Almost a year ago, Steve Saus and I exchanged books. I gave him a copy of the horror anthology Historical Lovecraft and he gave me a copy of the zombie romance anthology Hungry for your Love, edited by Lori Perkins. I had heard Steve read his story from the anthology, “Kicking the Habit,” at least twice, and enjoyed it, but for some reason I hesitated to read the rest of the anthology.
I have to admit, it was probably because of the word “romance” on the cover. There, I’ve said it: I’m a snob. I’ve read enough romance stories that made my toes curl (and not in a good way) that I was wary of the anthology, even though Steve’s story was heartfelt, sweet, and genuinely romantic, without the trite and insipid qualities that drive me to dislike that particular brand of romance that uses a formula and spits out identical stories with little literary merit. Yet, I was still nervous. I kept pushing the book to the back of my review queue.
Then I reviewed Hot and Steamy: Tales of Steampunk Romance for Doctor Fantastique’s. Despite the word “romance” right there in the title, the anthology was good. The characters were well-developed, the settings were unique, and the romance was actually romantic. I didn’t want to chuck the book out the window. I wanted to read more!
And so it was that I finally picked up Hungry for your Love and gave it a fair shake. My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.
When I said that the anthology was a zombie romance anthology, I wasn’t kidding. The protagonists vary from humans surviving the zombie apocalypse to actual rotting, brain-eating zombies, and everything in between. There are, of course, a few stories that aren’t my cup of tea–but that’s to be expected in every anthology and I’m not going to elaborate on the stories I didn’t love. The fact is, however, that choosing a favorite story is nigh unto impossible because they are all just so good, and even the stories that weren’t my favorites were well-written.
The second story in the anthology, “Revenants Anonymous,” by Francesca Lia Block, blew my socks off. It’s the personal account of a zombie woman who finds love at an addicts meeting for the life-challenged. The romantic interest is a dark-haired singer/songwriter with a guitar–and what girl doesn’t want to date that guy, even if he’s undead? The love between the two zombies ends up being sweet and poignant and even a little inspiring, and Block does a great job of conjuring the “life feels so much more alive” emotion that happens at the start of a new relationship after a long dry spell. The sex scene is described with tenderness and just enough detail to be sexy without being pornographic.
“My Partner The Zombie,” by R.G. Hart, is a noir-style tale about a pair of private detectives, one of whom happens to be a zombie. I enjoyed solving the mystery along with the detectives, laughed at the application of “Zombie Away” (a chemical solvent that does exactly what it sounds like it should do), and ultimately smiled at the happy ending. Happy endings are rare in the zombie fiction genre, but it seems to me that even in a zombie romance anthology the stories should have happy endings–or, at least, mostly happy.
Deetra, the protagonist in “Undying Love,” by Regina Riley, is a witch-for-hire. When a man walks into her magic shop and asks her to locate someone, she is unexpectedly attracted to him. Unfortunately, he’s also a zombie, but that doesn’t stop Deetra from developing a huge crush. Riley has a real knack for dialogue. I was only a few pages in before I was swooning for the zombified hero right along with Deetra. I don’t want to describe too much about this story and give away the details, but one scene made me cry actual tears. If you’re looking for erotica, you should look elsewhere, but if you’re looking for an emotionally moving, deeply romantic story, this is it, right here.
“Julia Brainchild” is a weird little story that almost defies description. The protagonist cooks brains for a television cooking show, and his thunder is stolen by the beautiful and charismatic Julia Brainchild. He becomes increasingly obsessed with seducing his sexy co-host, leading to a strange ending that is simultaneously happy and tragic. That might make it sound like this story, by Lois H. Gresh, is not good, but it is, just not in a traditional way, which is pretty brilliant. It’s nice to have a surreal little gem with a twist ending nestled in with all the other stories, like the prize at the bottom of a cereal box.
And of course, I love Steve Saus’s story, “Kicking the Habit,” which I mentioned before. It’s about as romantic as a story about zombie lovers can be. I have to admit that it is, however, even better read aloud by the author, so if you ever have a chance to hear Steve read it, you should.
Mercy Loomis’s “White Night, Black Horse” is a story about traditional Voodoo zombies, which was a nice break from the Romero-style undead ones. Stacy Brown’s “The Magician’s Apprentice” is about the love we sometimes overlook or neglect because we are too infatuated with someone flashy to notice the genuine affection of someone more modest. And “Last Times at Ridgemont High,” by Kilt Kilpatrick, is a clever parody of the high school angst film with which we’re all familiar. I was impressed with Kilpatrick’s ability to lead my expectations in one direction and then completely surprise me.
The book concludes with two strong stories, “First Date” by Dana Fredsti and “Later” by Michael Marshall Smith. “First Date” is a sexy adventure story with an incredibly erotic sex scene, perhaps the most erotic in the book, as if we were building to this climax all along (hurr, puns). “Later” draws the book to a close with a sweet, lyrical tale of love that refuses to be lost, even in death. This story was perfect to close the book, as it’s probably the one that haunts me the most after putting it down. Smith has a real way of composing images that linger in your mind.
All-in-all, Hungry for your Love is well worth the cover price. There’s a little something for everyone–adventure, sex, love, and even romance. And shockingly, there’s not a formulaic tale in the whole lot. Thanks to this book, I daresay I might pick up more horror-romance, and that’s saying a lot from someone who, not two months ago, was a genre snob. So well done, Lori Perkins and company!