Group Discussion: Eternally Yours

With Halloween just around the corner, we thought it would be a perfect time to dive into the paranormal romances of Eternally Yours edited by Patrice Caldwell. We fell into the stories and found much to love. I think we avoided any major spoilers so feel free to take a peek into our group discussion even if you haven’t had a chance to read yet. If you know the stories though, we’d enjoy hearing your thoughts.

Publisher summary: Vampires and merpeople, angels and demons—the paranormal is full of unusual beings. The stories in this anthology imagine worlds where the only thing more powerful than the supernatural, is love.

Contributors include: Kalynn Bayron (Cinderella Is Dead); Kendare Blake (Three Dark Crowns); Kat Cho (Wicked Fox); Melissa de la Cruz (Blue Bloods); Sarah Gailey (When We Were Magic); Hafsah Faizal(We Hunt the Flame); Chloe Gong (These Violent Delights); Alexis Henderson (The Year of the Witching); Adib Khorram (Darius the Great Is Not Okay); Anna-Marie McLemore (When the Moon Was Ours, The Mirror Season); Casey McQuiston (Red, White, and Royal Blue; One Last Stop); Sandhya Menon (When Dimple Met Rishi); Akshaya Raman (The Ivory Key); Marie Rutkoski (The Winner’s Curse); Julian Winters (Running With Lions; Right Where I Left You)

What are your impressions of the cover? 

Audrey: I loved it! It’s beautifully macabre, and I especially enjoyed the detail of the blood dripping off of one of the roses. I knew exactly what kind of anthology I was going to get when I saw the cover.

Jessica: Oh, I’m such a fan. It really grabs you the moment you see it. I’m listening to Taylor Swift’s new album and Anti-Hero is playing right now – and it pairs really well with the cover! 

Crystal: I really love the vivid colors and it’s such a great pairing with the romantic and the slightly creepy. It’s warm and chilling at the same time.

K. Imani: I absolutely love the cover. It’s completely romantic and gothic with such beautiful colors. It really sets the vibe of the anthology. 

Which story or stories really grabbed you and lingered in your mind after reading? 

Audrey: Such a difficult decision! There were so many good stories in this anthology. If forced to narrow down my favorites, I’d pick “Piano Sonata No. 13” by Kalynn Bayron, “Banes and Blessings” by Hafsah Faizal, and “Bride-Heart” by Marie Rutkoski. (I do enjoy a story with a solid body count! And each of these had some lovely but horrifying details/descriptions that stuck with me.)

Jessica: Same, Audrey. It’s so hard to choose; they were all so paranormally delightful! I’ll echo Audrey on saying that “Banes and Blessings” was a favorite of mine, too. I also really loved La Bruja y la Sirena by Anna-Marie McLemore – such gorgeous writing. And of course, I have to include a shoutout to A Thousand More by Chloe Gong which was just so much fun. It’s the kind of story I want to see adapted as a C-Drama. 

Crystal: I totally agree, it is difficult to choose. I too have “Banes and Blessings” in my top picks though and the piano story was quite memorable. Being a children’s librarian, the title “If You Give an Asura a Cookie” stood out to me and the story wasn’t as creepy as others, but it was a sweet one and I enjoyed that.

K. Imani: I knew this question was going to be asked so I kept a small tally as I read, lol. I really did enjoy all the stories but like Audrey, “Piano Sonata No. 13” was perfect as it was a romantic villain origin story and I was there for it. “Kiss the Boy” by Adib Khorram had me smiling the whole time, and “My Demon Prince Charming,” by Sandhya Menon was so wonderfully romantic. And Jessica, I agree that “A Thousand More” by Chloe Gong needs to be a C-Drama. I would love to see all the different lives of Tally and Nate. 

Stories like these really make me think about questions involving monsters. What are monsters and or how can we determine if someone is truly a monster? Were any questions like this bouncing around in your mind while reading?

Audrey: As you can tell from my favorites list, one of the ideas I found myself circling was violence and how it can be used to blur the lines between “monsters” and “good people.” Sometimes the violence feels entirely justified, sometimes it feels good in the abstract, and sometimes it’s the byproduct of some other outcome you want. 

Crystal: The question of monsters is an interesting one to me. So many times we are judging whether someone or something is a monster on looks or even actions, but we don’t always know the motivations. I think the determination can be better made when you know the “why”, but that’s the trickiest part to discover or understand. We default to appearances because that’s the simple path.

Jessica: Monsters often embody the “Other,” which is why I think so many people connect with monster stories that are nuanced or sympathetic to them and depict monsters with a dimension of humanity. (And as seen in Scooby-Doo, the real ‘monster’ in stories can be the human, whose monstrous behavior outstrips a real ‘monster.’ Sorry, yes, I had to bring up Scooby Doo.) Monsters often reflect cultural fears, desires, and violations of conventional (white, straight) norms. And that’s something that many people from marginalized backgrounds can connect with. The letter to the reader from anthology editor Patrice Caldwell speaks to the appeal of monsters so well and also points to an IRL issue – that of publishing declaring paranormal romance “dead,” ignoring the BIPOC and queer paranormal romance authors who were already writing in the space or who aspire to write in that space. 

K. Imani: One of the aspects I liked about some of these stories is of demons and other monsters falling in love too. Monsters are often depicted as soulless evil drones, but in reality “monsters” are just people with bad intentions. They live and love like the rest of us, so it was nice to see our so-called “evil’ monsters “humanized” in a way. And like Crystal said we often don’t know the motivation of others so often when we think of monsters doing evil things, they are often just trying to survive. Stories of “monsters” falling in love helps us see them in a different light. It was one of the reasons why I love “If You Give an Asura a Cookie” because the story really showed how “monsters” are just trying to survive in a human populated world, and deserve happiness too. 

Did you meet any new authors that made you want to find more of their writing?

Audrey: Kalynn Bayron was a new-to-me author, and I’ll definitely be on the lookout for more of her work. 

Crystal: Akshaya Raman made me want to follow up and find more of her work. Fortunately, there is a book in existence already, The Ivory Key, so I have something to look forward to sometime soon. 

Jessica: I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve had Alexis Henderson’s much-lauded The Year of the Witching on my TBR pile for a long time, but haven’t gotten around to reading it. Reading “In the Eyes of Angels” was the push I needed to pick up The Year of the Witching finally – and I’m so glad I did!

K. Imani: Like Crystal, Akshaya Raman stood out to me too. Now that I know she wrote “The Ivory Key”, a book that has been on my list, I can’t wait to dig into her novel. 

Since we’re on the topic of paranormal love, have you read any novels with that topic that you would recommend? 

Audrey: The first thing that jumped to mind for me was CEMETERY BOYS by Aiden Thomas, which features a brujo falling for the ghost he accidentally summoned. I’ve also loved every one of Anna-Marie McLemore’s books that I’ve read, so check those out if you’d like some magical realism with your romance.  

Crystal: I too loved Cemetery Boys and Anna-Marie McLemore’s books. I would also add Cynthia Leitich-Smith’s Feral Nights or her Tantalize series. 

Jessica: Echoing Audrey and Crystal – Cemetery Boys and anything by Anna-Marie McLemore is a must-read. I would also include the YA graphic novel Mooncakes by by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu, which is queer and lighthearted and fabulous.

K. Imani: Oh, where to begin as paranormal romance is one of my favorite genres! Renee Ahdieh’s quartet “The Beautiful” is on its third book and is a wonderful gothic-ish series set in New Orleans in the 1870’s. If you want more Merfolk, Natasha Bowen’s “Skin of the Sea” duology is a treat. The sequel “Soul of the Deep” just came out a few weeks ago. 

This was a fun read and discussion and we’d recommend it for anyone with an interest in paranormal love stories and those with an interest in the monstrous. Thanks for joining us!