Gothic romance is a genre with a history that stretches all the way back to the late 1700s, when the writer Ann Radcliffe wrote the novel A Sicilian Romance. In it, she created the tropes of gothic romance: a gloomy, foreboding atmosphere; a remarkable home of some sort, be it an ancient castle or an elegant manor house; a puzzling connection to the past; a looming, mysterious danger; and a woman protagonist who battles terrifying ordeals in order to be with the man she loves.
Such classics as Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, and Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier kept readers invested in gothic romances. A mid-20th-century revival brought attention to writers like Anya Seton, Victoria Holt, and Mary Stewart. Readers love the atmospheric rush of gothic romances, the uncertain thrill at the antagonist’s depravity, the heart-pounding tension of love complicated by mystical forces.
Gothic romance never gets old, in other words—and contemporary authors are making sure of that, by putting new spins on old tropes and crafting unexpected plotlines to make the dark and twisty hearts of gothic readers flutter.
Here’s a list of ten recently-published gothic romances that continue pushing the boundaries of the genre:
White is for Witching
By Helen Oyeyemi
Grand and cavernous with hidden passages and buried secrets, the Silver family house in Dover, England, has been home to four generations of Silver women: Anna, Jennifer, Lily, and now Miranda. The Silver women have always had a strong connection, a pull over one another that reaches across time and space. When Miranda’s mother, Lily, passes away suddenly while on a trip abroad, Miranda begins suffering strange ailments. An eating disorder starves her. She begins hearing voices. When she brings a friend home, Dover’s hostility toward outsiders physically manifests within the four walls of the Silver house, and the lives of everyone inside are irrevocably changed. At once an unforgettable mystery and a meditation on race, nationality, and family legacies, White is for Witching is a boldly original, terrifying, and elegant novel by a prodigious talent.
A Stitch in Time
By Kelley Armstrong
Thorne Manor has always been haunted . . . and it has always haunted Bronwyn Dale. As a young girl, Bronwyn could pass through a time slip in her great-aunt’s house, where she visited William Thorne, a boy her own age, born two centuries earlier. After a family tragedy, Bronwyn was convinced that William existed only in her imagination. Twenty years later, Bronwyn inherits Thorne Manor. And when she returns, William is waiting, but he is no longer the boy she remembers. He’s a difficult and tempestuous man, his own life marred by tragedy and a scandal that had him retreating to self-imposed exile in his beloved moors. He’s also none too pleased with Bronwyn for abandoning him all those years ago. As their friendship rekindles and sparks into something more, Bronwyn must also deal with ghosts in the present version of the house. Soon she realizes they are linked to William and the secret scandal that drove him back to Thorne Manor. To build a future, Bronwyn must confront the past.
The Widow of Rose House
By Diana Biller
A young widow restores a dilapidated mansion with the assistance of a charming, eccentric genius, only to find the house is full of dangerous secrets in this effervescent Gilded Age debut novel. It’s 1875, and when Alva Webster’s abusive husband suddenly dies, she returns to New York to make a fresh start. However, fresh starts aren’t as easy as they seem, as Alva discovers when stories of a haunting at Liefdehuis, the Hyde Park mansion she is restoring, begin to reach her. But Alva doesn’t believe in ghosts. So when the eccentric and brilliant professor Samuel Moore appears and informs her that he can get to the bottom of the mystery that surrounds Liefdehuis, she turns him down flat. She doesn’t need any more complications in her life. But together, the two delve into the tragic secrets wreathing Alva’s new home while Sam attempts to unlock Alva’s history—and her heart.
The Essex Serpent
By Sarah Perry
An exquisitely talented young British author makes her American debut with this rapturously acclaimed historical novel, set in late 19th-century England, about an intellectually minded young widow, a pious vicar, and a rumored mythical serpent that explores questions about science and religion, skepticism, and faith, independence and love. When Cora Seaborne’s brilliant, domineering husband dies, she steps into her new life as a widow with as much relief as sadness: her marriage was not a happy one. Seeking refuge in fresh air and open space in the wake of the funeral, Cora leaves London for a visit to coastal Essex. She learns that after nearly 300 years, the mythical Essex Serpent is said to have returned, taking the life of a young man on New Year’s Eve. A keen amateur naturalist with no patience for religion or superstition, Cora is immediately enthralled, and certain that what the local people think is a magical sea beast may be a previously undiscovered species.
The Shadowy Horses
By Susanna Kearsley
The dark legends of Scotland were an archaeologist’s dream. Verity Grey was thrilled to be at a dig for an ancient Roman camp in the Scottish village. But danger was in the air—in the icy reserve of archaeologist David Fortune. In the haunted eyes to the little boy who had visions of a slain Roman sentinel. And in the unearthly sound of the ghostly shadowy horses, who carried men away to the land of the dead.
The Haunting of Maddy Clare
By Simone St. James
In 1920s England, Sarah Piper is sent by her temporary agency to assist a ghost hunter, Alistair Gellis, as he investigates the spirit of Maddy Clare, a young serving maid said to haunt the barn where she committed suicide. The ghost is no hoax, and Sarah is soon caught up in trying to discover who Maddy was, where she came from, and why she is desperate for revenge.
The House at Riverton
By Kate Morton
Living out her final days in a nursing home, 98-year-old Grace remembers the secrets surrounding the 1924 suicide of a young poet during a glittering society party hosted by Grace’s English aristocrat employers, a family that is shattered by war.
By Silvia Moreno-Garcia
After receiving a frantic letter from her newlywed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemi Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find and is an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemi; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom. Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemi, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemi digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.
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Recommended by Amy S., Assistant Librarian