If you are a regular Seductive Musings reader, you may recall that I've reviewed two previous books which sexed up a classic romance novel with less than successful results. After the most recent one, I actually went on Twitter to beg someone for an example of this writing trend that was actually done well and a pleasure to read. I am quite pleased and more than a bit surprised to report that I.J. Miller’s “Wuthering Nights” is that book.
I have to admit that the original “Wuthering Heights” was never one of my favorite romances. Heathcliff may be the quintessential dark brooding alpha male which always appeals to me, but neither of the Catherine Earnshaws were heroines I particularly liked. The secondary characters were no better, with the Earnshaw men as almost laughably over-the-top villains and the Linton siblings so passive and whiny that I was actually pleased to see them suffer.
Perhaps this cynical attitude is part of why I was so receptive to I.J. Miller’s new erotic version, but I wouldn't have enjoyed it as much as I did if it wasn't so well developed and executed. What was once a classic tale of doomed love and thwarted revenge is now a relentless story of true erotic horror, with Heathcliff recast as the merciless Dominant who will use anyone and anything in his quest to possess his beloved Catherine completely and forever. Along the way, we see how each person in Heathcliff’s path becomes his pawn, most often through his exploitation of their own erotic desires. “Wuthering Nights” does not hesitate to show the full spectrum of erotic horror, but never in a way that does not fit fully with how the characters in the original story were presented and understood. It makes sense that Catherine would never fully submit to Heathcliff, regardless of his intent and overwhelming Dominance. It also makes sense that Catherine would explore her own nascent Dominance when married to the simpering Edgar, and their sexual encounters radiate the appropriate amount of creepy discomfort. Yet the most extreme examples of erotic horror in “Wuthering Nights” involve two characters who were more off to the sidelines in the original, but are now front and center in this version.
When Isabella Linton falls in love with Heathcliff and elopes with him to be married in the original, we don’t see much of her again, other than a few scenes later where it’s clear she is just as abused and mistreated as the other members of Heathcliff’s sorry household. In I.J. Miller’s version, we see the true nature of Isabella’s married life with Heathcliff, and what I read there actually made me feel sorry for her in a way the original had never inspired. How terrible to have a true love exploited and perverted so cruelly, regardless of the reason. Again, this alteration would have been unbearable to read if the writing had less than spot on. Like any good horror story, it may frighten and disgust, but you can’t look away.
The Earnshaw’s housekeeper, Nelly, served as a narrator in the original, providing background and context to the visiting traveler staying at Wuthering Heights. In “Wuthering Nights” she is all that and more, providing the reader greater access to the young Heathcliff, for whom she would do anything, including providing physical comfort when Catherine is unavailable to him. As the story progresses, Nelly is the one person who truly sees Heathcliff for the monster he is, yet also loves him and ultimately allows herself to be exploited along with everyone else, just for the opportunity to have him with her one more time. And if Nelly, the voice of reason and common sense in this story, can be seduced and broken by a man whom she knows to be merciless, what hope do the young Cathy and Hareton have to resist?
I.J. Miller’s “Wuthering Nights” is definitely not for everyone. It is, however, the book I had wished for and the example that others should follow in this type of writing endeavor. I only hope it is not the exception that proves the rule. I would love to read more sexed-up classic romance novels if they are half as well written as this one.
Sensuality level: 5 (hardcore BDSM, non-consent, M/F/F)