Genre: Paranormal Romance
Queer Rep: Lesbian
Warnings: Violence, some gore
In the late 19th century, Laura lives a lonely life in a schloss by the forest, Styria, with only her doting father and two governesses for company. A chance accident brings a new companion, however – the eccentric and beautiful Carmilla.
With charm unparalleled and habits as mysterious as her history, Carmilla’s allure is undeniable, drawing Laura closer with every affectionate touch and word. Attraction blossoms into a temptation Laura fears to name, a tantalizing passion burning brighter than the fires of hell. But when a mysterious plague begins stealing the lives of young women in her home and the village beyond, Laura wrestles to reconcile the truth – that the gentle, fragile woman she loves may be a monster cast out of heaven.
“Carmilla and Laura” is a retelling of the classic vampire novella “Carmilla” written by J Sheridan LeFanu. If one thing is certain, it is the love S. D. Simper feels for the original. This story was crafted dearly and devoutly, the essence of the original sewn between lines and pages while casting light on the queer relationship we all want to see. The prose is gorgeous—perfectly fitting and a joy to read—and the story and pacing are a sight for a sore heart. Anyone interested in vampires, sapphic tales, or just plain pretty writing should be giving this novella their attention.
I don’t want to ruin how the story unfolds. The synopsis does an excellent job of encapsulating the story, and it is told in an interesting and rewarding manner. I was always ready for more words, more Carmilla, more Laura. Every scene was a treat, as it didn’t meander or drag out unnecessarily. It was succinct without feeling rushed, atmospheric without dragging on.
This author knows how to write. She twists the natural and opulent around the reader’s mind without a fuss, painting vivid pictures and sweeping them off to this secluded setting. I was at ease while reading; I could practically feel the sunlight on my skin and hear the rustle of the trees. I sensed the loneliness that surrounded Laura in her mansion of a home, and felt the cloud of warmth and vibrance Carmilla carried with her.
I love both the female leads. Even Carmilla, whose affection could be seen as calculating or over the top, felt genuine to me. I don’t know how the author did it—underpinned her flamboyant nature with enough truth that we could feel it—but she did. Perhaps it was because of what Laura could see. Laura was our lifeline, our eyes and hearts. I so badly wanted the best for her. I wanted her to have her most happy ending, and to be free of all the things that shackled her. She was an intensely relatable character, and seeing her receive love was completely fulfilling.
I can’t recommend this novella enough. I recommended before I had even finished it, and then I recommended it some more. It really is a sweep-you-off-your-feet tale. It has hope and light and edges of darkness and shared turmoil. It feels like being swept into an intimate waltz with love and death, and I enjoyed every step of the dance.
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