Review Details

Review type: Book

Title: Doomed Romances: Strange Tales of Uncanny Love, edited by Joanne Ella Parsons

Editor: Joanne Ella Parsons

Publisher: British Library Publishing

Doomed Romances: Strange Tales of Uncanny Love, edited by Joanne Ella Parsons

Reviewed by: Melody Bowles

Other details: £9.99, Paperback

Doomed Romances: Strange Tales of Uncanny Love, edited by Joanne Ella Parsons by Joanne Ella Parsons

Melody Bowles

This collection of doomed romances contains stories by well-known authors such as Mary Shelley and Angela Carter, mixed with others that are much more obscure. The novella Carmilla by J Sheridan Le Fanu, famous for featuring a lesbian vampire romance, takes up much of the page count. It is a compelling read and fits the collection’s theme, but its length makes it stick out.

Unlike the other short story collections by the British Library, which stay firmly rooted in decades long gone, the collection includes more recent stories from 2000 and 2021. I found this choice a refreshing one, and it speaks to how the doomed romance theme is still as compelling now as it was in 1833.

The collection gives brief introductions to each story to give historical context. The most interesting of these explains the concept of Sensation Fiction, as several stories in the collection were written by authors who wrote under this umbrella. The plots of Sensation Fiction contained cliffhangers, bigamy, and sex scandals and anything and everything that might outrage upstanding Victorian citizens. I immediately recognised these stories as the ancestors of soap operas!

The Invisible Girl by Mary Shelley sees the collection off to a strong start. An atmospheric tale of scandal in Shelley’s Gothic style is always a delight. Another favourite of mine is One Remained Behind by Marjorie Bowen, with a protagonist perfect for hating in a classic deal-with-the-devil type story. The Glass Bottle Trick by Nalo Hopkinson also stood out – it’s a retelling of the Bluebeard myth blended with Caribbean folklore, and the creeping sense of horror is executed perfectly.

Read this if you are feeling sour about your love life. You will feel much better knowing your ex wasn’t a ghost, vampire, or trying to kill you (probably).

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