Crumbling manors and ghosts. Mysterious things happening and no one knowing why. They might not even make it out alive. Gothic fiction is a staple in literature. Mary Shelley, Bran Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe — you cannot talk about gothic literature without talking about these emblematic authors. You might see this genre side-by-side with horror and mystery fiction. Haunted houses and unsolved mysteries do go together very well. But you also can find gothic in romance.
What is Gothic Romance?
Ann Radcliffe’s A Sicilian Romance, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre: because of them, gothic romance began to be known as a sub-genre. “Her novels featured female protagonists battling through terrifying ordeals while struggling to be with their true loves,” says the New York Public Library about Radcliffe’s work. You might have seen covers of women running out of creepy houses with beautiful flowing dresses in the middle of the night. Who doesn’t want to be haunted by ghosts while also falling in love? You cannot deny that it sounds fascinating.
The gloomy atmosphere surrounding the story will be as important as the house itself. Filled with secrets and mystery, you know that every move could be the last scene of any character. But the setting — the house, the place — is one thing you cannot help but notice immediately. It breathes life into the novel. Almost always in need of care, reflecting the main character’s life, the ominous manor is a fundamental part of how the story will develop.
More modern literature might change a thing or two, but you can expect to find a manor, a secret, a curse, and a romance story at the center of most gothic romance. The romance story should be the musical director of this grand gothic orchestra.
Gothic Romance Books
Down Comes the Night by Allison Saft
A new YA novel that will transport you to a crumbling mansion with secrets no one will see coming.
Wren has been dismissed from the Queen’s Guard after a decision she made. But the unexpected arrival of a letter from a reclusive lord, asking her if she could heal his servant from a mysterious illness, might be the perfect opportunity to redeem herself. When she gets to his crumbling mansion, she realizes that the servant is none other than her kingdom’s worst enemy, Hal Cavendish.
Fables and Other Lies by Claire Contreras
Romeo and Juliet-esque with feuding families, revenge, secrets, and a lot of mysteries to unravel.
It tells the story of Penelope Guzman and her return to the island she calls home. She has been told that the Calibans are their sworn enemies since she was a child, to never go near one of them. But then she crosses paths with River Caliban and his infuriating smirk.
A Stitch in Time by Kelley Armstrong
If you are in the mood for some time-traveling romance, you are in luck! A Stitch in Time is what you are looking for.
Bronwyn Dale is a time traveler. As a young girl, she could pass through a time slip in her great-aunt’s house and visit William Thorne, a young boy her own age, born two centuries earlier. But circumstances lead her to leave the manor. Twenty years later, she inherits Thorne Manor, and William is waiting for her there.
Haunted Serenade by Anna M. Taylor
The early 1960s. A family house in Harlem. A estranged mother and a single mom. This haunting tale will grab your attention very quickly!
All the women in Anora Madison’s family have lived with the curse of Poor Butterfly: women still longing for but have been deserted by the men they love. Determined to escape a life of abandonment, she flees Harlem, leaving behind her mother and the father of her child.
Six years later, Anora is coming home to make peace with her mother, but an unseen force manifests, targeting not only her but her child too.
Too Wicked to Kiss by Erica Ridley
Erica Ridley actually wrote a whole series of gothic romances, and Too Wicked to Kiss is the first book.
Evangeline has been invited to a party at the haunting estate of reclusive Gavin Lioncroft, someone rumored to have killed in cold blood. The attraction is undeniable when they first meet, but now a murder has happened, and Gavin is the main suspect!
Tripping Arcadia by Kit Mayquist (2022)
Why am I even putting a 2022 book in this list, you may ask? I want you all to know about it, that’s why!
It’s too early for a full synopsis, but we do know a few things: it’s a contemporary gothic book, it has medieval poisons, a bisexual main character, very opulent parties in a possible terrifying manor, and it’s an F/F romance!
Lakesedge by Lyndall Clipstone (October 12)
“A lush gothic fantasy about monsters and magic”? Am I hearing this right? You don’t know how ready I am to read this as soon as it drops. The cover is gorgeous too!
When Violeta arrives at Lakesedge Manor, she expects to find a monster. The rumors say Rowan Sylvanan drowned his entire family when he was a boy. But what she finds inside the manor is far different than what she expected.
Death gods, monster boys, romance, alchemy, magic, and so much more. Doesn’t it sound incredible?
The Wife in the Attic by Rose Lerner
I’m loving all the Audible Original romance books currently releasing. One of them is Rose Lerner’s queer Jane Eyre retelling!
Deborah is hired to become a governess for Sir Kit’s little girl, Tabby. As time passes, she starts to yearn for impossible things like becoming Tabby’s mother and the mistress of the house.
She first is resentful towards Lady Palethorp, thinking she neglected her daughter, but as she starts realizing secrets and mysteries in the house, maybe there’s something bigger happening around.
Poison Ivy: Thorns by Kody Keplinger and Sara Kipin (June 1)
If you’ve been following the DC Comics YA graphic novels, let me tell you all about the next one coming out.
Poison Ivy’s origin story starts with Pamela Isley, the girl who hides behind her red hair. The girl who cares about plants more than she cares about humans.
When cute goth girl Alice Oh comes into Pamela’s life, she starts to punch down those walls. But there are dark secrets within the Isley house — secrets her father has warned her to never reveal.
The Widow of Rose House by Diana Biller
A scandalous young widow returns to New York to make a fresh start: to restore a dilapidated Hyde Park mansion. But when the rumors about the mansion being haunted reach her, it immediately complicates her plans. Especially when an eccentric and brilliant professor informs her that he can get to the bottom of this mystery.
Set during the Gilded Age in New York City, The Widow of Rose House is the perfect book if you are craving romance but also mysteries and ghosts.
The Duke I Tempted by Scarlett Peckham
Tempting a duke to risk his heart isn’t an easy fit. Poppy Cavendish knows this in The Duke I Tempted.
When an accidental scandal makes them both get married, they initially thought of it as just business. A greenhouse for an heir. But soon enough, Poppy is craving more — for example, his heart — and a duke with so many secrets is hard to conquer.
Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones
I adored this book, and I think it does have some gothic elements. It’s very luscious, darkly romantic and magical.
Throughout all her life, Liesl has heard the legends of the Goblin King. He has even inspired musical compositions! When the Goblin King takes her sister, Liesl has no choice for to travel to the Underground to save her.
Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles
A beautiful Phantom of the Opera–inspired YA book, Where Dreams Descend is the first book in the Kingdom of Cards duology. The second book is coming out in August!
A competition of magic is underway where a group of magicians face off in order to find the next headliner of the Conquering Circus. And Kallia wants to prove she’s the best of the best. But there is darkness striking in the shadows, and soon enough, magicians start to go missing. Kallia is not the only one who has to face her secrets before the darkness comes.
Most of the novels in this list are recent releases or upcoming releases. I’m happy to see that this sub-genre is making a comeback because I do want to see more crumbling castles with monsters living inside and a protagonist who falls for them. But in the meantime, while we wait, you can read more gothic fiction with me.