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Christina Maraziotis
Haunt: A Novel

Darkly romantic and wickedly twisted; a young woman who learns to become strong in the face of impossible circumstances, and a man who finds light in the midst of overwhelming darkness. Prepare yourself for the first book in a haunting new series...Loveletting.

Fleeing from her home after escaping the murder of her mother, inexperienced and petrified by reality with her horse as her only companion - Charlotte is met by the most notorious serial killer of the nation. His dark past and her dark future collide, in a world filled with dangers far greater than him.

Set in the rugged Victorian west at the end of the 19th century with a myriad of complex characters, all intertwined in a brutal environment that examines the conflicting nature and morality of humanity. Charlotte may be innocent at heart, but the world she lives in is not. Filled with dangers from gangs to cults and a mysterious horror element that persists throughout - the overarching gothic love story fills this thrilling, dark adventure up until the haunting end…leaving the reader with an existential dread so deep that it must be read to be understood, yet craving for more.

This novel is definitely for an adult audience, as the content is very heavy and challenging. It will appeal to those interested in a gothic romance with undertones of psychological horror. Most importantly, this book is a form of literary fiction; as character development is the most crucial factor in telling this story and it does not follow the typical tropes of a genre book. Subtle hints to the dark machinations behind the scenes, and interweaving characters who gradually change and grow over time, all work together to create a living world - filled with the unexpected - in which to lose yourself within.

If you want something to read on autopilot, and wish for the plot to follow a certain expected pattern, this is not the book for you. This experience will challenge you; a gripping story that will invade you, heart and mind, long after reading.

A sumptuous epic of dark romance set in the wild American West and centered on a young woman, a notorious outlaw, and a courtly man of wealth, Maraziotis’s sprawling debut is the kind of book whose ideal reader will happily spend a season in it. Running more than 750 pages, with much to be resolved in future books, Haunt both challenges and rewards in its uncompromising ambition, its lyric prose and surging emotions, its slowly teased secrets, wrenching violence, and—to borrow Maraziotis’s phrase—"lustful tenderness.” It’s at times familiar, with a simmering love triangle and scenes of frontier rescues, yet it’s too original to settle into any genre, as Maraziotis spices the tale with adventure, romance, tragedy, and even horror.

Mac, the strapping man who saves protagonist Charlotte from a bear attack, is considered a “degenerate, a cold-blooded killer.” After time in his “shadowy aura,” Charlotte—herself falsely accused of manslaughter—will face imprisonment, assault, and other dire predicaments. Maraziotis doesn’t shy away from the grisly or taboo: to free herself from captivity, Charlotte seduces a machete-wielding guard while their naked bodies are “covered in the murderous blood and evil stains of human debris.”

That’s perhaps the least sexy clinch in a novel that generates legitimate heat, especially after a second male lead, ranch owner William Griffiths, pleads Charlotte’s innocence. Will’s got secrets of his own but is gentleman enough, in a scene of sparkling turned-on comedy, to refuse a whiskey-drunk Charlotte’s affections despite what he calls “the tormenting stiffness that nearly bursts my virile member asunder.” Maraziotis digs into the men’s pasts in flashbacks, ensuring each is as developed and compelling as Charlotte. Fast-paced scenes and inventive perils keep the pages turning despite the novel’s length. Campfires, shootouts, and equine companionship are given fresh excitement, and the epic scope, darkness, and refusal to stick to familiar beats will please readers who relish immersive, provocative romance-tinged storytelling.

Takeaway: This epic, lyric adventure blends dark romance, horror, and a Wild West love triangle.

Great for fans of: Diana Gabaldon, Téa Obreht’s Inland.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: B+
Marketing copy: A-