(Editor’s note: DOUBLE FEATURE is a column where I read at least two horror books per month in 2020 and review them for my website.)
The common threads in the four short stories of Monstrous Domesticity are pregnancy and the unspoken thoughts of mothers in difficult situations at home. Author R.J. Joseph channels the anxiety, fear, and desperation of women facing motherhood in despairing environments. The collection opens with my favorite of the four tales, “Georgie Stephanie,” a twisted account of the baby that Amanda and George are having. However, the story opens with the child looking for its mother, so the reader knows something isn’t right from the get-go — and that’s an understatement. “Flesh of My Flesh” shares the heartbreaking and horrific thoughts of a desperate mother in the ghetto, struggling to raise two children. “Till Death Do Us Part” tells the story of an oppressed housewife in an abusive marriage who tries to escape her domineering husband. “Bloodline” focuses on a pregnant mother’s worst nightmare transformed into shocking reality. Joseph’s prose is raw and visceral as she boldly challenges the notion of domestic bliss by going to its source — the womb.
The Night Creatures
Book 54 in Demain Publishing’s Short Sharp Shocks! series, The Night Creatures is a supernatural story about Dob, a retired accountant, and his dutiful wife Betty. Dob is happy with his routine lifestyle, funded by careful financial planning. However, Betty wants to travel out West and see the sights. Dob is reluctant because of the costs even though the couple never ventured anywhere during their forty-three-year marriage. When Betty starts having night terrors and seeing yellow-eyed creatures even in her waking moments, Dob seeks help for his wife but her psychosis escalates. Is Betty losing her mind or are the creatures real? Will Dob open his eyes to the actual problem or remain blind? Author Lee Allen Howard delivers a classic horror tale but also an allegory of marriage during the golden years when lifelong plans are threatened by the true night creatures — complacency, death, and time. Howard’s obvious empathy for the character of Betty sets the stage for an emotional climax propelled by the guilt and regret of a husband who failed to take his wife’s dreams seriously.