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Terror! Passion! Gothic Romance

A dark and stormy night.  A mysterious castle, rife with hidden passageways.  A wicked usurper.  A strange prophecy.  A beautiful heiress, innocent prey to his dark desires.  Frightening apparitions!  Family secrets!  Madness!  A really big helmet!  And the faithful love who will overcome all obstacles to save her....

In a nutshell, this is Horace Walpole's Castle of Otranto, the very first Gothic romance.  It was published in 1764, the same year that Ann Radcliffe-- another famous Gothic writer-- was born.  Today, we might find his work a bit absurd and overwrought, but Walpole deserves credit for trying something completely new.

Highly atmospheric-- part romantic suspense, part supernatural horror-- Gothic romances are all about emotion (the "sensibility" half of Sense and Sensibility).  Walpole created characters that abandoned their famous British reserve and openly felt things-- terror, greed, horror, anger, sorrow, passion.  Incidentally, he founded a genre of enduring popularity that continues to send readers on emotional roller coaster rides to this day.
Gothic romances have been making a comeback lately (the popular teen series Twilight by Stephenie Meyer is a perfect example), and I thought a small sampling would be the perfect way to celebrate All Hallows' Eve.  I've divided the list into "Classic" and "Modern" Gothics.  The moderns have all been published within the last decade or so; the classics range back nearly 200 years.  Check them out!

Classic Gothics:

The Weeping Ash  by Joan Aiken (Fiction)
A Long Fatal Love Chase  by Louisa May Alcott (Fiction)
Northanger Abbey  by Jane Austen (Fiction) *
Jane Eyre  by Charlotte Bronte (Fiction)
Wuthering Heights  by Emily Bronte (Fiction)
Rebecca  by Daphne Du Maurier (Fiction)
The Wedding Guest  by Anna Gilbert (Fiction)
Cousin Kate  by Georgette Heyer (LP)
Seven for a Secret  by Victoria Holt (Fiction)
Dark Shore  by Susan Howatch (Fiction)
The Walker in Shadows  by Barbara Michaels (Mystery)
Dragonwyck  by Anya Seton (Fiction)
Thornyhold  by Mary Stewart (Fiction)
The Castle in Transylvania  by Jules Verne, with Charlotte Mandel, trans. (Horror)
The Trembling Hills  by Phyllis A. Whitney (Fiction)

Modern Gothics:

Grange House  by Sarah Blake (Fiction)
Winterset  by Candace Camp (LP)
The Bride Finder  by Susan Carroll (Fiction)
The Countess  by Catherine Coulter (LP)
Dracula in Love: The Private Diary of Mina Harker  by Karen Essex (Horror)
After Midnight  by Teresa Medeiros (Pbk-Romance)
The Dead Travel Fast  by Deanna Raybourn (Pbk-Romance)
The Deadliest Sin  by Caroline Richards (Pbk-Romance)
Too Wicked to Kiss  by Erica Ridley (Pbk-Romance)
Ghost Moon  by Karen Robards (Fiction)
Midnight Bayou  by Nora Roberts (Fiction)
Stone Flower Garden  by Deborah Smith (Fiction)
Porthminster Hall  by Janet Tanner (Fiction)
The Brotherhood  by Dawn Thompson (Pbk-Fiction)
On Winding Hill Road  by Diane Tyrrel (Pbk-Romance)

* A quick note-- technically, Northanger Abbey isn't a true Gothic; it's actually a parody of the genre.  But it does such a good job of creating that wonderful Gothic atmosphere that I couldn't resist including it.

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