The Enduring Appeal of Gothic Romance


Allow me to paint a picture.

Our heroine hears a strange noise in the middle of the night. Alarmed but determined, she climbs out of bed, her bare feet tingling with cold as they make contact with the warped floorboards. She lights a candle. Its glow casts a dim light, barely illuminating the cobwebbed corners of the old room. The bizarre noises continue, as if summoning her. Her heart racing, she leaves the relative comfort of her chamber and ventures into the dark hallway. The shadows lengthen, drawing her into their embrace. Despite her palpable sense of unease, she walks.

Dear reader, you have just encountered one of the classic scenes from Gothic romance.

Gothic romance has long been one of my passions. Why? It blends two of my favorite things: falling in love and being scared. Of course, I’m not talking about being scared silly. This isn’t The Conjuring. With Gothic romance, the reader gets to explore their fears in a gentler way.

Gothic romances gained popularity in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Often evoking the world of mystery and the supernatural, they were generally set in gloomy manor houses or ancient castles. Often focusing on young heroines who were isolated by their circumstances, they also often featured moody heroes and prickly servants. The classic example is Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. Some have dismissed these romances as being “frivolous,” their heroines as passive. However, I’ve met some of my favorite heroines in this sub-genre. These are women who aren’t afraid to confront the ghost at the end of the hall!

One of the reasons I adore this sub-genre of romance is the fact it usually reaches a satisfying conclusion. In most cases, the mystery is solved, the villains are exposed and the “demons” are exorcised. At the end, the reader breathes a sigh of relief as the protagonists declare their love. All the things that frightened us at the start of the novel don’t seem all that frightening anymore.

If you were to scan my Kindle at this time of year, you’d find a variety of exciting Gothic romances.  I’m thrilled to share some favorites!

The Dead of Haggard Hall

Marie Treanor’s The Dead of Haggard Hall captured me right from the start. Featuring a strong heroine and a delightfully skeptical hero, it provides plenty of mystery and moments of sinful temptation.

Dark Desires

You can’t help but love Eve Silver’s Dark Desires. It contains all the classic Gothic elements: a gripping mystery, a heroine who is forced to take a position no one else will, and an enigmatic hero.

Restless Spirits

Restless Spirits by Jordan L. Hawk has earned numerous reviews on Goodreads and rightly so. With enigmatic protagonists and a plot that pits science against spirituality, this M/M romance is a beloved read for many.

Etiquette with the Devil

What do you get when you take a surly hero, a heroine whose inheritance has been stolen, and a crumbling manor home? You have Rebecca Paula’s Etiquette with the Devil.

Lady of the Crescent Moon

Ingrid Hahn has written a Gothic romance set amidst the madness of the witch hunts. Lady of the Crescent Moon has curses and magic and a dashing French hero.

As Hallowe’en approaches, I hope you get a chance to explore some of these spine-tingling stories. If you do, remember to keep a light on.

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