Gothic Romance is today’s #RomBkLove subject. The genre is characterized by a creepy, unsettling atmosphere and is usually set in an old, dark mansion, house, or castle full of secrets and suspicious servants. The house itself is frequently the third main character in the story- ghosts, darkness, murder, and hidden passages are all typical aspects of a Gothic story. TWs abound in Gothic Romance- the protagonist is frequently a young woman who is an abuse survivor and occasionally gaslit by either the hero or other characters. The love interest is usually brooding with a dark secret in his past.
The first Gothic Romance I ever read at the tender age of 10 was Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (WM/WF). For years, I didn’t like Jane, she seemed so passive. I reread it recently and found myself feeling quite protective of her character. She was severely abused by her family then the staff of the boarding school she was sent to. She was a trauma survivor and would instinctively freeze when overwhelmed. Though she was quiet, she was strong. When she found out Mr Rochester (174 year old spoiler alert) was already married with a mentally ill wife in his attic, she knew he could easily overwhelm her concerns about the situation and convince her to stay, so she left in the middle of the night. She knew it was wrong to live with him further and followed her principles. When St. John offered her a marriage of friendship and companionship, but not love, Jane declined because she knew she was worthy of love and passion. When she went back to Rochester, it was on her terms, their HEA was her choice.
My second recommendation is The Widow of Rose House by Diana Biller (WM/WF). This book was my favorite from last year’s #RomBkLove. Alva is a widow who fled to America to escape her past. She buys a creepy old mansion to restore and enlists the assistance of a professor who is an expert in the newfangled electric lighting. There’s ghosts, blackmail, and delicious romance as the adoring professor is drawn to the reserved, wounded heroine. This story also has the grumpy/sunshine trope with the heroine’s love interest breaking the brooding male stereotype of Gothic Romance. I adored this book, the characters, and even the creepy mansion.
Too Wicked to Kiss by Erica Ridley (WM/WF) is the first in her Gothic Love Stories series. I’ve only read this one of the series, but it was excellent and I will be reading more! Evangeline flees from her abusive stepfather and finds herself a part of a house party at the creepy Blackberry Manor. She finds herself drawn to the reclusive Gavin Lioncroft, who might or might not have killed his parents in cold blood. There’s secret passageways, more murders, secrets, and servants who know too much… #RomBkLove.
Seduced by a Stranger by Eve Silver (WM/WF) is the fifth of her Dark Gothic series though they are all standalones and can be read in any order. Catherine accepts an invite from a childhood friend Madeline to visit Cairncroft Abbey, which is filled with secrets, lies, and murder. Madeline is in poor health, frequently bedbound, and often starts raving that someone is trying to kill her. Catherine is drawn to the owner of Cairncroft Abbey, Madeline’s cousin- brooding, fierce Gabriel St Aubyn who is haunted by the horrors of his past and has difficulty understanding and expressing emotions. Is he trying to murder his cousin? Is he a sociopath? How does he seem to be in two places at once? This one is super dark even for a Gothic Romance as there is a serial killer in the story as well.
Bitterburn by Ann Aguirre (WM?/WF) is a Gothic retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Amarrah, an outsider even in her own family, offers herself as a sacrifice when her village is unable to pay tribute to the Beast in the Keep at the End of the World. The Beast is a tragic and sympathetic character trapped in his castle through no fault of his own, alone and despondent for centuries. The two lonely outsiders gradually form a bond and eventually fall in love. The whole story is beautiful and haunting, but not as dark as other recommendations in this list.
The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal by KJ Charles (WM/WM) is one of my favorite creepy books. Robert is an investigative reporter who hires Simon to help him with his haunted house. The book is a series of supernatural cases the two investigate together and they eventually fall in love. There’s evil cults, bleeding walls, homicidal butterflies, and moving skin runes.
Shadows: A Bayou Magic Novel by Kristen Proby. (WM/WW)Modern romantic suspense/paranormal straying into Gothic Romance territory. THIS SERIES SCARED THE S*^$ OUT OF ME! SO good. Brielle can see ghosts, and if she listens closely, she can hear their stories as well. Cash, a FBI profiler, comes to town for a vacation and is drawn to her. When multiple young women, all resembling Brielle, go missing then show up brutally murdered, they team up to figure out what is going on. There’s a feeling of dread throughout the series, a haunted house, a serial killer, and demon possession.
Bonus book suggestion: A Dangerous Collaboration by Deanna Raybourn, (WM/WW) the fourth of the Veronica Speedwell mystery series. A bride mysteriously vanishes on her wedding day. Decades later, her reclusive former fiancé hosts a house party and invites everyone who was there for the wedding. It has creepy servants, a poison garden, suspicious family, possible ghosts, and secret tunnels. However, it is not truly a Gothic Romance. The heroine, Veronica, is there to investigate what happened to the bride and always looks for a rational explanation for supposed supernatural events.