Here's another antecedent to Mama Lona's Man, a book I read twice (and paid $20 for, used!): Green Eyes by Lucius Sheppard. It has zombie-type critters that aren't rotting, brain-eating monsters, which is similar to the tack I tried to take.
A link is here.
But, I have to admit I never did really understand the ending. And it's not exactly a romance, and mine is, so I have that going for me, which is nice. I will gift a copy of Mama Lona's Man to the first person who sends me the name of the movie I just referenced.