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When Darkness Loves Us

Paperbacks from Hell
Narrated by: Karly Hutchins
Length: 6 hrs and 38 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (13 ratings)

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Summary

Sally Ann and Martha. Two women, searching for love. Finding terror.

During a terrifying storm, a gentle childhood is destroyed by a twisted man who promises love but delivers nightmare.

In the lightless depths of an underground labyrinth, unseen creatures lie in wait for an innocent traveler, cold skeletal hands stretched out in welcome.

There is horror in darkness - horror made greater when darkness loves us....

©1984 Elizabeth Engstrom (P)2019 Valancourt Books LLC

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Good until the end.

I enjoyed this, good old 80s inspired trash horror. However I felt it built to crescendo that never came. The end felt rushed and didn't fit with the character.

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Two Horror Novellas from the '80s

I'm a huge fan of Valencourt Books brilliant Paperbacks from Hell series, but this installment is a bit of a mixed bag. When Darkness Loves Us features two unrelated novellas by Elizabeth Engstrom. The first story - When Darkness Loves Us - is an absolute horror classic. Creepy, atmospheric and totally unique, it's a story that will stay with you for a long time after you listen to it. Unfortunately, the second story - Beauty Is - is nowhere near as strong. Engstrom is clearly a very talented writer, but at times I found this story a little bit twee. Karly Hutchins does a fine job with the narration. Definitely not my favourite of the Paperbacks from Hell series, but if you're interested, I'd recommend you give the sample a listen to first to see if it works for you.

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First from the author; but not the last

The first book by Elizabeth Engstrom, originally printed way back in 1985 but re-released through Valencourt Press as part of their Paperbacks From Hell series, consists of two novellas “When Darkness Loves US” and “Beauty Is…” and is a relatively modest size at 250 odd pages (or about six and a half hours). The stories themselves are somewhat connected, in theme and construction if not in plot or story, and stylistically they do well to evoke a sense of timelessness uncommon to such novels. The book is presented as pulp horror but both stories struggle to actually fit the category in real terms. Neither of the stories are scary in any way, neither story exhibits any real horror but they are both extremely well written and recommended regardless. The first novella, Where Darkness Loves Us, follows a girl named Sally-Ann who is the young wife of a farmer. Dizzy on fantasies of her life to-be she explores the fields around her home and finds stout wooden doors in the earth which leads to underground caverns. Foolishly she enters and when the doors are accidentally closed on her finds herself lost in the darkness. As time moves on she begins to see the apparition of a long lost love who guides her, an apparition that is the only light in the darkness; and she begins the feel the swelling of new life inside her. The novella When Darkness Loves Us is a quick read that has bundles of character and atmosphere those blossoms to something like a family drama as told by the Sawyer family from Texas Chainsaw Massacre. There’s plenty of low end suspense to be had but there’s little in the way of a “pay off” to this suspense. I suppose I felt the book was undermined by the characters own stupidity and the unlikeliness of the scenario itself, neither are deal breakers but coupled with the lack of any big-bad (to coin a Buffyism) the makes the whole affair a bit horror-lite. Thankfully the drama itself is more than enough to keep things afloat and provide dramatic suspense. For me When Darkness Loves Us is a bit of a weird mixed bag, it’s a fast read and I was eager to find out how it ended but it wasn’t a horror story and the characters struck me a little as clichés. There were lots in it that left me cold, nothing I didn’t like as such just stuff that filled the page without having much of an impact on me. Most reviews of this novella are glowing, they talk of it leaving the reader “reeling” over it, but I was left with a different result from the novella. It was good, yes, very good in fact but it lacked purpose or meaning to me; and for such a slow burner that relies so much on atmosphere this ultimately left it an extremely pretty but somewhat empty experience. Perhaps this one will grow on me with another read through, and I probably will do just that at some point. The second novella in the book Beauty Is… improves on things quite a bit. This time the story is much more involved and the characters are more fleshed out. It takes some of the themes from Where Darkness Loves Us and elaborates on them, refining them into a much more accomplished tale. Beauty Is… introduces us to Martha Mannes, an old lady who lives on the edge of a small town. She is well treated by the townsfolk and in many ways her existence is as idyllic as it could be. You see Martha is not only old she has severe learning difficulties, and if this wasn’t enough of a burden to her she was also born without a nose. Despite all this the townsfolk treat her like an honored member of their community, the bank hands her money on demand and the store owners hand-hold her through all her purchases. One day while a local handyman is helping fix her chicken coop she discovers and unfamiliar feeling towards the young man, a feeling that seems oddly reciprocated; and over the coming months as their relationship grows Martha’s mind is filled with more and more unfamiliar ideas and feelings, until a remarkable transformation slowly occurs. Beauty Is… shares themes of loneliness and love with the previous novella but it manages to create an experience far more complete and rewarding. As Martha grows we are treated to a series of flashbacks where we see her parents from the moment the newlyweds enter their new home to the point her mother dies. In this we are treated to a tale within a tale that both elucidates the drama and tragedy of Martha’s life as well as introduces one formative mystery of her existence. Beauty Is… is a tale of the struggles passed down from mother to daughter, it is a tale of faith and guilt and the power of self belief and in all this its more universal than the previous novella in this small collection; it was not a surprise to me that the novella had been optioned to be made into a movie, but it was a surprise that it never has been. On the strengths of this small collection Elizabeth Engstrom is certianly a writer worth the effort and though I think categorizing it as “horror” isn’t entirely accurate its probably about as accurate as any other category you could put it in. Engstrom is much like Stephen King in this regard, much of his work is definitely not horror, but the genre is flexible and diverse enough that most of its enthusiasts will embrace anything that doesn’t quite fit anywhere else. This is something of which, as a lifelong fan of the genre, I am extremely proud of and it also seems something of which the likes of Elizabeth Engstrom seems very aware.

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When Darkness Loves us

Two excellent stories!I loveed the first one where a woman goes missing for 20 years.The second was great too. Karly Hutchins was a fine narrator.I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.'

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Wow. .

This was great. Packs way more of a punch than I expected. Will read more Engstrom soon.

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  • latasha
  • 15-02-20

great stories!

Karly Hutchins did a great job reading these stories. I enjoyed the writing very much. It pulls you in right a way and doesn't let go. The stories were good, very original and each one different. I can see why Valancourt and Grady Hendrix wanted to reprint this and bring more awareness to this lady. I'm sure glad i bought Black Ambrosia as well.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 30-01-20

A rediscovered grotesque classic

80s horror fans will rejoice at this duology of novellas by Engstrom, which reveals allegiances to authors ranging from Clive Barker to Sherwood Anderson. Valancourt does fantastic work finding hidden gems of the horror genre, and this collection is no exception.

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  • AmazonPrime
  • 02-01-20

A couple of fun dark stories!

The author did a fantastic job writing the two different stories in this book. The first story was very short and ended kind of abruptly, but the second story pulled you in right away with another great tale. The narrator did an awesome and entertaining job with all of the characters by giving them their own individual voices and paired with Elizabeth Engstrom great writing skills, takes us for a walk on the dark side, The sound quality was very clear, nice and even throughout, and I had no problem listening to it on my outdated phone inside my vehicle.

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  • Bridget C.
  • 13-05-20

Perfectly narrated Creepfest!

These novellas were absolutely incredible. Karly Hutchins nailed the voices across both stories in a way that complimented the writing; I ended up sitting in a parking lot in my car for 17 minutes just to finish listening to "Beauty Is..." I love this kind of horror, where the world building and the macabre and the human element all come together and leave you reeling. There aren't jump scares but I won't ever forget either of these stories and I can't wait to read more Engstrom now, especially if Hutchins is narrating.

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  • Todd DellaPorta
  • 04-05-20

ummm, just ummm.

I need to be gentle .I know the authors parents are probably very proud. But I must say take a pass on this one. It's like two potentially decent short stories got put in a blender.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • stevenduaneallisonjunior
  • 26-03-20

Great story

The darkness loves us you say? Well you live in a cave with only your offspring, it better.

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  • Jonathon
  • 07-02-20

Mixed feelings.

The good first, the narration was great never had any issues at all and does decent voices for different people. The stories felt interesting but didn’t draw me in enough to care in the first 1/2 but had an interesting premise and the second half was the exact opposite being slow but didn’t really find a purpose. It wasn’t bad but not quite for me I guess.

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  • KAYLA
  • 16-12-19

Amazing Story

This is one of my mother’s favorite books and now I get to listen to this story! Highly recommend!!!!! -K