A few days ago, I asked Twitter for Gothic romance novel recs. In response, I got…nothing. Which is wild, considering how popular Jane Eyre still is. It feels like every other year there’s either a new movie, a limited TV series, or a retelling.
So that made me wonder, where are all the other Gothic romances and why aren’t they all over my Goodreads feed? I can’t be the only Charlotte Brontë fangirl to crave haunting, atmospheric love stories.
I decided to do some digging, and that led me down the rabbit hole of the subgenre. I ended up finding a ton of books, some of them old, some new, and some godawful. I waded through countless pages of reviews for each and ended up with a curated list of the best of the best. Bear in mind that not all of them fit today’s definition of romance. Some are Romantic (with a capital R), while others end in tragedy instead of an HEA.
Now draw the shades, light a few candles, don some dark clothing, and let’s get into the list.
Jane by April Lindner
I’m starting the list with this Jane Eyre retelling, because it’s one of my favorites. There are many similarities in the plot, but it’s the differences that made it stand out for me. This is set in the modern age, and instead of a governess, our titular character is a recently orphaned college student who is forced to drop out of school after the deaths of her parents. She takes a job as a nanny for a reclusive rock star with a dark past on the verge of making his great comeback, and finds that not all is as it seems in his mansion.
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
I think most people would agree that this is the second most popular gothic romance novel out there, though it’s set in a more modern time period than Jane Eyre. It’s a best-seller for a reason. Du Maurier’s writing is notoriously transportive, and from that iconic first line – “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again” – you’ll find yourself hooked.
The Widow of Rose House by Diana Biller
New York, 1875. 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.
Beyond the Sea by L.H. Cosway
A young woman trapped by her wicked stepmother. A strange man with a shady past. Equal parts coming of age, romance, and ghost story, this one will pull at your heartstrings. Prepare to feel all the feelings.
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, the house was shuttered and Bronwyn was convinced that William existed only in her imagination. Now, twenty years later Bronwyn inherits Thorne Manor. And when she returns, William is waiting.
The Haunting of Brynn Wilder by Wendy Webb
After a devastating loss, Brynn Wilder escapes to Wharton, a tourist town on Lake Superior, to reset. But in this inviting refuge, where a century of souls has passed, a mystery begins to swirl. Bad dreams and night whispers lure Brynn to a shuttered room at the end of the hall, a room still heavy with a recent death. And now she’s become irresistibly drawn to Dominic—even in the shadow of rumors that wherever he goes, suspicious death follows.
The Widow of Pale Harbor by Hester Fox
A widowed minister and a suspected witch team up to uncover the chilling truth behind the strange, unsettling occurrences plaguing the small town of Pale Harbor, Maine.
Bonus: Fox has several other Gothic romance titles to their name, and I cannot wait to binge them all.
Master of Salt & Bones by Keri Lake
“When I was a little girl, I dreamed a handsome knight would come and rescue me from my wretched mother. He’d ride up on his white steed and break the curse I’ve been fated to carry since the day I was born. In reality, my knight is scarred and broken, living alone in a castle of bones that overlooks the sea. He isn’t searching for me. He never was.”
Well, doesn’t that just sound deliciously ominous?
White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi
In a vast, mysterious house on the cliffs near Dover, the Silver family is reeling from the hole punched into its heart. All is not well with the house, either, which creaks and grumbles and malignly confuses visitors in its mazy rooms, forcing winter apples in the garden when the branches should be bare. This is a spine-tingling tale that has Gothic roots but an utterly modern sensibility. Told by a quartet of crystalline voices, it is electrifying in its expression of myth and memory, loss and magic, fear and love.
The Magpie Lord by K.J. Charles
Okay, so technically this one is listed as HR, but it has all the great trappings of Gothic romance. A devilish earl, dark family secrets, and a house that rattles beneath the weight of the evil that pervades it. Clear your schedule if you pick this one up, because you’re likely to read it in a single sitting, like I did.
In the Shadow of Lakecrest by Elizabeth Blackwell
Serious Rebecca vibes pervade this story of a young woman who runs from her impoverished past straight into the arms of a wealthy man with dark secrets and a sinister family. Secluded in their sprawling home, she soon begins to question everyone’s sanity – including her own.
Dragonwyck by Anya Seton
In the spring of 1844, the Wells family receives a letter from a distant relative, the wealthy landowner Nicholas Van Ryn. He has invited one of their daughters for an extended visit at his Hudson Valley estate, Dragonwyck. Eighteen-year-old Miranda, bored with her local suitors and commonplace life on the farm, leaps at the chance for an escape. She immediately falls under the spell of both the master and his mansion, mesmerized by the Gothic towers, flowering gardens, and luxurious lifestyle—but unaware of the dark, terrible secrets that await.
Hopefully you were able to find your next read somewhere in this list. And if you think it’s a bit sparse, trust me, I’m aware. This is an undersaturated subgenre of romance right now, and I pray we see more Gothic romances going forward, with modern adaptations to offset the heavy prevalence of historical themes that dominate it right now. Not that I don’t mind a drafty 19th-century castle, but modern-day creepy manors exist too!
Have any other Gothic romance novels you’d like to recommend to readers? Leave a comment down below. We’d love to hear from you.