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Book Review: Tainted Love: Women in Horror Anthology, Vol. 3 Edited by Azzurra Nox & Erica Ruhe


Tainted Love: Women in Horror Anthology, Vol. 3 Edited by Azzurra Nox & Erica Ruhe

Reviewed by Cardyn Brooks

Horror romance

Clean to hot

★★★


The foreword sets the intention of this anthology: “… to exalt women's voices… Tainted Love explores all the many ways that love can go wrong.” Each of the 15 stories examines the sinister facets of affection and devotion through various distinctive filters of selfishness and imbalance. Whether wronged or wrongdoer these characters deal with assorted betrayals, love triangles, schemes, and hauntings, crimes and punishments. Contemporary, historical, SciFi, and speculative tales offer an atmospheric blend of situations reminiscent of Hitchcock and The Twilight Zone with some menacing sexual chemistry added to heighten the sense of imminent peril. With lots of bad attitudes, devious acts, and some gore these authors explore themes of the gilded cage of domesticity as female captivity, grooming of children by adult predators, persecution for one's gender identity, and more. Each story is provocative. These are the standouts: “Vanitas" by A. Nox & E. Ruhe, “Chronic Chills” by H. Wilding, “Sleep" by M. Anderson, and “My Lady Bathory" by M. Burkhead.


A few stories, for example “The Flagship" engage readers with a strong premise weakened by a somewhat muddled execution that would flourish in a longer format. Minor proofing oversights in viscerally compelling tales with morbid humor in “They Want to Talk" and a lesson in karma in “Unfinished Business" and some others distract from their general excellence.


Tainted Love opens with a helpful trigger warning and closes with insightful backstory tidbits in the interview with the authors. It's the perfect read for people who enjoy moody happily-never-afters.



Published by Thomas & Mercer, February 1, 2021