Read Hardened Hearts by Eddie Generous Gwendolyn Kiste Tom Deady Meg Elison John Boden Somer Canon CalvinDemmer Theresa Braun Online


17 stories of difficult love, broken hearts, lost hope, and discarded truths. Love brings pain, vulnerability, and demands of revenge. Hardened Hearts spills the sum of darkness and light concerning the measures of love; including works from Meg Elison, author of The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (Winner of the Philip K. Dick Award), Tom Deady, author of Haven (Winner of the17 stories of difficult love, broken hearts, lost hope, and discarded truths. Love brings pain, vulnerability, and demands of revenge. Hardened Hearts spills the sum of darkness and light concerning the measures of love; including works from Meg Elison, author of The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (Winner of the Philip K. Dick Award), Tom Deady, author of Haven (Winner of the Bram Stoker award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel), Gwendolyn Kiste, author of And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe and Pretty Marys All in a Row, and many more.Hardened Hearts dips from speculative, horror, science fiction, fantasy, into literary and then out of the classifiable and into the waters of unpinned genres, but pure entertainment nonetheless....

Title : Hardened Hearts
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 36595730
Format Type : Kindle Edition
Number of Pages : 260 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Hardened Hearts Reviews

  • Cecily
    2019-04-15 10:21

    This is the perfect antidote to the commercialised saccharine tsunami of Valentine’s Day (when I was reading this). Seventeen stories by seventeen new(ish) writers. The style, genre, and length are diverse, but the content is consistently high. The best are brilliant, and the rest are pretty good. Most are dappled with stains of dark fantasy or light horror, and some have a distinct fairytale feel. Three have central LGBTQ themes. Love comes in a cornucopia of forms. Sexual, platonic, parental, self, taboo, and indescribable. Generous and gentle, or desperate, destructive, and vengeful. Heartbreak comes in many forms too, including, betrayal, sickness, stupidly self-inflicted, rape, and death. One speck of rot can infect the crop. Even the purest can turn sour or tragic, and although it’s not the victim’s fault, where supernatural forces are involved (in one sense, when are they not?), it’s not always the perpetrator’s either.There are plenty of surprises, and enough quirk, charm, humour, and hope to balance the deeper, darker strands. Even though these tales are about the sometimes agonising consequences of love, the overall message felt like an optimistic one of courage and acceptance. It's worth the risk. (Or maybe I unknowingly drunk the Hallmark Kool-Aid.)Love is love.**(view spoiler)[Until it isn’t. (hide spoiler)]40 Ways to Leave Your Monster Lover, by Gwendolyn Kiste“You won’t meet with him again. That’s what a good girl would do. But you already know it’s not what you’ll do.”Magical, knowing, feminist, hopeful, and funny. It’s conversational advice of all the things you know you shouldn’t do, but do anyway. It progresses from “Don’t become his lover in the first place”, though stages of an increasingly disturbing relationship - for more than the obvious reason. “You could still run. You know you won’t. But you could.” There are nods to fairytales (wolves, “a forest darker than heartbreak”) and mythology (pomegranate seeds, and the elements of fire, water, and earth). Loved it.It Breaks My Heart to Watch You Rot, by Somer Canon“More enduring than the object of her love was the hole he left behind. There’s no happiness in holes.”The love of an object. But which of them is really rotting?What is Love? by Calvin Demmer“As my wings grew tired, the devastation below bored me. The cracks within my soul demanded more than papering over.”African folklore: The Lightning Bird. A shape-shifting, blood-drinking semi-human, wanting to escape his enslavement and find “companionship - preview of love”, based on truth. Can he escape his destiny? The “love” he finally experiences does not fit the usual definition.Heirloom, by Theresa Braun“Mottled in her head were bits of a dream.”It would be easy to dismiss this as a write-by-numbers collection of clichés, but it’s more original, and better written than that. Rachel is a psychiatrist with no maternal instinct, who inherits a large mirror from her mother, which turns out to be a portal to another and place, (view spoiler)[ where she is pregnant by The Master. Their child has a dark and important destiny.(hide spoiler)] She moves between the two realms a few times, becoming more disturbed with each switch, exacerbated by possible connections with a couple of her patients. As her perception of reality shifts, so does the reader’s, but even so, the ending was a slight surprise. The Recluse, by John BodenA harmless crush on a colleague? Beware the shy guy. He may not be what he seems.Dog Tired, by Eddie Generous“Prince drove like a Sunday man skipping church and drinking in the real glory of a day off work.”A road trip, but something’s not right. Cassandra is not well, and it’s clearly crucial for Prince to keep her awake. He repeatedly reaffirms his love for her, and she reciprocates. The sex scene on page 101 is a possible entrant for the Literary Review’s annual Bad Sex In Fiction Award, but the rest of the story is much better. Unease gradually swells to vague worry, until the true horror of their situation comes into focus. The Pink Balloon, by Tom Deady“The brightness of the day began to dim, only at the edges first, then closing in like the ending of an old movie fading to black.”A mother takes her young daughter and baby son to the town fair because the father won’t. His love for them is questioned. A balloon, a candy-proffering clown, and dramatic consequences where love seems proven in a cruel way. (view spoiler)[ The crushing guilt of failing a loved one, and never being able to rectify matters proves unbearable.(hide spoiler)] There is a hint of psychological or fantastical mystery, but I found the writing itself rather plodding. It’s My Party and I’ll Cry if I want to, by JL Knight“He gulped her air hungrily into his lungs, devouring her.”Short and agonising portrayal of bereavement (that’s not a spoiler). A shame it follows The Pink Balloon, as at first it seems as if it might be similar. It’s not.Consumed, by Madhvi RamaniThe grass is always greener on the other side - literally, to a lawnmower salesman. In this story, the state of the grass mirrors the state of his life and relationships (view spoiler)[and the price of blow jobs can be very high(hide spoiler)]. Brutal.“The grass grew darker, blending with the woods beyond.”Burning Samantha, by Scott Paul Hallam“A daughter that her mother never knew she had.”“His grin that melts away the outside world.”A trans girls is preparing for a school dance with her best friend - her first outing as a girl (not a spoiler). It’s sweet and mostly positive. But by the end, I desperately hoped it was set in the past. I fear it is not.Class of 2000, by Robert Dean“When I got up this morning, murdering Alex Stanchon was not on my To Do list.”So opens this story about a college baseball star, returning to his home town, stirring memories of his first love, and the different way the two of them were treated.“Driving around town, seeing things I’d buried, I’m intercepting memories differently.”Learning to Love, by Jennifer Williams“My love leaves marks… Scars form that wind and twist like knotted rope… maps of our knowing, a guidebook of on how not to be. But they are also like the touching of stars. ”The narrator has been in love 45 times, with men and women, and wants to learn to love without leaving marks. The old mantra is to love yourself.“They say love hurts. It’s true. It hurts like hell.”Brothers, by Leo X Robertson“I just hope you forget about me too one day… You’re sleeping with a ghost and you don’t even know it.”Biological brothers, and friends as close as brothers, gay lovers and mothers, too, set over more than a decade of troubles (political and personal/psychiatric) in Ireland. It’s told from different characters’ perspectives, including a couple of diaries, which means the chronology jumps. At first, I wasn’t always sure about the relationships and sequence of events, but I think that was deliberately to unsettle the reader. It’s gritty and raw and probably realistic (drugs, graffiti, arrest, prostitutes, and psychosis are outside my experience). That made the introduction of more supernatural aspects startling (though this was the first story I read; if I had read the preceding ones first, it would have been less unexpected). Powerful and clever.“Walls had crumbled, and those that remained held Hugo and Bobby’s names only in the palimpsest of their spray’s eroded bumps beneath the white paint that had erased all their colors and images.”Porcelain Skin, by Laura Blackwell“I’m not sure I like your world… But I’m not sure I care for mine anymore, either.”A lonely old woman is given a wooden box with a clockwork ballerina on top that belonged to her best friend who died thirteen years earlier. There is a fairytale innocence that made it feel more YA than the others in this anthology. Not really my thing, but others may find it charming.The Heart of the Orchard, by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi“Once your roots are planted on a land for long, it claims you for its own.”Melissa lives alone, on a small part of what was her family’s farm, growing the best peaches for miles around. But they are not as good as they were. A mysterious orchard man offers the possibility of improving her crop. If something seems too good to be true, maybe it is, in fairytales at least as much as real life. She gradually notices misplaced objects, but can’t remember how they got that way. Worse things are going on in the town. She keeps a journal to try to join the dots, though the reason was disappointingly obvious to me from the off. Nevertheless, it reminded me of Angela Carter’s adult reworkings of traditional fairytales The Bloody Chamber (see my review HERE) more than any of the others.Meeting the Parents, by Sarah L JohnsonShort, amusing, sweet. As a standalone story, the twist might be more of a surprise - welcome or unwelcome, depending (view spoiler)[ on what you feel about arachnids - and maybe The Fly and Kafka (hide spoiler)].Matchmaker, by Meg Elison“She left a hole in me so ragged and bloody that I didn’t know whether I needed a bandage or a bullet.”Asimov as Cupid (indirectly). #GeekLove. I love. <3As Margaret Atwood writes in The Blind Assassin (see my review HERE):"All stories are about wolves… Anything else is sentimental drivel."["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>

  • Leo Robertson
    2019-04-19 11:29

    The very first thing this book is is fucking beautiful.It’s everything that love is. Surreal, hysterical, heartbreaking. Something that brings out the best and the worst in you. Something that can drive you insane. Something that leaves you so vulnerable that a lover’s betrayal may bring out sides of you you never wanted to see, make you commit acts you never thought yourself capable of committing. We hear “hardened hearts” and think, “Oh, someone has toughened, become cynical, rejects vulnerability.” But perhaps a hardened heart is one that has become stronger through the experience of loss, betrayal, the aching grind of envy. I mean, who knows?Almost like chapters in a book, repeated motifs seem to link one story to another. It might be common theme, or a symbol, but the book is somewhat of a journey across a spectrum of what love is. It’s quite a thing to behold. I remember before I fell in love I used to think that relationships made life more intense, but not necessarily better or worse. I don’t think I’d say that now, anymore, about my own life, but this book brings that statement into question in general. It hurts so fucking much sometimes. Is it worth it? Well, that’s why I’d say this collection is ultimately hopeful. Look at how exquisitely the pain of love is rendered. Doesn’t that make it a gift to feel?I have nightmares all the time, especially in winter, and in them I lose loved ones or, even worse, I commit mistakes so egregious that I drive loved ones away. I think it’s my mind’s way of saying that I have something great going on, but it addresses that message tangentially by saying, “Hey, Leo: wouldn’t it be fucking terrible if you lost what you had?” Why, yes, subconscious! It would! Thanks for scaring me back to appreciation! It seems like there’s some innate need within me to be scared back to a state of gratitude. Can you think of a higher purpose that dark fiction might have? I sure fucking can’t, and I’d add that this book is amongst the best capable of exacting that scare.In “Burning Samantha”, a man named Sam consistently does away with his true identity, Samantha. It’s a beautifully rendered picture that anyone could relate to: what it is to embrace yourself wholly with abandon only to later do away with the very idea that you fit in.In “Dog Tired”, a Bonnie and Clyde-style couple face an apocalypse that gives new meaning to their frowned-upon relationship. Loving anyone is worth it, for the time it lasts, if you get to do it at all.Calvin Demmer’s story, “What is Love?” explores how love is a kind of constraining tether to which we submit ourselves. His story could easily have been the title of this book where the rest of the pieces are concerned. Is love something that simply feels right? Is it something that other people have to approve of (“Class of 2000”)? Is “love” simply what you think you deserve to receive, or is that a trap (“40 Ways to Leave Your Monster Lover”)? Is love something so risky that the loss of it would destroy you (“It Breaks My Heart to Watch You Rot”; “The Pink Balloon”: “Brothers”)?It’s the holidays. It’s a time of (theoretical) gratitude. You’re around family whom you may not have seen in a while. You were excited to see them but, oh no! They suuuuck!Well, don’t let them! Let this book guide you into seeing how scarce and precious love in all its kinds is.You won’t regret it. You might even find yourself reading it again and again.AND BEST OF ALL! I MADE A PLAYLIST FOR THIS BOOK! Yes I did!!!

  • Candace Robinson
    2019-04-11 10:12

    Honestly, I hate reading most story collections by different authors because the writing styles are so different—which is great, but sometimes it just doesn't jive. Then most of the time I only like a few of the reads. This didn't happen here, though. I definitely liked almost all of the stories! My favorites have to be... Canon's, Demmer's Braun's, Deady's, Blackwell's, and Al-Mehairi's!It Breaks My Heart to Watch You Rot by: Somer Canon - Loved this one! It even caused me to tear up! The real scenario of when an immortal loves a mortal is a heartbreaking thing.What is Love? by: Calvin Demmer - Calvin is the master at writing short stories. So, I wasn't surprised at all that this one was amazing! Loved the ending!Heirloom by: Theresa Braun - I found this one extremely addicting and kept wanting to know what the heck was going on! Braun's writing is flawless, and the story is intriguing!The Pink Balloon by: Tom Deady - Let me go cry myself to sleep after reading this one, no, seriously!Porcelain Skin by: Laura Blackwell - This had a very whimsical feel to it, and I was thoroughly captivated!The Heart of the Orchard by: Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi - Loved, loved, loved this one—the setting, the tone, the writing—all of it was great!What I also liked is that there are a variety in genres, even though I prefer ones that have supernatural stuff, which most of them did! Now, the first story is written in second person (the only story written this way), which tends to scare me off because it is just such a weird thing. I mean, I don't want to feel like the story is talking to me—I want to pretend I'm somewhere else! Anyway, I think this is the first time where second person didn't totally creep me out. Overall, a great read where happily ever afters don't exist, but the reader still feels like they get what they wanted in the end!Review on my blog

  • Dianne
    2019-03-22 16:15

    My Rating: 4.5 Stars! Love. It can consume a person with joy, light-hearted dreams or pain and dark nightmares. Unrequited love, vulnerability and the twisted need for vengeance, the negative side of having loved can be deadly. There is love between friends and family. HARDENED HEARTS is a collection of love at its best and worst from a group of authors who make an art out of storytelling. There is a story for everyone from fantasy to dark horror and they prove that love makes the world go ‘round and ‘round and ‘round. From the fascinating foreword to the very last word, prepare to be entertained through a myriad of your own emotions and reactions to each tale, all in the name of love.From prized peach pies to one’s perfect match in love, the stories are short, but intriguing, some leaving us to continue “the rest of the story” in our minds, others leaving us looking over our shoulders for things that go bump in the night. Want a quick, dark werewolf story? It’s here. How about a story of love between a mortal and an immortal? There is definitely a downside to that kind of love. Ever wonder “What is Love?” Hear the thoughts of a killer, a destroyer as he ponders if those he kills are loved or missed. Is he facing remorse or have centuries of death and the thirst for blood worn him down? Is he looking for love himself?What will Rachel see in the “Heirloom” mirror hung in her psychology office? As she counsels her patients, the mirror looms large, triggering “memories” that couldn’t possibly be hers and yet… Is she losing her mind or is the mirror taking her to other worlds, other times? Short on time, yet looking for authors long on talent? Take a quick break with one tale at a time or devour the entire anthology in one sitting!I received a complimentary Review copy from Theresa Braun!Publisher: Unnerving (December 4, 2017)Publication Date: December 4, 2017Genre: Horror | Short StoriesPrint Length: 260 pagesAvailable from: Amazon | Barnes & NobleFor Reviews & More:

  • Char
    2019-04-20 10:40

    3.5/5 stars!HARDENED HEARTS contains dark fiction stories connected by the theme of love-all kinds of love. This book's strength is in its diversity. It covers so many facets of the subject, there's something here for everyone. The tales that stood out for me were:Calvin Demmer's story WHAT IS LOVEknocked my socks off! THE HEART OF THE ORCHARD by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi. This read almost like a warped fairy tale, and as we all know, fairy tales can often be quite grim. PINK BALLOON by Tom Deady was my favorite story in the book. It totally broke my heart. HEIRLOOM by Theresa Braun. I love tales about mirrors and this was an excellent example of why. This was my first experience with Theresa Braun's work and we are off to a good start.THE RECLUSE by John Boden. Short and sweet, Boden always impresses me. ClASS OF 2000 by Robert Dean. I guess the moral of this tale is not to mess with someone that can throw a baseball at 100 mph. It seems like common sense to me. BURNING SAMANTHA by Scott Hallum. I had never previously heard of Scott, but he's on my radar now. 50 WAYS TO LEAVE YOUR MONSTER LOVER by Gwendolyn Kiste. Here is another author that I haven't had any experience with but whose story was impressive. Lastly, IT'S MY PARTY AND I'LL CRY IF I WANT TO by J.L. Knight. A heartbreaking story about love and loss. Poignant and dark all at the same time. 9 of the 17 tales resonated deeply with me and that's above average, so I rounded up my original rating from 3 to 4 stars. I have some new authors to follow and I think they are offering up original work which only improves the genre. Bravo!Recommended for fans of diverse dark fiction. *Thanks to John Boden for providing an e-ARC of this anthology in exchange for my honest review. This is it.*

  • Sadie | sadie_reads_them_all
    2019-04-16 16:37

    4.5 stars Who would have thought love and horror would go so well together? It makes sense though because love adds risk to any good story and if there’s a horror element, now you’re doubling down on the risk!This anthology takes this theme and taps some amazing writers to plumb the depths of it.There were some *killer* standouts in the collection that easily make this book worth your time and money.Tom Deady’s Pink Balloon was especially well written and moved me to tears.Erin Sweet Al-Mihairi’s dark fairytale about a woman with someone in her Orchard...And 40 Ways to Leave Your Monster Lover was my favorite story in the whole collection, the author’s name is Gwendolyn Kiste. I’ll be looking for more by her. Theresa Braun’s tale was another stand out favorite with a mirror that bridges the gap between this life and other lives lived by one woman-it was clever, sexy and suspenseful. I also enjoyed Eddie Generous’ Dog Tired werewolf story—-all in all, a really great collection here. I enjoyed it. There were a few really short stories, just a page or two that broke up the momentum for me so I rated it 4.5 for those. Thank you, Erin for the review copy in exchange for an honest review

  • S.J. Budd
    2019-04-13 13:34

    Hardened Hearts is an anthology of love gone wrong, or weird!!! Before we find love for ourselves we grow up dreaming that love is a magic wand that will put everything right once we find it. However what love can give you, it can also take away. It can ruin you as much as heal.Here's the line up for Hardened Hearts, and for those who love short horror fiction you'll find some pretty big names in here;It Breaks My Heart to Watch You Rot by Somer CanonWhat is Love? by Calvin DemmerHeirloom by Theresa BraunThe Recluse by John Boden40 Ways to Leave Your Monster Lover by Gwendolyn KisteDog Tired by Eddie GenerousThe Pink Balloon by Tom DeadyIt's My Party and I'll Cry if I Want To by J.L.KnightBurning Samantha by Scott HallamConsumed by Madhvi RamaniClass of 2000 by Robert DeanLearning to Love by Jennifer WilliamsBrothers by Leo X.RobertsonPorcelain Skin by Laura BlackwellThe Heart of the Orchard by Erin Sweet Al-MehairiMeeting the Parents by Sarah L.JohnsonMatchmaker by Meg ElisonI really liked the range of stories in this anthology some were downright scary such as Heirloom, (Theresa Braun) or The Pink Balloon (Tom Deady) some were heartbreaking such as Burning Samantha ( Scott Hallam) which really struck a chord with me and some were just really creepy in a good way such as Meeting the Parents by Sarah..L.Johnson.All the stories in here are really great and there is something for everyone in Hardened Hearts. I also really liked 40 Ways to Leave your Monster Lover by Gwendoline Kiste, What is Love by Calvin Demmer and Brothers by Leo X.Robertson. These were stories that explored the dual nature of love, how it can both give and take. I also really liked Dog Tired by Eddie Generous which was an unusual take on a much loved horror creature.If you liked these stories you'll be pleased to know that Unnerving also produce a brilliant magazine of the best horror fiction! A year's subscription is just $10. Find out more here Hardened Hearts is out now!

  • William Bitner Jr.
    2019-03-25 09:28

    Genre - Horror/AnthologiesPublication Date - December 4, 2017Format - KindlePages - 260Stars - 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟Love and horror are the very best of bedfellows if done well. “Hardened Hearts” by Various Authors goes far beyond that. These are not your everyday kind of love stories (or maybe for you they are). They are dark, twisted and disturbing. Love will be redefined from one story to the next. 17 brilliantly written short stories by some very talented word artists. None of which I have never had the pleasure of reading before this book. I will however be searching out other works by these authors. As I’ve said in other reviews about anthologies, books like this are the perfect place to get a sampling of authors you may or may not have read before. These 17 authors gave us quite the experience to be sure. I certainly had some favorites but I must say I quite enjoyed the entire collection. I think it fitting and necessary to list each one along with the title in the order they appear in the book, along with a brilliant forward by James Newman. Thank you all for the experience!“40 Ways to Leave Your Monster Lover” by Gwendolyn Kiste“It Breaks My Heart to Watch You Rot” by Somer Canon“What is Love?” by Calvin Demmer“Heirloom” by Theresa Braun“The Recluse” by John Boden“Dog Tired” by Eddie Generous“The Pink Balloon” by Tom Deady“It’s My Party and I’ll Cry if I Want To” by J.L. Knight“Consumed” by Madhvi Ramani“Burning Samantha” by Scott Paul Hallam“Class of 2000” by Robert Dean“Learning to Love” by Jennifer Williams“Brothers” by Leo X. Robertson“Porcelain Skin” by Laura Blackwell“The Heart of the Orchard” by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi“Meeting the Parents” by Sarah L. Johnson“Matchmaker” by Meg ElisonFrom back cover: 17 stories of difficult love, broken hearts, lost hope, and discarded truths. Love brings pain, vulnerability, and demands of revenge. Hardened Hearts spills the sum of darkness and light concerning the measures of love; including works from Meg Elison, author of The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (Winner of the Philip K. Dick Award), Tom Deady, author of Haven (Winner of the Bram Stoker award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel), Gwendolyn Kiste, author of And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe and Pretty Marys All in a Row, and many more.Hardened Hearts dips from speculative, horror, science fiction, fantasy, into literary and then out of the classifiable and into the waters of unpinned genres, but pure entertainment nonetheless.

  • The Grim Reader (
    2019-04-10 17:22

    Love and horror are two concepts that often walk hand-in-hand. My favourite stories to read in the horror genre are those that break my fragile little heart whilst at the same time creeping me out. Hardened Hearts holds a nice balance of stories. Some of these tales tug hard at the heartstrings, whilst others leave a dark smirk of satisfaction on your face. Then there are those that simply feel wrong…After the foreword by James Newman, Gwendolyn Kiste gets this collection of love-themed stories off to a fine start with her tale of a student who falls for her teacher. Sometimes things seem too good to be true, but in the end, you realize that some things just aren’t good for you at all. This is a well-written tale of desire and regret. Sommer Cannon’s short but punchy story, It Breaks My Heart to Watch You Rot follows and is exactly the sort of tale I wanted to see in this book. It’s a fine story about sadness and immortality, and although short, it packs in some real thoughtfulness and emotion. I also really enjoyed Theresa Braun’s story, Heirloom. It had just enough weird in it for me. A mirror opens psychologist Rachel’s mind to fragmented memories. She is transported to other times and places, but she isn’t alone. One of her creepy clients also makes frequent appearances. Does he know more than he is letting on or is Rachel losing the plot? Heirloom is one of the longer stories and is much the better for it.As I dove deeper into the lovesick waters of Hardened Hearts I found myself enjoying the story by Scott Halam. His superb tale of identity, Burning Samantha, really hit my reading sweet spot as did Tom Deady’s The Pink Balloon, which is a hugely emotional journey. This also worked really well, some excellent storytelling here from Mr Deady. I also dug Robert Dean’s Class of 2000, which has a fantastic karma-filled ending. The anthology finishes strongly with the excellent Meeting The Parents by Sarah L. Johnson, a different look at love involving…..a spider!Unnerving has put together a very good collection of stories. Some stood out more than others, but on the whole, this is a consistently strong gathering of tales which will elicit a number of different emotions. Highly recommended.4/5 blocked arteries from the Grim Reader.

  • Yvonne
    2019-04-15 13:34

    I am going to give a brief few lines about each story.40 WAYS TO LEAVE YOUR MONSTER LOVER - Gwendolyn Kiste: The loner of the group is dragged along to a party.  She accepts a drink from a man she knows is married, she knows she shouldn't. There are lots of things she shouldn't do but does. The man is likened to that of a wolf, he is the hunter, she the prey.IT BREAKS MY HEART TO WATCH YOU ROT - Somer CanonL: Love does not last forever.  It lasts until the last breath.WHAT IS LOVE? - Calvin Demmer: He is a lightening bird, a rare creature that feeds on blood.  He is controlled by witch doctors and can take human form.HEIRLOOM - Theresa Braun: Rachel has an antique mirror, an heirloom. She is with a client when the mirror moves, this plus the strange dreams she has been having and also the unsettling client gives a dark and unsettling read.THE RECLUSE - John Boden: He is besotted with his co-worker Emily.  He thought she was "the one".DOG TIRED - Eddie Generous: Prince and Cassandra are driving, desperate to stay awake.  They cannot allow themselves to fall asleep.  There are beast in the shadows, they carry an infection.THE PINK BALLOON - Tom Deady: Grace wants to go to the fair, Dad has been busy, is tired and grumpy.  Mum takes her instead.  Walking around is unsettling for mum, be better if her husband was with her.  Grace sees a balloon seller, clowns and stalls.  He should have gone with them.IT'S MY PARTY AND I'LL CRY IF I WANT TO - J.L. Knight: He still has her breath, it has been captured in the balloons she blew up.CONSUMED - Madhvi Ramani: He is a married lawn mower sales man, she is recently divorced.  They meet at conferences, trade shows and have elicit meetings.  He is in over his head, out of his depth and then there are the lies.BURNING SAMANTHA - Scott Hallam: She is Samantha, not Sam.  Ready to attend the Spring Dance with Andrew.  This is a night of change, missed and now lost opportunities.CLASS OF 2000 - Robert Dean: Didn't plan on murder today.  Didn't mean to murder Alex at all.  But he was a bully and a low life, pushed things too far.LEARNING TO LOVE - Jennifer Williams: Falling in love too fast and too often leaves scars.  Love hurts.BROTHERS - Leo X. Robertson: Growing up is part of life.  There are mistakes and regrets.  Going over old memories, visiting diaries exploring the past.  This is the longest story, it is diary entries from a group of teenagers, who they are and what they did.PORCELAIN SKIN - Laura Blackwell: Ruth is sent a music box, it belonged to an old friend who died 13 years ago.  She still misses her.THE HEART OF THE ORCHARD - Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi: When Melissa father dies the farm has to be sold.  It goes to neighbours and Melissa is able to live in their guest house.  She still grows peaches when an old man comes to her with some advice to improve them.MEETING THE PARENTS - Sarah L. Johnson: She is trying to describe her boyfriend in a letter to her parents.  It is better if they know some things before they actually meet him.MATCHMAKER - Meg Elison: Getting over a break up is never easy, especially when you ex can be seen on a dating app with a new hairstyle and smiling.Back to My Thoughts:These stories are a really good mix.  There are supernatural, modern, occult, folktale-ish, modern and creepy but all have elements of love in them in all it's various guises.This is a great book for dipping in and out of, pick a story, read it, maybe read another....or get completely engrossed and read in pretty much one sitting, it wasn't the plan !

  • Lilyn G. (Scifi and Scary)
    2019-04-07 14:33

    Hardened Hearts was a well-put together anthology covering a wide range of stories falling under the sole – but never simple – subject of ‘love’. Reading it, I was never quite sure what the next story was going to bring. I can’t say that I claim to understand the point of all the stories involved in the volume, but I appreciate that the editor tried to make sure that as many aspects as possible were represented.Because of the topic and the fact that many of the stories strayed from my comfort genres, I can’t say that I was super crazy as about Hardened Hearts. The Death’s Realm anthology was definitely more my style. However, there were a few stories in Hardened Hearts that I absolutely loved, and only a couple that I disliked. Most of them were interesting, but just didn’t strike the right chord for me. The stories were all well-edited, the range of characters displayed was wide, and it was obvious that a lot of thought had went into the curation. This is an anthology that should grow to be very popular within it’s target audience.I wanted to briefly talk about my favorites in Hardened Hearts. The first one was Dog Tired by Eddie Generous (who happens to be the editor as well). It was well-written, the disease caught me off guard, and I liked the twist on fighting the infection. It was followed by another winner in my eyes – The Pink Balloon by Tom Deady. Normally I hate child death in stories, but this one was done right. Then there was Burning Samantha by Scott Paul Hallam, which made me have a rather serious amount of the sads for the main character. Finally, I really liked Matchmaker by Meg Elison, though some of my affection for the story does come from the fact that I thought it was perfectly placed. It was nice to end the anthology on an up note.Overall, Hardened Hearts was a pleasant reading experience and none of the stories are ridiculously long, so they’d make for good lunch time reads over a week or two. Can’t say I loved it, but it was well-done nevertheless.

  • Maria Haskins
    2019-04-19 14:36

    This is a great collection of dark, twisted, disturbing stories about love, lust, and heartache. With seventeen authors, the voices included in this anthology are varied and it offers a pretty eclectic mix of fantasy, noir, and horror. All the stories reflect on love - as a concept or as a reality - in some way, and all the stories make for solid and enjoyable reading.Some standouts for me:'It Breaks my Heart to Watch You Rot' by Somer Canon, a story that reflects on what it's like to watch old age consume someone you love...if you are yourself immortal.'What Is Love' by Calvin Demmer, a story about powerful magic and love and obsession, has an ending that made me cringe (that's a good thing in this case!).'40 Ways to Leave Your Monster Lover' by Gwendolyn Kiste is a real treat, an evocative and gripping tale of getting caught up with a lover who is definitely no good for you (and how to get out!).'Dog Tired' by Eddie Generous is a cool, visceral horror take on werewolves - and I am always up for a good werewolf tale.'Learning To Love' by Jennifer Williams is a terrific, twisting tale of hungry, painful love.'Porcelain Skin' by Laura Blackwell is a fabulous tale about a box, friendship and love, and the regrets of things not said and done in time. It stands out because even though it's not exactly a happy love story, it is a story that offers an ending that actually is kind of happy, if a little strange.This is definitely an anthology worth checking out for those who like stories that peek at the darker side of life and love.

  • Sunshine Somerville
    2019-04-04 10:42

    4.5 starsI finished this collection the day after Valentine’s Day, which was kind of perfect. These are not your typical love stories, although “love” is the general theme connecting them. I was very impressed with each writer, and I didn’t feel like there was a weak story in the bunch. The writing is solid. The range of genres in the collection is cool, too. Most of these stories are so uniquely weird in their own way, and yet how the stories are organized makes them cohesive, like they naturally belong in the same collection.A few of my favorites were “Heirloom” , “Dog Tired”, “The Heart of the Orchard,” and “Matchmaker.” Honestly, I liked something about almost every single story. Despite many being short, they packed emotional punches. The immediate weirdness of many drew me in and held my attention.If you like your love stories a little on the dark side, definitely check out this collection.

  • Donna
    2019-03-22 17:15

    "Love hurts. Love bites. Love’s a bitch. Love is a battlefield. I hate myself for loving you.Love isn’t always pretty, is it? In fact, it can be downright scary, which is why for every catchy-but-disgustingly-sappy song with a title like Love Will Keep Us Together there’s one that strongly begs to differ: Love Will Tear Us Apart.""The stories in Hardened Hearts are about love that hurts. They are tales of forbidden love, and love that’s on borrowed time. They are stories about sexual love and love between star-crossed romantics, but also included here are stories of a guilt-ridden father’s love for his little girl, obsessions with inanimate objects, and even one woman’s unnatural, and shared, love for a spider (!). Love is strange, like the Everly Brothers sang way back in 1965, but once you’ve got it you never wanna quit. And, as each entry in this fine anthology proves, there’s nothing on Earth that’s more terrifying."I enjoyed some of these stories more than others, but overall I really enjoyed the book! I found it fascinating, funny, horrifying, creepy, dark and even a little sad (I didn’t cry though). I want to list a few of my favorites, but I’ll put on top the one I enjoyed the most!HEIRLOOM by Theresa Braun - I really felt this one deserved it’s own book!! A++THE HEART OF THE ORCHARD by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi - This one deserved it’s own book also! A+IT BREAKS MY HEART TO WATCH YOU ROT by Somer Canon ADOG TIRED by Eddie Generous A-Those were just my favorites. I enjoyed the others too. I recommend this as a very different, creepy, dark, fascinating, quick little read. There were a few authors on here that I already knew were very good, but now I’ve learned of some others. That’s what I love about these anthologies.

  • Somer Canon
    2019-04-20 15:33

    The content of this book is and was meant to be a major downer and yet, I thoroughly enjoyed it! It gets weird, heavy and very sad and it is done so by really, very talented writers. I'm a reader that loves anthologies (I know there are some who don't like them) and I'm so glad that this one delivered.

  • Adele
    2019-04-17 11:41

    I really enjoy a bunch of short stories and these were great!

  • Minx -The Genre Minx Book Reviews
    2019-04-09 11:22

    True Rating 3.5 stars!In this day and age, love and love stories in fiction has become in some cases quite formulaic. Hardened Hearts has seventeen short stories that break the mold! Love is not always sunshine and rainbows, love can be passionate, desperate, painful, dark, as well as twisted and disturbing. With each story in this book I found a new idea of love and these stories crossed across many different genres as well. There are many stories to choose from but my favorites were:It Breaks my Heart to Watch You Rot by Somer Canon: I read a lot of paranormal romance with long lived creatures, sometimes immortals, and I loved reading a story that made me consider what it would be like for an immortal to take a mortal lover that was not also given the gift of immortality. It’s one thing to grow old with someone but to watch them wither, just heartbreaking! I loved it!Heirloom by Theresa Braun: I loved that I was captivated by the main character, the ring, and the mirror. The story kept me guessing from the start and I would love to see this short story turned into its own full-length novel. It was dark, disturbing, and engaging. The writing was spot on and I was invested in the plot from beginning to end.The Pink Balloon by Tom Deady: This story is utterly heartbreaking and every parent’s nightmare. Hits so close to home with our fears and the ending is so sad but a reality for some after the loss of their child. Such a good read!Burning Samantha by Scott Hallum: This short story started out so wonderful for the main character Samantha but quickly turned into a heart wrenching dream crusher for Samantha. I hate that this sort of thing still happens in our society and I just wanted to tell Samantha’s character to stay true to herself.This compilation of stories has a taste for every palate. They all elicited an emotional response from me, some were positive emotions others were negative but overall, I appreciated the spectrum of views on love that were brought forth in these short stories. I would highly recommend Hardened Hearts to anyone looking for a diverse view on the emotional subject of love!This review is based on a complimentary book I received from Author, Theresa Braun. It is an honest and voluntary review. The complimentary receipt of it in no way affected my review or rating.Find this review and more at The Genre Minx Book Reviews

  • Reads & Reels
    2019-04-14 17:19

    What an absolutely refreshing take on heartbreak!I had originally planned on reviewing Theresa Braun’s short story only, but after reading the FANTASTIC foreward by James Newman (author of amazing horrors like The Odd Man Out), I had to read the entire anthology.Nearly every single story by this group of majorly talented authors, is unique, horrific, and thought-provoking. There were a couple that were just kind of meh for me, but they do have great merit and deserve a read too. With this eclectic bunch, there really is something for everyone.Heirloom:Theresa’s story is about a psychiatrist and her newly acquired antique mirror. The mirror is an heirloom that has been passed down through the years, and possesses some very unique traits.She keeps the mirror hanging in her office, and let’s just say things start to get really interesting. Particularly after she starts treating a client who feels a certain ownership towards the good doctor.I love Theresa’s writing style! It’s bold and unique. She isn’t afraid to take chances in her work which translates into fantastically creepy tales. Heirloom is no exception. It fits in perfectly with the rest of this creeptastic collection.Overall, “Hardened Hearts” offers unique insight into different kinds of love and will leave you wondering if you might be better (and safer) off staying single.Rating… A

  • Happy Booker
    2019-04-19 16:38

    Hardened Hearts is a collection of 17 stories that are dark, and some are about love and heartache. Since the collection is written by various writers, each possessed a different kind of style and literature to its own nature of plot and storyline. This worked well for the book because there was bound to be one story that would sit well with its reader.Some of the stories stood out compared to the rest, and I believe it all depends on the notion at hand, which is the perspective of its reader. For instance, “What is Love” was a story about magic and love. Or, “Learning to love” was about a twisted and painful love.I believe the fact that the authors decided to mix love and horror into the mix was a brilliant idea. The literature was varied but strong, and each to its own was enjoyable to read. The other advantage this book has is that you could read a story per night.I recommend this book to people that enjoy short stories and appreciate dark horror fiction novels.

  • Leslie aka StoreyBook Reviews
    2019-04-09 11:32

    Enclosed in this book are 17 short stories that range from 3 pages to about 30 (I didn't count on some of the longer ones!).Most of these stories are dark and some can be depressing when you look at the storyline.  But at the same time, some of these stories have an underlying moral to the story that should not be overlooked.I liked most of the stories as they intrigued me and took me on an adventure through another time and place.  Some I wished were longer because I felt like there was more than could be told.  A few ended abruptly and left me wanting to know what happened next.Overall these stories were intriguing and it was not all hearts and roses, but rather the heartbreak that we all experience at one time or another.We give it 3 1/2 paws.

  • Ramakant Singh
    2019-04-05 12:28

    Outstanding and unique...!! The author covers the details of the relationship of love with great conviction, and provides a matured and original perspective on the instances of failure of love and heartbreaks and how heart breaks may have a stoical effect on a person.The work sneaks into a not much ventured area of cognitive changes in a person suffering from failure in love and how the world-view of person changes with the change in the intrinsic environment of a person.A Must Read.....!! Highly Recommended....!

  • Rochelle Jones
    2019-04-16 16:30

    If I’m being honest, I was skeptical about reading this collection of stories. I wasn’t sure it would be for me. I normally steer clear of short story collections....and I can’t seem to deduce a justifiable reason for that… However, I am glad that I read it anyway as this collection of short stories was a wonderful challenge of what society considers a “love story”.Some of the stories I really enjoyed, some of them I wanted more of, some of them I didn’t like, some of them we’re really confusing, some of them were still good despite the confusion, and some of them didn’t do anything for me.Anyway, I give this collection three stars because that’s a good median rating and since I didn’t care for all of the stories, I can’t justify a higher rating than three. I feel like that could be fairly common with short story collections. If you’re looking for a book/collection with a bunch of different view points and ideas, then this is a great suggestion.Full Review: https://wanderinglectiophile.wordpres...

  • Tausha
    2019-04-19 11:39

    With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, it’s the perfect time of year to tuck into a dark fiction anthology delving deep into the theme of troubled love and heartbreak. Hardened Hearts, edited by Eddie Generous and published by Unnerving, offers 17 stories that ooze love in all its forms, and then some more. From romantic and forbidden love to unrequited and strange, seriously bizarre love, the diversity and each author’s take on the theme, make this anthology a fantastic addition to anyone’s collection. In his heartfelt introduction, James Newman nostalgically recalls his favorite dark, love-themed books and films and writes his favorite kind of horror has something about the human condition. Although Newman reflects on horror, I will say there is very few traditional horror stories here. As promised, the anthology “dips from speculative, horror, science fiction, fantasy, into literary and then out of the classifiable and into the waters of unpinned genres, but pure entertainment nonetheless.” So, even if you don’t consider yourself a fan of dark/weird fiction, you’re bound to find a story or two, or several, that chill the cockles of your heart and stay with you long after reading. I won’t mention all seventeen stories here, but will give a glimpse at a few of my favs. I absolutely loved Gwendolyn Kiste’s “40 Ways to Leave Your Monster Lover” which is a killer opening for the collection. Beautifully written in 2nd person, this twenty-page story about a student falling for a married teacher has some lighthearted humor, but offers a strong warning: “Never accept an invitation from a wolf.” This tale took my breath away. Stunning.In “Heirloom” Theresa Braun does what she does best and takes the reader on a dark and fantastic journey into another time and world. Mirror, mirror on the wall and bam! – instant portal to Hell. Steeped with atmosphere, wicked lust and evil desire, your heart will be racing through this one. When it comes to world-building, Braun is a master storyteller. Riveting. Eddie Generous’s “Dog Tired” is the apocalyptic tale of the bunch, featuring a Bonnie and Clyde-type couple who are racing to save their wildly dangerous love. Fun and fast-paced, you’ll sink your teeth into this one. Prepare yourself for a truly biting experience. In Meg Elison’s “Matchmaker” the narrator, heartbroken after being dumped, sets up a dating app profile, initially to browse the ex’s. Finding love through dating apps and online sites is nothing new in modern love stories, but the way Elison tells the story in refreshingly unique. As the final story of the collection, the tale offers a warm reminder that love is out there for all of us.Overall, I was greatly impressed with the stories included in the collection. For those who want something slightly more twisted this Valentine’s Day or any day, I’d highly recommend getting a copy.

  • Helen Calder
    2019-04-06 16:24

    This is a short story anthology focused on the dark side of love. As an anthology it can’t avoid being a mixed bag. Not every story is what I would call horror but your mileage may vary. Not every story is going to appeal to every reader and I can’t claim that I loved every one of them. However there is a lot to love here and even those stories that I didn’t particularly like I could at least admire.It's a jewellery box of a book. Some of these stories are lockets containing detailed vignettes, some are gloriously baroque tiaras, and some are more like delicately jewelled cameos. You might not be willing to wear all of them in public but you can appreciate the skill of the makers. There’s nothing lazy or badly written here. Many of the stories are bold and experimental and that’s what a short story anthology is for. I have my favourites. I particularly liked the first two stores, 40 Ways to Leave Your Monster Lover, and It Breaks My Heart To Watch You Rot. The second of those made me cry and and the first one means that if you don’t think that second person narration is acceptable (at least in a short story) I will now fight you. There are some sexy stories, some tragic ones and even some that are funny. I especially appreciated the placing of the final story, Matchmaker, as it’s just the perfect story to end on.If you like horror, you’ll probably like this. If you like challenging love stories then you’ll probably like this too. I have no hesitation in recommending this to my friends.

  • Anie
    2019-03-26 09:38

    Received from Author in exchange for honest reviewHardened Hearths is collection of short stories, all talking about love. But not in the way we are use to (at least me). These are not happy ending, romance stories. Each story is very different, but has the same elements to it. These are stories of love, that is real, not perfect, at times heartbreaking and weird. With so many stories, that cover different aspects of love, you are bound to find some that touch you. Even though genres vary, from horror, to fiction and all in between, there is element "real-ness" to all. The stories that stood out and touch me are: It Break My Hearth to Watch You Rot by Somer Canon. It talk about watching someone you love, forgetting you, forgetting yourself and watching him slowly die, whilst you stand by, helplessly. The Pink Ballon by Tom Deady. It talks about the most horrible thing than can happen to you, death of a child and the guilt that you cannot live with.Heirloom by Theresa Braun. This is one really amazing story, that has Stephan King vibe to it. It really spooky story that I was pulled in totally and wanted to read more of. It's that kind of book, that could be great for anyone, because there are so many different parts. I would love to see some of there stories blown up to full size novels. :)