Friday, March 7, 2008

Misery Loves Company by Ellen Ashe

TITLE: Misery Loves Company
AUTHOR: Ellen Ashe
PUBLISHER: Total-e-bound
LENGTH: Short story (roughly 11k)
GENRE: Horror erotic romance
COST: ₤1.69

Recovering alcoholic, recently divorced Lola is trying to rebuild her life. In a desperate last bid, she rents an isolated cabin for two weeks, cutting herself off from all modern conveniences. She hopes to reconnect with her art, maybe find a fresh start. But when the creepy caretaker warns her she’ll never last the whole two weeks, she realizes that all might not be well. Especially when she starts hearing things…seeing things…feeling things…

It was very apparent reading the blurb and excerpt on the publisher’s website that this was going to be a dark story. I was intrigued by the excerpt, especially. It was moody and melancholy, promises the short story kept. If there is one thing this author does extremely well, it’s create atmosphere. The entire story has a hallucinogenic feel to it. The narrator is unreliable, and the reader is swept along with her fear and confusion.

The ghost, whose name she learns is Daniel, is such an integral part of all this confusion that he creeps me out. A lot. A lot lot lot. Lola is aroused by him, probably because she’s lonely and desperate, but frankly, almost from the moment he gets introduced, I didn’t like him. The title is pretty much this ghost’s motto, and misery doesn’t even begin to cover it. Lola is so messed up, she starts losing a grip on what is real and what isn’t very quickly. Everything just spirals down from there.

There are minor technical flaws in the story, including awkward phrasing and editing issues that should have been cleaned up – like “griped” for “gripped,” and extra words in sentences that were clearly missed on a rewrite. The author’s prose gets held back by these mistakes. Her voice is very original, her descriptions haunting and evocative. It’s a shame to see it tarnished by simple mistakes.

If I were to label this an erotic horror story, I’d like it more. But I get the sneaky suspicion, because of the ending, this is meant to be a very dark romance. Unfortunately, the romance didn’t work for me. At all. In large part, because of the ending. I don’t want to say why that was, though; my other reservations aside, this story worked extremely well if read as horror and I’m not going to spoil it for those are intrigued. I’m kind of glad I took another chance with this author. I liked this one more the first story I read by her. What I’d really like to see is this author with a very solid editor, one who would erase all her technical errors and smooth out her pacing issues. She’s got tremendous potential, with a distinct style and a solid sense of the macabre. It would be fun to read something that takes full advantage of her strengths.


7/10 – Some unfortunate editing hinders what otherwise is some very atmospheric writing.


3/10 – I’m sure his melancholy was meant to make him sympathetic, but I thought he was just creepy.


6/10 – Messed up to the nth degree

Entertainment value

6/10 – As horror, this works very well for me. As a romance…not so much.

World building

7/10 – Extremely atmospheric, evoking the mood very well, but at the end, I’m still left with questions of, “What the hell exactly happened?”



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