WTF Friday: The House of Blood by Wayne C. Rogers

Every once in a while, as the mood strikes me, I like to indulge in those titles that are a bit odd . . . a bit different . . . a bit bizarre . . . and a bit freaky. These are books that don't get a lot of press, and which rarely get any retail shelf space.

They're often an underground of sort of literature, best shared through guilty whispers, and often with embarrassed grins. These are our WTF Friday reads!

For this week's feature we are once again welcoming Sally back, this time with a very dark piece of erotic horror that so deftly captures the spirit of WTF Friday.

Deny it if you will but, somewhere, deep inside each of us, is that one secret fantasy that we long to explore. No matter how prim and proper we may appear on the surface, we all have that one fantasy that leaves us feeling conflicted and torn every time we consider it. With The House of Blood, Wayne C. Rogers explores one man's torment when those darkest of fantasies are exploited by a cruel, mysterious force of supernatural evil.

Chris is a successful horror novelist, married to the woman of his dreams, and deeply submissive to her on a level most of us cannot even imagine.This isn't 50 Shades playtime - this is a very real, very deep sort of power exchange. Their relationship is serious and intense, and occasionally borders on the extreme, but it is what they both crave. Ironically, as submissive as he is to his wife, Chris is also an unrepentant womanizer, and it is that weakness that initially leads them into their supernatural torment . . . although I think you'll agree the punishment is far worse than the crime.

Initially, it is Chris who is drawn to the creepy old mansion on Palomino Drive, which he believes presents the perfect image to his fans. Once owned by the infamous Lady Anne, a notoriously cruel dominatrix who is rumored to have whipped more than one husband to death, it is said to be haunted by more than just its tortured past. While it is not at all what Katherine had in mind, the more she learns of its history, the more she falls under its spell (quite literally). As she opens herself more and more to the spirit of Lady Anne, Katherine begins pushing the boundaries of her already unorthodox marriage far beyond any previously assumed limitations. Whereas she used to be content to leave a few temporary marks upon her husband, her punishments quickly escalate into relentless, merciless whippings and canings that leave Chris bedridden and all-but-crippled for days.

If this were just another work of sadomasochistic erotica, Chris would likely be left spiritually and emotionally broken, with the suggestion that it was his proper place all along. Similarly, if this were just another work of erotic fantasy, there would be no morning-after regrets or repercussions to their marriage. Instead, the world that Rogers has so carefully crafted here has real-life consequences for every action. It is that brutal intrusion of reality into the depraved fantasy that makes Lady Anne's supernatural evil so insidious. Those consequences serve to remind us that this is a serious horror novel, and one in which no ghost so cruel, no fiendish force so determined, is ever going to settle for anything less than the finality of death. What began as a simple marital conflict soon escalates into a supernatural battle of wills, leaving Chris its helpless victim.

The supernatural element here is superb. In a house filled with ghosts, it is often hard to tell what is real and what is imagined. As much as we might like to believe that the phantom orgies, ghostly murders, and incorporeal torments are merely the figments of a horror author's own overactive imagination, there is no questioning the blood, the bruises, and the broken bones. They may very well be the result of some kind of subconscious self-harm, or they may be evidence of Chris' supernatural submission. Regardless, his experiences are truly horrifying, and the deeper he descends into the pits of depravity, the more he fights to escape the house's control, the guiltier we feel for having enjoyed any earlier titillation at his expense.

Make no mistake, The House of Blood is for mature readers only, and is definitely not for everyone. This is a book that goes to some very dark places, but it's so wonderfully put together that you just have to let it lead you along, no matter how uncomfortable the leash. Rogers has crafted a remarkably well-written novel that superbly meshes the arousal of fetish erotica with the fear of extreme horror. It is a difficult mix to manage, but he does a superb job of getting into our heads as well as our beds. Readers who enjoy the darker, more visceral works of authors like Clive Barker, Richard Laymon, and Edward Lee, will certainly appreciate the appeal here.

Published January 24th 2013 by Smashwords Edition