10 Creepy Romances That Are Almost As Terrifying As Dating IRL

by Charlotte Ahlin

I know that this will come as a shock to you all, and that I am quite possibly the first person to make this observation, but dating? Not always so great. Yes, sure, there are many people who seem to waltz through life in a haze of healthy, supportive romantic relationships and Instagram likes. And we wish them all the very best. But for the rest of us living goblins, finding another human person who we actually like, and who actually likes us in return (and who is not a jerk/cheater/many-tentacled monster) can be a bit of a challenge. Believe me, I've been there. So here are a few romance novels that range from dark to downright creepy, because dating can be a bit of a horror show.

Of course, the relationships portrayed in these books are (for the most part) not great examples to follow in real life. In actuality, you probably shouldn't date your boss who keeps his first wife locked in the attic. You should maybe think twice before becoming involved with ghosts, vampires, or serial killers. And under no circumstances should you accept the proposal of that guy who lives under the opera house, no matter how many times he kidnaps you.

But, even if these romances wouldn't be quite so great in real life, these books all make for a creepy, romantic thrill:

'Daughter of Smoke & Bone' by Laini Taylor

Black hand prints begin appearing on doorways all across the world. A dusty old shop is running low on human teeth. And Karou, a young art student, spends her time sketching monsters and disappearing on strange "errands" that even she may not fully understand. Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a strange sort of love story between an "angel" and a "demon," but Laini Taylor manages to bring something entirely new to the genre of otherworldly romance.

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'The Phantom of the Opera' by Gaston Leroux

OK, I'll admit to being a bit of a Phantom apologist. Yes, the book is a melodramatic gothic horror-romance in which a musically gifted squatter learns the lesson that kidnapping women is not an appropriate way of finding a girlfriend. It's silly. And more than a little creepy. But if you're into high drama cheese and masked men in capes, then The Phantom of the Opera is about as classic as it gets.

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'The Devourers' by Indra Das

The Devourers starts off like so many other romances: Alok, a middle-aged history professor, meets a mysterious stranger beneath a full moon. The stranger brings with him an unfinished tale and a number of bizarre notebooks and once-living skins, telling of an ancient people who were both human and beast. There's something about this man that makes Alok want to know more, and so he takes on a transcription job that will pull him deeper into this world of beautiful and brutal shape-shifters (and closer to this strange man and his impossible stories).

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'Rebecca' by Daphne du Maurier

You know how it is: one minute you're a orphan working as a lady's maid, the next minute you're being swept off your feet by the dashing Maxim de Winter. As the new Mrs. de Winter, you're thrilled to arrive at your husband's massive country estate... until you realize that his housekeeper already hates you and also you are maybe going to be haunted by the ghost of his first wife, who died under mysterious circumstances. Yikes. Rebecca is a classic creep-fest for romantics and horror fans alike.

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'Lilith's Brood' by Octavia E. Butler

Look, sometimes a family isn't a man and a woman. Sometimes a family is a woman, her tri-gendered, tentacled alien lovers, and their hybrid children who constitute the next stage in human evolution. Lilith's Brood isn't exactly horror, but sci-fi queen Octavia Butler manages to balance fear, hope, and desire in equal measure in this tale of otherness and tentacle love.

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'Jane Steele' by Lyndsay Faye

Yes, Jane Eyre is classic and all, but have you considered Jane Eyre... but with murder? Jane Steele is sort of a Jane Eyre retelling, and sort of a Jane Eyre-inspired quest for vengeance. It stars our titular Jane, who's out to right the wrongs of England's have-nots. But when Highgate House seeks a governess, she must find a way to possess the mysterious Charles Thornfield without revealing too much of her all too bloody past.

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'The Terracotta Bride' by Zen Cho

If you think you've read everything that the creepy romance genre has to offer, then I invite you to pick up The Terracotta Bride, a beautifully bizarre love story between a ghost and a (sort of) robot. Siew Tsin has resigned herself to being married to the richest man in Hell. Undeath could certainly be worse. But when her husband brings home a new, artificial bride, Siew Tsin finds herself drawn to the mysterious Yonghua, even if it means giving up her eternal afterlife for good.

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'Darkhouse' by Karina Halle

Perry Palomino is dealing with the typical signs of a quarter life crisis: she's stressed and adrift, not sure what to do with her life after college, and unwilling to unpack the implications of her past. Also she can see ghosts. When she stumbles across the producer of the ghost-hunting webcast, though, it seems like Perry might finally be finding her purpose in life... as well as a handsome stranger who may not be all that he seems.

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'Affinity' by Sarah Waters

Margaret Prior is a member of the Victorian upper-crust, and she's begun visiting the women's ward of Millbank prison as part of her charity work. She expected to encounter thieves and ne'er-do-wells. What she didn't expect was the strange connection she feels with Selina Dawes, an apparently innocent prisoner and enigmatic spiritualist. As she grows closer to Selina, Margaret will have to reconsider her own assumptions about the supernatural... and also probably break Selina out of prison before it's too late.

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'Lost Souls' by Poppy Z. Brite

Poppy Z. Brite might just be the Jack Kerouac of vampire romance fiction, and I mean that in the best way possible. Lost Souls follows a collection of sexually charged young people and rootless vampires just looking for acceptance. They hang out at clubs, wear a lot of black, and take off on a madcap, definitely illicit road trip to New Orleans to find some kind of salvation (or quite possibly destruction).

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