Somewhere, deep inside each of us, is that one secret fantasy that we long to explore. No matter how prim and proper we appear on the surface, we all have that one fantasy that leaves us feeling conflicted and torn every time we consider it. For most of us, it’s a fantasy so intensely personal and revealing that we’ll never discuss it, much less seriously contemplate ever seeking its fulfilment. It’s the kind of secret fantasy that feeds the heights of passion, and then leaves us desperate to bury the memory the moment the passion fades away.
The House of Blood is all those fantasies exposed, explored, and exploited – all at Chris Hill’s expense.
Chris is successful, good looking, and married to the woman of his dreams. Deeply submissive, he is happily engaged in a 24/7 female domination relationship. It’s serious and intense, and occasionally borders on the extreme, but it’s precisely the kind of relationship they both crave. Ironically, as submissive as he is, Chris is also a helpless womanizer, an all-too-human weakness that plays right into their supernatural torment.
Initially, it’s Chris who is drawn to the creepy old haunted mansion on Palomino Drive. Visually, it seems a perfect home for a successful horror novelist, and he loves the image it presents to his fans. It’s not at all what Katherine had in mind, but the more she learns of its history, the more she falls under its spell. Once owned by Lady Anne, a notoriously cruel dominatrix who is rumoured to have whipped both slaves and husbands to death, the mansion is very much haunted by its tortured past.
Almost willingly possessed by the spirit of Lady Anne, Katherine soon begins push the boundaries of her relationship far beyond any previously assumed limitations. Whereas she used to be content to leave a few temporary scars, Katherine’s punishments escalate into relentless, merciless whippings and canings that leave Chris bedridden for days. Although the suggestion of cuckolding was always a part of their relationship, she begins bringing her lovers home, forcing Chris first to listen, and then to watch, and then to take part in preparing her and pleasuring her lovers.
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 pornographic fantasy, there would be no morning-after regrets or repurcussions. What's important about the world Wayne has created is that there are consequences for every action. It's that brutal intrusion of reality that makes Lady Anne's supernatural presence so easy to accept. Her presence reminds us that this is a serious horror novel, and one in which no ghost so cruel and so determined is ever going to settle for anything less than the finality of death. What began as a marital conflict soon escalates into a supernatural one as well, leaving Chris as desperate, as helpless, and as doomed as any other victim.
In a house filled with ghosts, it's often hard to tell what is real and what is imagined. As much as we'd like to believe the phantom orgies, ghostly murders, and incorporeal torments are merely the figment of a horror author's own overactive imagination, there's no questioning the blood, bruises, and broken bones that Chris awakens to after each episode of supernatural submission. His experiences are truly horrifying, and the deeper he descends into depravity, the more guilty we feel for enjoying any earlier titillation at his expense.
Definitely not for everyone, this is a remarkably well-written novel that superbly meshes the arousal of fetish erotica with the fear of extreme horror. It's a difficult mix to manage, but Wayne 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, John Skipp, and Craig Spector, will certainly appreciate the appeal here.