’Tis the night—the night
Of the grave’s delight,
And the warlocks are at their play;
Ye think that without,
The wild winds shout,
But no, it is they—it is they! – Arthur Cleveland Coxe
Halloween Heat is a collection of five short stories from five authors, each taking place on the one night of the year that the veil between the here and the other is at its thinnest, the one night of the year that the most sinister, macabre, and mystical is made possible, the one night of the year when the parallel realms of the unimaginable will mingle with our own and unsettle the balance between the tangible and the ephemeral.
The first story in the anthology is Tristram La Roche’s Love Lies Deep, the tale of Josh, a man whose Halloween night will be spent in a cemetery in the small North Country village where he lived with his lover Sam. It is a night of “ifs” but no answers for Josh in this tale of loss within an impossible erotic fantasy made entirely possible through grief and the benevolent spirits that deliver second chances just one night of the year.
It’s a “Same Time Next Year” story of anguish and love made manifest through the supernatural, a sorrowful bit of flash fiction that at the same time holds a weighty promise, the only sort of promise for Josh and Sam that’s attainable, and in that, it’s a happiness-is-in-the-eye-of-the-beholder story with a bittersweet ending. – 4 Stars
Next up is Reneé George’s Idle Hands, which everyone knows are the devil’s tool, but who knew they could also be the Devil’s Playground?
Travis Boyd is a barista, Matthew Rowland is the man who has been coming into his coffee shop every year for the past three years. Every year, Matthew’s invitation is the same: for Travis to meet him at The Devil’s Playground haunted house where Matthew works, but there’s just one problem—Travis doesn’t go out on Halloween night. Ever. It’s a practice in non-participation that’s been ingrained in him since childhood. But for every rule, there is always an exception, isn’t there? And, in Travis’ case, that exception is called desire.
The Devil’s Playground isn’t your average haunted house in any way, and neither is this story at all average. This particular haunted house is the kind that, if you aren’t careful, you will enter but may never come out again. The story is filled with surprises and sex around every corner, as secrets are revealed and the strange and unusual reveals itself in startling ways.
Travis’ journey is unbelievably erotic, entirely unbelievable in a completely fantastical way and I loved it. Idle Hands is one of those stories that I didn’t want to put down until I was finished, and then when I’d finished it, I cursed it for being over. I would love to see Ms. George revisit these characters again soon. – 5 Stars
Dianne Hartsock’s Costumes takes place in a house of horrors of a very different sort, the sort of house where death and evil lingers, and is not afraid of the humans who would dare brave poking around at its secrets.
Paul and Bennie, childhood friends and now lovers, are in for a night filled with lust-fueled visions and wild fantasies they’ve never experienced before, visions filled with a sort of malice that can only belong to the malevolent spirit that haunts the nowhere beyond the strange door in the attic, a door for which the key is the means to unlocking evil.
Of all the pieces in this collection, Costumes is the one I must say I connected with the least. The house and the evil trapped within it was set up a bit like a gothic horror—or that’s how it felt to me, at least—but I never felt a sense of true threat from it, nor at any point was I unsure whether the men would survive it.
The eroticism of the other stories in this anthology is the effect of the mystical and ethereal nature of their plots. In this story, the eroticism is a manifestation of the evil—sex is the cause; it’s a plot device rather than an erotic result of the metaphysical muses playing havoc with mere mortals, and as a result, it fell a bit flat for me. That’s not to say this wasn’t a pleasant enough story, but for me it didn’t quite measure up to the intensity level of the others in the anthology. – 3 Stars
Kiran Hunter offers a through-the-looking-glass tale called Eden, a story that takes place in Eden Curiosities shop, where Jack tends to Sebastian Hargraves’ oddities. A mistaken turn down a previously untraveled corridor leads Jack to a room with a mirror, not one that reflects without but one that reflects within, to a place of midnight gardens and serpents and desire and a temptation unlike any Jack has ever experienced before.
Known only as the woodcutter, he is a seducer in a world that exists only in myth, the landscape so seductively other as to be the current that pulls Jack through the mirror and into a realm so provocative that Jack is like the fly to the woodcutter’s spider, lured by things he’d never before imagined.
Eden is an erotic fantasy wrapped in folklore, atmospheric in its “was it real or wasn’t it?” beauty. – 4.5 Stars
Rounding out the supernatural seduction is Elin Gregory’s Set in Stone, part time-travel fantasy, part dreamscape set around the megalithic Maen Madoc, a standing stone that becomes a magic portal to another time in history.
Joe is ex-army now working for the National Park authority and spending the night at the standing stone on the one night of the year when any- and everything is possible, and he is about to take an erotic journey to a time when the Romans were still a presence in Wales, where two warriors, Madoc and Dervacus, are battling for opposing clans—their love forbidden and if discovered, altogether deadly.
I loved this story for its bittersweet melancholy, for its touch of history, for its hallucination-like journey, and for the legend of a love that ended too soon yet defies lifetimes, breaking all the rules of time and space. I also loved it for the promise of something new for Joe and Greg in the end, forged in a common knowledge. – 5 Stars
Coming from someone who cut her reading teeth at a very early age on the likes of Stephen King and Clive Barker, this anthology was right up my fictional alley, with its blend of spooks and shivers, though the misters King and Barker never wrote erotica like this. Throw in the sensual elements on top of the otherworldly, and I’d say this one is an overall great read.
Reviewed by: Lisa