What Makes A Gothic Novel Actually Gothic?
Let’s first take a look at the Gothic novel. When is a book Gothic? Do governesses have to be involved? What if it’s not set on the moors of England? Is a romance even necessary?
Gothic romances technically involve desolate or remote settings and macabre, mysterious, or violent events. Everything else is up for grabs.
Both the house and the mood will play a key role in the story. But the setting – the house, the place – is something that cannot be ignored; you feel it in every chapter. The location gives the novel life.
In almost every Gothic story (romance or otherwise), the ominous manor is a crucial part of how the story will unfold because it reflects the main character’s life.
The Best Gothic Romance Novels Right Now:
Here are my favorite gothic novels of this year that have a lot of romance in them. If you’re looking for a gothic romance, you’ll definitely love some of these titles!
20. The Widow Of Rose House by Dianna Biller
After the death of her estranged husband in 1875, Alva Webster has returned to New York amid scandalous rumors.
In an effort to move on from the past, she purchases Liefdehuis, an old house she plans to renovate and then feature in an interior design book.
The house, however, is said to be haunted. Alva is not able to find the workers she needs because of this, so eventually she is persuaded to hire an attractive man named Sam Moore to investigate the paranormal activity in the house.
While Alva and Sam’s chemistry is undeniable, Alva’s past makes her wary of romantic relationships. The sexual tension is definitely there throughout the book and there’s lots of steam.
Nevertheless, it appears that there really is a ghost in the house, prompting extensive research to learn more about the haunting.
I would recommend this book for Halloween, but a spooky ghost story can be enjoyed anytime. As I immersed myself in the history, the mystery, and the red-hot attraction between Alva and Sam, I was swept up in their story.
The author paints a vivid historical portrait of the time period, creates a spine-tingling atmosphere with elements of Gothic horror, provides compelling commentary on mental illness, and weaves in a captivating love story.
19. Too Tempting To Resist by Erica Ridley
Rebecca is quite content living in a lonely castle as the invisible relative. Even the people in the castle think she is a ghost. As the new heir tries to throw her out, she turns to an unlikely ally – the man who broke her heart and forced her into hiding, Lord Stonebury.
One of Daniel’s biggest regrets was losing the only woman he ever loved. He jumps at the chance to finally make amends with Rebecca, even if it means having to witness her marriage to someone else.
This is a short but sweet little novella with limited steam (only a few kisses if I remember correctly), but the gothic romance vibe is definitely there, making it a great choice for a rainy afternoon!
18. Illusions of Grandeur (The Impossible Julian Strande series) by Kathryn Ann Kingsley
Julian Strande, one of the world’s best-known magicians, died decades ago after writing his own obituary. Among the strange rooms and strange artifacts in the manor estate, his legend continues to live on today, attracting visitors from all walks of life.
Alice Monroe, the new “creative maintenance manager” of the Strande Estate, quickly captures the attention of Julian and his nephew Charles. However, only one of them is actually alive.
The setting of the story plays a crucial role in this story, almost as another character. Being able to learn all about the ins and outs of the house was fun. I enjoyed watching Alice and Charles fall in love as they grew closer and closer. Charles is a great mix of geeky and flirty! However, Alice makes a really awesome heroine. She’s easily likable and has a really unique personality, plus she isn’t afraid of anything.
This is a really unique story complete with some ghost sex and tons of regular smut. It totally has the Gothic romance vibe!
17. Maybe This Time by Jennifer Crusie
If you’re looking for one of the best contemporary gothic novels then check out Maybe This Time by Jennifer Crusie.
North Archer and Andie Miller fell for each other immediately and had a whirlwind marriage that quickly fell apart. After 10 years, Andie is back to deliver North’s alimony checks (she wants no ties to him) since she is about to be remarried. However, North can’t let her go that easily, and he persuades her to head up North to an old manor where his brand new, orphan wards are living, since they keep scaring off nannies.
Andie agrees because North offers her $10,000 (which is big) but also because she feels for the kids. Once she gets there, she quickly realizes that something is wrong with the house.
Much of the story is centered about Andie and the kids, who are forceful characters in their own rights. She falls in love with them and eventually decides she’s staying, but is then visited by a whole host of characters, including a pushy news reporter, a medium, a paranormal skeptic, her mother, her ex-mother in-law, her fiance, and North, her ex-husband.
This novel is full of hilarious moments (I was literally laughing out loud) but also has a lot of gothic romance vibes. The house is ultra-creepy and interesting, so the story isn’t too scary, and it becomes the setting where Andie and North rekindle. It’s one of my favorite contemporary Gothic novels this year!
16. A Discovery Of Witches by Deborah Harkness
A Discovery of Witches is also a gothic romance, though this book is more like Harry Potter and Twilight combined. It’s set in the present day and is about an ordinary witch (who can’t control her powers), a vampire who is over 500 years old, and his past with the mysterious, powerful alchemist. Add in some demon hunters and you have one heck of a story that rivals all others!
I love that the heroine isn’t typical – she’s not necessarily beautiful or young but has power within herself even without using magic. The relationship between her and our hero is not exactly insta-love but the chemistry between them is incredible! I love the way they talk and flirt with each other even though she can’t stand vampires.
The gothic factor in this novel is through the roof, from the ancient manuscripts to all of their secret activities that have been going on for a long time. It’s not only a book about witches learning how to live in modern times but it also delves into alchemy and history. This book has it all!
15. Master Of Salt And Bones by Keri Lake
The ‘Blackthorne Manor’ overlooks the town of Bonesalt and is the setting of this Gothic reomance. The only heir to this castle is Lucian Blackthorne, a man shrouded in mystery with a double homicide attached to his name. Isadora is hired as his ailing mother’s companion, though she accepts because she is trying to escape her own demons.
A gothic seaside manor, a beastly man, a messed up secret society, a ball featuring creepy dolls, manic family dynamics, suspense, and mystery. . . it’s all here.
Isadora and Lucian attract all kinds of predators, whether individually or together. Expect twists and turns, thrills and horrors – this is a true Gothic novel in every way.
14. Better Homes And Hauntings by Molly Harper
After being cheated by her unscrupulous ex, Nina Linden sees her landscape job on a private island off New England’s coast as her chance to rebuild her failing business. Deacon Whitney, the software mogul and new client of hers, sees more in her than just a gardener.
In order to renovate the vacant Whitney estate, Deacon has paid top dollar to the crews he has hired – he had to, because ghostly figures dressed in nineteenth-century garb are scaring most of his workers away.
Even as she encounters some seriously scary ghosts herself, Nina shows no sign of being frightened.
In the process of restoring the mansion’s faded glory, Deacon finds that Nina does not seem to like his fortune quite as much as his heart, and Nina finds that she has finally found the one man she can truly trust.
This is a cute little Gothic novel with lots of interesting side characters, a darling love story, and a spooky house that’s in serious need of some upkeep.
13. The Ghost of Gwynedd Castle by Katharine Ashe
This isn’t a super popular Gothic romance, but I have to admit that it’s one of my favorite Gothic novels on this list. The Ghost of Gwynedd castle follows Beatrice Sinclaire and Lord Peter Cheriot (known as Tip), two family friends who travel to a haunted castle in order to rescue Bea’s brother and a maiden who is trapped there by an angry ghost.
The ghost needs a virgin in order to truly die, and all virgins are trapped in the home. The deadline is on All Hallows Eve (which is the very month they visit, of course), and Bea soon finds herself in trouble.
I love The Ghost Of Gwynedd Castle for so many reasons. The castle is super spooky, but the cast of characters (including Bea’s two elderly aunts) make it feel light and humorous. There’s a good dose of forced proximity with two characters who have trouble stating their feelings, so this kind of Gothic novel is catnip to me.
12. The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones
One of my new favorites, The Bone Houses features Ryn and her siblings in the remote village of Colbren, where they work as gravediggers in order to scrape together money after their parents deaths. However, the dead don’t always stay dead.
The Bone Houses is heavily influenced by Welsh mythology, which I found super neat. Plus, the love interest (Ellis) has a darling Hufflepuff aura that just makes me want to hug him.
This is a fantasy set in Medieval times with a serious Gothic romance vibe. It definitely has spooky elements but doesn’t exactly feel like a horror, so it’s still quite enjoyable.
11. Last Night’s Scandal by Loretta Chase
This book has a Gothic setting (in Scotland, of course), but is definitely a solid romance, too.
Peregrine Dalmay, Earl of Lisle, is back in London after years of traveling throughout Egypt, and he is again drawn to Miss Olivia Wingate-Carsington, his childhood friend who comes from a family of swindlers.
Because Lisle’s parents want to force him to stay in London (which would be horrible in his mind), Olivia concocts a plan and takes him off to Scotland to renovate his parent’s old castle. They bring along two wiley old aunts and a horde of servants afraid of the supposed ghosts in the castle.
While I absolutely loved the Gothic vibes in this novel (complete with a treasure hunt and mystery at the end), I loved the romance even more. Lisle doesn’t want to do the “wrong thing” because he respects Olivia and her family, but she has no morals and tempts him into it. The sexual tension is off the charts and the romance is resolved quite nicely in the end.
10. Too Wicked To Kiss by Erica Ridley
With the hope that she can escape her evil stepfather, Evangeline places her life in the hands of her mother’s childhood friend. However, the manipulative tendencies of Lady Stratford are not apparent to her until it is too late.
Lady Stratford needs Evangeline to lure the mysterious Lionsheart into marriage with her daughter. The young lady has no idea that the man is not just any ordinary gentleman, but a man with a reputation for murder. Her two weeks are to be spent trapped in the house of an alleged killer, and she has given Lady Stratford her word that she will help or else.
In the wake of a murder, all eyes turn to Gavin Lionscroft, and given his public displays of temper, it will take someone special to prove his innocence. To discover who is behind the killing, Miss Evangeline Pemberton must tap into her special powers/visions (a really cool element that only added to the Gothic romance vibe).
9. Accursed Abbey by Tessa Candle
When the death of Elizabeth Whitely’s parents leaves her in an uncertain and vulnerable state, she is sent to live with her aunt and uncle, leaving behind everything she knows. Along the way, she makes a close female friend, but she also meets a Viscount who appears dark and twisty but has a heart of gold underneath.
She embarks on her journey to save her new friend from an evil Mage who has imprisoned her. Due to his father’s will, Viscount Canterbourne must accompany her on this journey, but he’s afraid to tell her the truth about what he knows about her parents.
This is definitely one of the best gothic novels to read around Halloween. It’s certainly a dark gothic romance but it has a lot of really sweet moments between the main characters as well. There’s only a bit of sexual content, but the tension is definitely there throughout the story.
8. I Adored A Lord by Katharine Ashe
I Adored A Lord is the second book in the trilogy by Katharine Ashe.
It follows Rowena, who is a free-spirited young woman who has become skilled in caring for animals, as well as in human anatomy and medicine because of her love of the natural world. S
he has been living with Sir Beverley Clark and his close friend (and long-term companion) Mr. Pettigrew for the past six years and looks after their menagerie of dogs, birds, and horses. Sir Beverley shocks her by telling her that since her sister’s circumstances have changed, Ravenna cannot be employed in service due to her sister’s new circumstances.
A gypsy once prophesied that one of the three sisters would marry a Prince and thus discover their birth origin (as they are adopted), so her sister wrangles an invitation for Rowena to attend a house party in the Franche-Comté with Prince Sebastao.
Lord Vitor Courtenay, the half-brother of the Earl of Chase, is also among the guests. Ravenna knows that every female head in the place has been turned by the extremely handsome and charming Lord Courtenay, yet he shows no interest in anyone else but her.
This Gothic romance is complete with a murder and a mystery, as well as an interesting cast of characters.
7. Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart
Mary Stewart’s Nine Coaches Waiting is one of the most popular gothic romance novels of all time. It follows Linda Martin, an English governess who cares for Philippe de Valmy, a 9-year-old count, at Château Valmy. The lovely chateau fascinates her with its spectacular history and opulence.
Following a near-tragic accident deep in the forest, Linda wonders if the accident is related to a necrotic plot to kill her. The situation is even more concerning since Philippe is not only orphaned but also sole heir to his father’s vast estate. Are Philippe’s uncle, Léon de Valmy, and his ultra handsome son, Raoul, preparing a murder plot against the count?
This Gothic novel is thrilling, captivating, and filled with mystery, romance, and suspense.
6. Seduced By A Stranger by Eve Silver
In Seduced by a Stranger by author Eve Silver, Catherine Weston heads to Cairncroft Abbey to meet her friend Madeline, though she gets more than she bargained for. Madeline’s cousin Gabriel is drawn to Catherine during their time together, but he also wants to keep her soul clean.
After a murder is committed and Madeline’s mental health slips further away, Gabriel and Catherine have to work together, which really kicks off the romance.
5. Heroes Are My Weakness by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
In financial difficulties and unemployed, puppeteer Annie Hewitt has no choice but to return to her old cottage on an isolated island off the coast of Maine where she spent summers as a teenager. She wants to uncover the legacy her dying mother left for her there.
Meanwhile Theo Harp, an author, has made his way back to his family’s island mansion to write. He wishes to be alone, but Annie is in the cottage, bringing up painful memories, and forcing him to work through his trauma.
This is a busy novel with a lot of sub-plots and drama. It has all the Gothic book elements – they’re living in a sinister house in the middle of nowhere during the winter. What could go wrong?
The romance is also really sweet here. I was rooting for the characters the whole time!
4. The Duke I Tempted by Scarlett Peckham
Getting a duke to risk his heart isn’t easy. Poppy Cavendish understands this in The Duke I Tempted.
Initially, they thought it was just business when an accidental scandal led them to marry. She needs a greenhouse in order to further her goals in botany, and Archer needs a wife.
The duke’s many secrets make him hard to conquer, and soon enough Poppy is in need of more than just his money and title – she wants his heart.
3. The Witch Of Willow Hall by Hester Fox
As a result of a scandal, the Montrose family and their daughters-Catherine, Lydia, and Emeline-depart Boston for Willow Hall, the family’s new country home. Willow Hall is a tranquil and idyllic place. A slight menace, however, lurks in the air, leaving Lydia and Emeline with recollections of a dark past.
There will be irrevocable changes for each of the three daughters, but Lydia will be the most impacted, as she must use a power she never knew she possessed to protect those she loves.
This Gothic novel is sort of a Pride and Prejudice with witches. I loved it!
2. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Wuthering Heights is one of the most tormenting, heartbreaking Gothic novels ever published for a reason.
Heathcliff and Cathy are childhood friends and both know that they’re in love, but they’re torn apart when Cathy realizes that she must marry someone from her own station. She moves across the moors, leaving both characters heartbroken but a bit vindictive.
Wuthering Heights certainly doesn’t have a happy ending, but it’s really a classic Gothic novel that everyone should read at least once!
1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
I had to include Jane Eyre on this list. How could I not?
When Jane Eyre is young and orphaned, she is raised by a cold-blooded aunt and goes on to a charity school where she experiences unmentionable cruelty and loneliness. This spiteful upbringing sharpens her sense of independence and determination, both of which will prove useful when she is hired as the governess of Thornfield Hall.
When she accidentally discovers Rochester’s haunting secret, she is terrified after falling in love with this sardonic and handsome employer. She has come to a crossroads – should she give up on the new love of her life or stay at Thornfield Hall and face the dire consequences?
There is a reason why Jane Eyre remains a classic. You’ll be on the edge of your seat while reading it. The Gothic elements are strong but so is the romance!