Short Take: “Breaking the Habit,” Yolanda Sfetsos

Pros: Good monster story
Cons: Lack of chemistry
Rating: 4 out of 5

In Yolanda Sfetsos’s short story (novella?) Breaking The Habit (Short Sharp Shocks! Book 27), Cisco and Isla just got married. Unfortunately, while the two have planned on a honeymoon in the Bahamas, Cisco has decided to surprise Isla with a cabin in the woods. Why unfortunately? Because Isla does not like surprises. And, as it turns out, with good reason. As soon as they arrive, Isla is greeted by a card addressing her as “Lala,” a name that brings up incredibly bad memories. Soon she’s in a fight for her and Cisco’s lives against the man/monster she once escaped from.

I was so frustrated with Cisco on Isla’s behalf. He really and truly meant well, but when your wife says she doesn’t like surprises, listen to her. He had reasons for wanting to treat her to a cabin in the middle of nowhere, and I thought Sfetsos struck just the right balance between Isla’s despair and frustration and her understanding of what Cisco was trying to do.

The story is short enough that I didn’t really get into the chemistry between the characters. But it did an excellent job of unsettling me right from the start.

The book doesn’t have much in the way of surprises, but it’s an excellent exploration of how a strong woman might fight against her obsessive stalker, combined with a monster story. Content note: sexual assault and lots of blood.

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