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7 Historic Romantic Suspense Novels with a Gothic Twist

As All Hallows Eve approaches on October 31st, tis the season to discover new and recent Gothic fiction in the historical suspense, romance, and mystery genres.

We can thank English writer, art historian, and politician Horace Walpole (1717-1797) for creating the Gothic fiction genre. After having a terrifying nightmare, Walpole was inspired to write The Castle of Otranto. Published in 1764, it combines many of the elements we see in Gothic novels today: an atmospheric isolated estate, a puzzling family mystery, and a heroine in peril from evil forces. Other classic authors of the genre include Ann Radcliffe, Matthew Lewis, Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, the Bronte sisters, and Daphne du Maurier.

Jane Austen fans will agree that Catherine Morland, the Gothic fiction addicted heroine of Northanger Abbey, would delight in the many contemporary authors who have embraced Gothic elements and incorporated them into their new stories. I must admit that I am not as brave as Catherine in her reading choices, so most of the books on this list have been curated to my tolerance

level—moderate to mild in the horror department. If you want a story to make you scream at the slightest noise and have nightmares for weeks, best look elsewhere. However, if you are interested in escaping to a foreboding, isolated country manor house in Yorkshire or Cornwall with a brave heroine beset by family secrets and mysteries she must solve to find her true love, this list is for you! Here are some of my favorite romantic suspense novels with a gothic twist.

THE CURSE OF MORTON ABBEY, by Clarissa Harwood

Mix together a gloomy, ancient abbey in rainswept Yorkshire, a spikey, determined heroine, a dark secret to unravel and you could have the elements for any Gothic novel. What makes The Curse of Morton Abbey special is the author’s understanding of the genre, her fluid prose, impeccable Victorian-era details, and a twisty plot to upend all of your expectations.

This new Gothic-inspired novel, with shades of Jane Eyre and The Secret Garden, releases on October 26, 2021. Be sure to add it to you seasonal reading.

BOOK DESCRIPTION

Solicitor Vaughan Springthorpe knows perfectly well that Sir Peter Spencer’s offer of employment seems too good to be true: he hires her sight unseen, offering a suspiciously large salary to prepare the sale of Morton Abbey, his crumbling Yorkshire estate. But few people in late-Victorian England will entrust their legal affairs to a woman, and Vaughan is desperate to prove herself.

Once at Morton, Vaughan discovers that someone is determined to drive her away. An intruder tries to enter her bedroom at night, gunshots are fired outside her window, and an eerie crying echoes from the uninhabited second floor. Even Netherton, the nearest village, seems odd: the picturesque houses and perfect-looking families are haunted by dark secrets connected to Morton Abbey itself.

To complete her work and solve the mystery at the heart of Morton, Vaughan needs the help of Joe Dixon, the handsome gardener, and Nicholas Spencer, her employer’s irascible invalid brother. But with her questions diverted, her progress thwarted, and her sleep disrupted by the crying, will Vaughan escape Morton Abbey with her sanity intact or be cursed by the secrets within?

PRAISE

“Clarissa Harwood’s latest is Jane Eyre meets The Secret Garden. A resourceful heroine, a gloomy manor, and a dark secret to uncover—who could ask for anything more? The Curse of Morton Abbey is a terrific gothic romp of a novel!”— Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Rose Code

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SHADOWS OF SWANFORD ABBEY, by Julie Klassen

Klassen has made quite a mark for herself in the Regency romance genre, however, many of her stories have strong mystery and suspense elements that push them into the Gothic realm.

The Tutor’s Daughter, The Secret of Pembrooke Park, and A Castaway in Cornwall are all excellent examples which I highly recommend. Her new novel, Swadows of Swanford Abbey, releases on December 6, 2021. I am confident that it will not disappoint.

BOOK DESCRIPTION

Agatha Christie meets Jane Austen in this atmospheric Regency tale brimming with mystery, intrigue, and romance.

When Miss Rebecca Lane returns to her home village after a few years away, her brother begs for a favor: go to nearby Swanford Abbey and deliver his manuscript to an author staying there who could help him get published. Feeling responsible for her brother’s desperate state, she reluctantly agrees.

The medieval monastery turned grand hotel is rumored to be haunted. Once there, Rebecca begins noticing strange things, including a figure in a hooded black gown gliding silently through the abbey’s cloisters. For all its renovations and veneer of luxury, the ancient foundations seem to echo with whispers of the past–including her own. For there she encounters Sir Frederick–magistrate, widower, and former neighbor–who long ago broke her heart.

When the famous author is found murdered in the abbey, Sir Frederick begins questioning staff and guests and quickly discovers that several people held grudges against the man, including Miss Lane and her brother. Haunted by a painful betrayal in his past, Sir Frederick searches for answers but is torn between his growing feelings for Rebecca and his pursuit of the truth. For Miss Lane is clearly hiding something…

Please return on December 5, for our review.

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JOHN EYRE: A TALE OF DARKNESS AND SHADOW, by Mimi Matthews

Historical romance readers have recently been wowed by Mimi Matthews’ swoon worthy novels. A few of my favorites are The Work of Art, Gentleman Jim, and A Modest Independence.

John Eyre is a departure from her usual fair, but what a fabulous ride it is. In this gender swapped homage to Charlotte Bronte’s classic Gothic romance Jane Eyre, Matthews sends us off into familiar territory at Thornfield Hall, the ancient Rochester estate in Yorkshire. Things begin to get really creepy when elements of the story are combined with another Gothic classic that will totally surprise and chill you to the bone.

BOOK DESCRIPTION

From USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews comes a supernatural Victorian gothic retelling of Charlotte Brontë’s timeless classic.

Yorkshire, 1843. When disgraced former schoolmaster John Eyre arrives at Thornfield Hall to take up a position as tutor to two peculiar young boys, he enters a world unlike any he’s ever known. Darkness abounds, punctuated by odd bumps in the night, strange creatures on the moor, and a sinister silver mist that never seems to dissipate. And at the center of it all, John’s new employer–a widow as alluring as she is mysterious.

Sixteen months earlier, heiress Bertha Mason embarked on the journey of a lifetime. Marriage wasn’t on her itinerary, but on meeting the enigmatic Edward Rochester, she’s powerless to resist his preternatural charm. In letters and journal entries, she records the story of their rapidly-disintegrating life together, and of her gradual realization that Mr. Rochester isn’t quite the man he appears to be. In fact, he may not be a man at all.

From a cliff-top fortress on the Black Sea coast to an isolated estate in rural England, John and Bertha contend with secrets, danger, and the eternal struggle between light and darkness. Can they help each other vanquish the demons of the past? Or are some evils simply too powerful to conquer?

PRAISE

“In this thrilling remix of Charlotte Brontë’s work, Matthews skillfully transforms a well-known story into a truly original tale.”— Kirkus Reviews

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IN THE SHADOW OF CROFT TOWERS: A NOVEL, by Abigail Wilson

Shadow of Croft Towers by Abigail WIlson 2019When a Gothic story ticks off all the right boxes as I read, it just makes me smile.

An orphaned heroine, a masked highwayman, and deep, dark family secrets are always a good start—and that is just the beginning of the mysteries and plot twists in this 2019 debut novel.

Wilson has since published three additional Regency novels of merit with the fourth, Twilight at Moorington Cross, releasing next January. In the Shadow of Croft Towers is the perfect introduction to this author, and the genre.

BOOK DESCRIPTION

Nothing—and no one—at Croft Towers is what they claim in this Gothic Regency romance.

When Sybil Delafield’s coach to Croft Towers was robbed by highwaymen, she should have realized that her new position as companion to old Mrs. Chalcroft would be no ordinary job. Upon Sybil’s arrival, Mrs. Chalcroft sneaks into her room in the dark of night, imploring her to relay messages to town that are to stay hidden from the rest of the family. Who exactly is she working for and what do the messages contain?

When fellow passengers of the robbed coach are later murdered, Sybil’s hunt for the truth takes on a new urgency. The only person she can rely on is Mr. Sinclair, Mrs. Chalcroft’s godson, but under all his charms he too leads a double life. Sybil must decide if he is the one honest voice she can trust, or if he is simply using her for his own advances.

Croft Towers holds more than its share of secrets . . . and Sybil is determined to uncover them all.

PRAISE

“Shades of Gothic romance in a portrait of Regency England . . . if Jane Austen ever met Jane Eyre, it would be at Croft Towers!” —Kristy Cambron, author of Castle on the Rise

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LOST IN DARKNESS (OF MONSTERS AND MEN), by Michelle Griep

I am rather fond of novels with deep literary inspirations if the author is reverent to the original story and author’s intensions. In the case of Lost in Darkness, bestselling inspirational fiction author Michelle Griep draws from Mary Shelley’s classic horror story Frankenstein in her forthcoming Gothic romance releasing on November 1, 2021.

There is a patient, a surgeon, a surgeon’s assistant, and a heroine. I will leave it up to you to guess the rest!

BOOK DESCRIPTION

Enchanting Regency-Era Gothic Romance Intertwined with Inspiration from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Travel writer Amelia Balfour’s dream of touring Egypt is halted when she receives news of a revolutionary new surgery for her grotesquely disfigured brother. This could change everything, and it does. . .in the worst possible way.

Surgeon Graham Lambert has suspicions about the doctor he’s gone into practice with, but he can’t stop him from operating on Amelia’s brother. Will he be too late to prevent the man’s death? Or to reveal his true feelings for Amelia before she sails to Cairo?

PRAISE

“[A] thrilling Regency romance centered on a life-changing surgery… Readers who enjoy historical inspirationals should take a look.”Publisher’s Weekly

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THE GOVERNESS OF PENWYTHE HALL: THE CORNWALL NOVELS (BOOK 1), by Sarah E, Ladd

Ah, Cornwall. That distant county at the southern tip of England that so many Regency heroines find themselves propelled to as necessity requires them to become governesses or contract a marriage of convenience.

Author Sarah E. Ladd knows well the discordant charms of that land and uses it to her advantage in a trilogy of novels of which The Governess of Penwythe Hall begins the series. Ladd is a top-notch writer in the genre and her tales are twisty and enchanting.

BOOK DESCRIPTION

A governess must return to the Cornish coast amid the insidious rumors of murder that forced her away in this Regency romance. Set in the same time period as Poldark and Bridgerton, The Governess of Penwythe Hall is rich with family secrets, lingering danger, and the captivating allure of new love.

Cornwall, England, 1811: Blamed for her husband’s death, Cordelia Greythorne fled Cornwall and accepted a governess position to begin a new life. Years later her employer’s unexpected death and his last request for Delia to watch over his five children force her to reevaluate. She can’t abandon the children now that they’ve lost both parents, but their new guardian lives at the timeworn Penwythe Hall . . . back on the Cornish coast where she’s been warned never to return.

Bachelor Jac Twethewey is determined to revive Penwythe Hall’s once-flourishing apple orchards, and he’ll stop at nothing to see his struggling estate profitable again. He hasn’t heard from his elder brother in years, so when his nieces, nephews, and their governess arrive unannounced, he battles both grief at his brother’s death and bewilderment over this sudden responsibility.

Jac’s priorities shift as the children take up residence in the ancient halls, but their secretive governess—and the sinister mysteries shrouding her past—might be the end to both Jac and Delia’s carefully laid plans.

PRAISE

“Brimming with dangerous secrets, rich characters, and the hauntingly beautiful descriptions Sarah Ladd handles so well, 1800s Cornwall is brought vividly to life in this well-crafted tale that kept me glued to the pages. What a brilliant start to a new series!”—Abigail Wilson, author of Masquerade at Middlecrest Abbey

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PRIDE AND PROMETHEUS, by John Kessel

Pride and Prometheus, by John Kessel (2018)I will conclude with one on my favorite reads of 2019. Just imagine Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice meets Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein and you have Pride and Prometheus.

This literary mash-up continues the story after the conclusion of Austen’s classic with minor character Mary Bennet as the heroine. Enter Victor Frankenstein and his Creature and you have an intriguing and unique combination. If it sounds outrageous, Kessel makes it totally plasuible as he expertly crafts a dark tale deftly told. There are some twists in the plot that will shock tender-hearted Austen fans and delight those who are #TeamShelley. It was fun ride from start to finish for me.

BOOK DESCRPTION

Threatened with destruction unless he fashions a wife for his Creature, Victor Frankenstein travels to England where he meets Mary and Kitty Bennet, the remaining unmarried sisters of the Bennet family from Pride and Prejudice. As Mary and Victor become increasingly attracted to each other, the Creature looks on impatiently, waiting for his bride. But where will Victor find a female body from which to create the monster’s mate?

Meanwhile, the awkward Mary hopes that Victor will save her from approaching spinsterhood while wondering what dark secret he is keeping from her.

Pride and Prometheus fuses the gothic horror of Mary Shelley with the Regency romance of Jane Austen in an exciting novel that combines two age-old stories in a fresh and startling way.

PRAISE

“Dark and gripping and tense and beautiful.”— Karen Joy Fowler, New York Times bestselling author of The Jane Austen Book Club and Pulitzer Prize finalist for We Are All Completely Besides Ourselves

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I hope that you will find several books on this list that you enjoy as much as I did. Do you have any favorite Gothic romance, suspense, or mysteries with a Gothic twist that you would like to share with us today? I am all anticipation!

Happy Halloween!

Laurel Ann

We received review copies from the publishers in exchange for an honest review, or purchased our own copies. Austenprose.com is an Amazon.com affiliate. We receive a modest remuneration when readers use our links and make a purchase.

Cover images courtesy of the respective publishers; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2021, Austenprose.com

13 thoughts on “7 Historic Romantic Suspense Novels with a Gothic Twist”

  1. I haven’t read many books in this genre, but after reading this post I am not sure why! All these books sound amazing and I will definitely start adding them to my ‘to read’ list! Each month I set myself genre goals to achieve rather than number of books so I will be adding this genre to next month’s list!

    Like

      1. I find they give me more flexibility in my reading (instead of numbers or specific books I just need to read one in each chosen genre) and they make me read a range of different books ☺️

        Definitely – I’m going to add that genre!

        Like

  2. I’ve read several of those on your list and wholeheartedly agree with how delicious and atmospheric they were. Got my eye on the new Julie Klassen, too. Thanks, Laurel Ann!

    Liked by 1 person

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