Brhel and Sullivan's Her Mourning Portrait and Other Paranormal Oddities was published by Cemetery Gates Media in January/February 2018.
Information about the authors:
John Brhel is a horror writer from upstate New York. His work has appeared in "The Vault of Ghastly Tales." He is the co-author of "Tales From Valleyview Cemetery"." He blogs at http://cemeterygatesmedia.tumblr.com/. His Twitter handle is @JohnBrhel.
Joseph Sullivan is a writer of horror tales (Tales from Valleyview Cemetery), occult fantasy (Marvelry's Curiosity Shop), explorer of urban legend (upcoming Route 12: The Legend Trip) hiker, songwriter, and co-founder of Cemetery Gates Media. His long-term writing goal is to combine his love of poetry, the American novel, and Upstate New York into one cohesive work of fiction.
Information about Her Mourning Portrait and Other Paranormal Oddities:
Her Mourning Portrait and Other Paranormal Oddities is the fifth anthology from Brhel & Sullivan. It is a collection of dark fantasy stories which focuses on the interplay between the euphoric and lamentable moments of romantic commitments. These ten tales are light romances, which take turns through various fantasy subgenres such as science fiction, the paranormal, the occult and the weird.
Such tales include: “Lady of Cayuga Lake,” which recounts the last hurrah of a separating husband and wife, a final vacation which takes a turn toward the paranormal when they both spy a ghost over the lake. Will they have what it takes to work together, confide in each other, and solve the mysterious disappearance of Mary Gold?
“The Lost Cache” tells of the strain an obsessive hobby can have on a marriage. Hillary appears to give Eric every chance to engage her, and work his way back toward an intimate companionship, even going so far as to plan out a special evening of hiking and geocaching in an old cemetery with her husband.
“Side by Side” is a quirky cemetery tale about a confrontation between a long-dead man and his widow’s second husband, regarding the final resting place of their beloved-in-common.
“Her, He, and a Corpse Makes Three” focuses on a love triangle between a living couple who work in a funeral home, and the woman’s recently deceased, yet spiritually returned ex-boyfriend.
A REVIEW OF BRHEL AND SULLIVAN'S HER MOURNING PORTRAIT AND OTHER PARANORMAL ODDITIES
Because I enjoyed reading Brhel and Sullivan's previous collections and found them highly enjoyable, I was excited about Her Mourning Portrait and Other Paranormal Oddities and could hardly wait to read it. When I began to read it, I was glad to notice that the authors had once again done their best to write entertaining and thrilling stories.
Her Mourning Portrait and Other Paranormal Oddities is a marvellous addition to supernatural dark fantasy and horror fiction, because it manages to combine the best elements of good old-fashioned horror stories with modern horror fiction in an intriguing way.
Although John Brhel and Joseph Sullivan have already written five short story collections, it's possible that they may still be unknown authors to many speculative fiction readers. I sincerely hope that readers will discover them and take a closer look at what they've written, because their stories are wonderfully entertaining and delightfully macabre (the contents of their stories range from dark fantasy to occult fiction and horror fiction). What's unique about their stories is that some of them have a charming and distinct 80s feel to them that is lacking from many modern stories. This collection wonderfully demonstrates their diverse writing skills.
Her Mourning Portrait and Other Paranormal Oddities contains the following ten stories:
- Her Mourning Portrait
- Side by Side
- Lady of Cayuga Lake
- The Lost Cache
- The House on Pearl Ave
- With These Rings, I Thee Dread
- Mr. Green's Passional
- Her, He, and a Corpse Makes Three
- Play it Again, Sam
- Beyond a Blood Moon
I found all of these stories excellent and well written. I have to admit that I devoured them in one sitting, because I couldn't stop reading them. I loved them, because they ranged from the humorous to the weird.
I was surprised by how insightful, tender and amusing some of the stories were, because they were slightly different from what the authors have written previously. It's not often that readers get to read this kind of dark fantasy stories, because most dark fantasy stories tend to be much grittier and more brutal.
The paranormal themes found in these stories have given the authors a unique opportunity to explore love, romance, intimacy, relationships and companionship from a skewed point of view. The authors examine the various complexities related to relationships in a special way, because they write about what happens between living people and dead people.
The authors handle elements related to paranormal romance in a splendid way. They avoid all the annoying clichés and romantic fluff that way too many authors are guilty of using in their stories and boldly write about love and romance in their own unique way. I respect the authors for avoiding modern paranormal romance elements, because they show readers that there's much more to paranormal romance than sexy and lustful undead beings dating people and having sex with them. In these stories, the authors take paranormal romance back to its eerie Gothic roots.
Here's more information about the stories and my thoughts about them:
Her Mourning Portrait:
- A story about a painter, Jackson Kloone, and his sick wife, Charlotte. Jackson paints a portrait of his wife, and soon he notices that his wife remains youthful...
- The authors write well about how Jackson and Charlotte feel about each other and what kind of a relationship they have.
- This story has fascinating resemblances to Oscar Wilde's "The Picture of Dorian Gray", but is different from it.
- An excellent, melancholic and touching story about love and growing old.
Side by Side:
- In this story, Anna Ward is lying in bed and contemplating the marriages that had defined much of her life. She talks with her husband, Michael, about her burial and says that she wants to be buried beside her first husband, Edward...
- I enjoyed reading about what Anna's dead husband thought of what Michael had done to his wife and what happened next, because it was morbidly amusing.
- This is one of the best cemery tales I've ever read, because it's something different and wonderfully quirky.
Lady of Cayuga Lake:
- Brian and Joan Kramer have booked a cottage at Cayuga Lake and consider the trip to be their "last hurrah", because their marriage is almost over. In the evening, they see a young woman on the lake, suspended over the water...
- It was fascinating to read about how Brian and Joan became intrigued about the woman they saw and what they found out about her life.
- This is an interesting and well written ghost story, because it tells of what kind of an effect the happenings have on Brian and Joan's marriage.
The Lost Cache:
- In this story, Eric is obsessed with geocaching, but his wife, Hillary, doesn't like it very much. Hillary wants Eric to pay more attention to her and wants them to do things together. One day, Hillary tells Eric about a cache he might be interested in and mentions that she's also curious about it...
- The ending of this story is simply excellent.
- A memorable story about what kind of a strain obsessive geocaching can have on a marriage.
The House on Pearl Ave:
- Simon Dutter is the sole occupant of the little yellow house on Pearl Avenue. He feels alone and is haunted by a yearning for his ex-girlfriend. Suddenly, Simon notices a shadowed outline in the shape of a person and sees that it's a woman...
- The authors convincingly explore Simon's life and how he has been crippled by the breakup with his girlfriend.
- An intriguing and well written ghost story that will please new readers and fans of the authors.
With These Rings, I Thee Dread:
- In this story, Martin gives a sterling silver ring with Celtic symbols to his girlfriend, Katie. Martin feels content, because he knows that the promise ring Katie is wearing is a constant reminder of him and their inviolable bond. The following day, Martin is seated at his desk and sees a vision of Katie meeting a handsome man and his own promise ring glows softly...
- The authors write about Martin's insecurities and doubts concerning his relationship with Katie in an excellent way.
- This is a well written account of what happens when Martin begins to suspect that Katie is unfaithful to him.
Mr. Green's Passional:
- A story about Paul Green who lives alone and is more interested in the company of plants than spending time with people. He is on a year-long sabbatical and is working on genetic hybridization. One day, all of a sudden, Dr. Tomasita Gonzalez comes for a visit and shows interest in one of his orchids...
- The authors write excellently about how Paul acts around people and how little he wants to spend time with other people, because Paul is socially awkward and prefers his own company.
- Because I'm interested in botany and plants, it was intriguing for me to read about the carnivorous orchid.
- A fascinating story about plants, friendship and how dangerous creating a hybrid can be.
Her, He, and a Corpse Makes Three:
- A story about Tommi Kapowski and Mark Morton who works in a funeral home. When they are snuggling in the basement, they hear a mysterious sound. They think it's only gas escaping the lungs of the corpses, but soon they're forced to think differently as an ethereal and vaporous form arises in the room...
- This is an interesting and different kind of a love triangle between Tommi and Mark and Tommi's recently deceased ex-boyfriend.
- An excellent and well written story that will impress readers.
Play it Again, Sam:
- In this story, Sam Mallory is thinking about getting a glimpse into his past where he and his ex-wife, Melissa, were still together by using new virtual-reality technology called CRONOS...
- The authors explore well how fully Sam is dedicated to his work and what kind of a strain his dedication has on his relationships, because Sam works hard and has little time for other things.
- A thought-provoking and well written story.
Beyond a Blood Moon:
- The protagonist of this story wakes up one night due to absence of his fiancée. He thinks that Sara has gone for a jog, because her sneakers are gone and she enjoys jogging late. He can't go back to sleep, so he heads out into the night. As he turns towards the cemetery, he notices the beginnings of a lunar eclipse..
- This is an intriguing story about what happens to the protagonist when he finds his fiancée's lifeless body.
- I liked this story very much, because it's satisfyingly strange.
One of the reasons why these stories are excellent is the authors' ability to surprise their readers with intriguing plot twists. When you begin to read these stories, you won't know how they'll end it, because they contain plot twists and the endings are not always what one might expect.
I have to mention that the cover art by Ben Baldwin looks great, because it fits this collection perfectly. In this cover image, the artist has captured the overall feel of the collection in an excellent way.
My final words are:
If you're in need of good supernatural dark fantasy fiction and horror fiction, you can't go wrong by taking a look at Brhel and Sullivan's Her Mourning Portrait and Other Paranormal Oddities, because it's one of the most entertaining collections of its kind. Please, don't hesitate to read it, because it's marvellous dark fantasy entertainment.