left her intensely religious family and community, Vesper is attempting—with questionable resultsto make it on her own. The night she's fired from her waitressing job, she discovers an envelope at her door containing an invitation to the wedding of her cousin and childhood best friend, Rosie, to Brody, the only guy she ever loved. When Vesper left the church six years ago, she was told she would essentially be dead to them and could never return. Understandably stunned and unsure of who sent the missive or their motives, she makes the decision to go to the wedding, mostly out of spite for the couple. 

Going back home is a perplexing experience for Vesper. Not only does she have to grapple with her emotions about the marriage and the couple, but she also has to confront her unconventional family and community. Her cold disapproving mother is a scream queen idol that never showed her affection. Her father, whom she adored, abandoned her at a young age when all she wanted was someone to love her. Being home, she is confronted again with these things, as well as her skepticism about religion and her disdain for the seemingly mindless religious devotion of those around her.  

While there's no denying given the subject matter that horror is Harrison's genre, her stories lean heavily on a first-person narrative as they navigate complex relationships and emotional trauma. Black Sheep is no different. Harrison renounces the superficial female archetype and instead constructs strong, memorable, and relatable protagonists. Her characters are refreshingly raw and authentic. Unrestrained and sometimes even ugly, we gain a front-row seat to their motivations, perspectives, and, most significantly, their apprehensions and insecurities. If Vesper's irreverence and quick wit doesn't instantly charm you, hang in there; building genuine characters takes time.

Along with her protagonist being so well-fleshed, Harrison creates an uneasy atmosphere that gets more and more ominous, even if you aren't yet quite sure why. As Vesper revisits her childhood home and reconnects with her past, she can't help but notice the stark distinction between the memories of her youth and the present. Through a mix of humorous and sobering observations, she slowly pieces together the truth about her family and the place she once called home. She is forced to confront the ugliness of her past which ultimately leaves her with a frightening sense of clarity and understanding. Once all the pieces lock into place, you can't help but rally around Vesper before it all comes crashing down. 

Having previously described Harrison's Such Sharp Teeth as "cozy horror", I would say that this entry is equally approachable for those that like their horror spooky but not too dark. However, seasoned horror enthusiasts may find the time spent on character development, the slow start, and the minimal blood and guts too mild. Although I enjoyed reading Black Sheep, I must admit that I was hoping for some unforeseen revelations or turns in Harrison's story. If you plan on reading Black Sheep when it's released, I would highly recommend going in blind, which is why this review is relatively vague. Even though I predicted the twist, I don't want to ruin the experience for readers who may not.   

With the ability to take clichéd tropes that have been used countless times before and infuse them with fresh and invigorating energy, I can't wait to see what subject Harrison tackles next. Overall, Harrison's newest horror entry Black Sheep is a compelling and entertaining read—a delightfully diabolical contemporary horror and another win for Rachel Harrison.

Published  June 2, 2023 by Macfarlane Lantern Publishing A  village abandons all they knew in search of water. A man covets the last roses o...

Published June 2, 2023 by Macfarlane Lantern Publishing

A village abandons all they knew in search of water.
A man covets the last roses of summer and pays the price in blood.
Two young monsters seek a peaceful life by the seaside.
A scorching prophecy threatens to destroy all that a princess holds dear.

Once upon a time stories travelled from place to place on the tongues of merchants and thieves and kings alike. Around a crackling bonfire beneath a sky that never grew dark they were shared, and traded, and altered, until every corner of the globe had their own collection of tales.

In the spirit of these age-old stories comes Once Upon a Summer , a seasonal anthology of folk and fairy tales from 15 authors across the globe. It covers everything from summer romances to eco-terror to seaside ghost stories, and features both intriguing twists on classic tales and exciting original stories.

The second of four planned seasonal anthologies from Macfarlane Lantern Publishing, Once Upon a Summer is sure to have a story for just about everyone. Grab your copy in time for the solstice today!

Inside this
The I Scream Van by Caroline Logan
What Big Geese You Have by Adie Hart
The Forest at the End of the World by Josie Jaffrey
It Is Written by S. Markem
These Burning Bones by Laila Amado
Vespertine by Elanna Bellows
The Last Roses of Summer by Kate Longstone
Love, Pride, Virtue and Fate by Bharat Krishnan
Juniper and the Upside Down Well by Ella Holmes
Love in the Time of Volcanoes by Jake Curran-Pipe
Bluebeard’s Beach House by Jenna Smithwick
The Knucker of Lyminster by Katherine Shaw
Summer Dreams by R. A. Gerritse
The Witches of Dogtown by A. J. Van Belle
Contract with a Mermaid by M. J. Weatherall

Add to Goodreads

My love for fairytale retellings is no secret here. Having previously read, Once Upon a Winter (You can read my review here.), I was excited to dive into the summer. I wasn't able to spend as much time with this anthology as I wanted but I did jump in on a couple of the stories. What I read, I loved! Most are cute and fluffy, while a few are dark, which is exactly what I wanted. 

Bluebeard’s Beach House by Jenna Smithwick was the story I most wanted to read, given its' darker origin story. Bluebeard, or La barbe bleue was written down by Charles Perrault—who also authored Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Little Red Riding Hood. The story begins with a wealthy nobleman wanting to remarry after the death of his SIX previous wives. Red flag much? Of course, it is, which is why after much debate (mostly due to his ugly blue beard and NOT the dead wives), one of the daughters of a neighbor agrees to marry him,  He leaves, but before he does, he gives his new wife the keys to all his treasures. Strangely, given all that he is giving her free access to, she is forbidden, upon severe punishment, to open one particular closet. While he's away she has her sister and family over for a party and her curiosity gets the best of her. When she enters the closet, she finds the previous six wives' bodies laying there! She drops the key in the blood on the floor, and no matter what she tries, she can't get the blood off. When the husband arrives home, seeing the blood on the key and knowing what she saw, he is going to kill her. She asks for one last prayer with her sister, Anne. After stalling, she goes downstairs to her fate, but right before she's killed, her brothers show up and stab Bluebeard to death. She inherits the estate and remarries, giving her a happily ever after...hopefully.

**Spoilers ahead**

In Smithwick's story, the new wife Josephine, is preparing in full 50s housewife magazine style for a dinner party. The magazines came from wife #2, Danielle. In her version of the story, Henry, our clean-shaven Bluebeard, is a little less rich, and the dinner party is to charm prospective partners. Josephine wonders if wife #2, felt the way she feels having to live up to Henry's expectations of his first wife. She has a certain amount of resigned jealousy seeing their portraits hanging still from their place of honor at the top of the stairs. She feels inadequate in the face of his previous marriages and under constant disapproval from Henry. Thinking she sees the portrait move, she drops the glass she's holding, a wedding gift of Henry and Mary's, and cuts herself in the process of cleaning the shards up. Pleading illness, Henry goes alone to the party but warns her not to rummage in the attic. After a ghostly vision of Mary urging her to give in to temptation, Josephine grabs the key and heads upstairs. The first thing she experiences is the smell, and there are weird skittering and scratching sounds, there's blood on the neck of a dress, and are those...feet? She stumbles over a dollhouse, a complete miniature of the house she's in, and inside the attic room, there are two dolls—Mary and Danielle. Blood from her cut hand gets on the white dresses of the dolls and she knows Henry will know she's been in the attic. She calls her sister in panic, who comes over. Henry arrives home and threatens her, Anne smacks him with a cast iron pan, and Josephine locks him in the attic, and sets the place on fire. Her happy ending comes with building a new house on the land, one that is airy and comfortable, and while there may be a new love interest there, it's not dependent on a man. 

This was such a great story! The buildup of tension and the creepy atmosphere were perfect! I loved the changes that Smithwick made to the classic story: the ghostly visitations/visions that Josephine had of the two previous wives, how they are actually warning her, and how Josephine, in the end, releases them from the house. Even though there aren't bloody bodies laying in a closet, I thought that the dollhouse was a very effective way of linking back to the origin stories. I especially loved the twist at the end of Josephine's little girl playing with the dollhouse, saying that Daddy is being mean, and how Josephine picks up the doll that looks like Henry, puts him in the attic, and shuts the door. This is exactly how you take a fairytale and give it a contemporary twist. 

Be sure to go back and check out the other stops on the tour!