Love and horror are two concepts that often walk hand-in-hand. My favourite stories to read in the horror genre are those that break my fragile little heart whilst at the same time creeping me out. Hardened Hearts holds a nice balance of stories. Some of these tales tug hard at the heartstrings, whilst others leave a dark smirk of satisfaction on your face. Then there are those that simply feel wrong…
After the foreword by James Newman, Gwendolyn Kiste gets this collection of love-themed stories off to a fine start with her tale of a student who falls for her teacher. Sometimes things seem too good to be true, but in the end, you realize that some things just aren’t good for you at all. This is a well-written tale of desire and regret. Sommer Cannon’s short but punchy story, It Breaks My Heart to Watch You Rot follows and is exactly the sort of tale I wanted to see in this book. It’s a fine story about sadness and immortality, and although short, it packs in some real thoughtfulness and emotion. I also really enjoyed Theresa Braun’s story, Heirloom. It had just enough weird in it for me. A mirror opens psychologist Rachel’s mind to fragmented memories. She is transported to other times and places, but she isn’t alone. One of her creepy clients also makes frequent appearances. Does he know more than he is letting on or is Rachel losing the plot? Heirloom is one of the longer stories and is much the better for it.
As I dove deeper into the lovesick waters of Hardened Hearts I found myself enjoying the story by Scott Halam. His superb tale of identity, Burning Samantha, really hit my reading sweet spot as did Tom Deady’s The Pink Balloon, which is a hugely emotional journey. This also worked really well, some excellent storytelling here from Mr Deady. I also dug Robert Dean’s Class of 2000, which has a fantastic karma-filled ending. The anthology finishes strongly with the excellent Meeting The Parents by Sarah L. Johnson, a different look at love involving…..a spider!
Unnerving has put together a very good collection of stories. Some stood out more than others, but on the whole, this is a consistently strong gathering of tales which will elicit a number of different emotions. Highly recommended.
4/5 blocked arteries from the Grim Reader.
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