Writing a contemporary Gothic Romance

A reader reviewed my book Take My Heart, leaving these comments:

I used to read nothing but gothic romances and this had the same feel with the mystery, intensity of the romance and darkness that makes those stories memorable. Amazon Reader

I placed that there, not only to sound my own trumpet (now who doesn’t like to show off occasionally?) but because of the reader’s fitting description of the Gothic Romance genre.

Due to the dark suspenseful nature of Take My Heart, Romantic Suspense is the book’s natural home. However, I must admit, my heart sang on learning that not only did my book fit the Gothic Romance genre, but that there’s such a thing as a modern Gothic romance. And yes, I have been living under a rock!

Rebecca is the first book that comes to mind when thinking of Gothic Romance. Set on the Cornish coast, one is gripped by how the shadowy, stormy setting sets the tone by mirroring the psychological play within the story. Although Du Maurier weaves a great plot, the narrative is secondary to the lingering tension between the two female leads making it a compelling mystery.

I headed over to Amazon’s top 100 Gothic Romance novels and discovered mainly Mafia Romance. As I’ve never read a Mafia Romance, I’m ill-equipped to comment on how it measures up to the classic Gothic Romance model.

What that did tell me, however, was just how far Gothic Romance had come. In many ways, I suppose, as long as the story involves dark and intense characters, and a love story that’s shadowed by one or more of “the deadly sins” then Gothic Romance it is.

And for someone who’s addicted to dark psychological romances, I think I might have found a place to park my creativity.

What this also revealed to me is that Dark Romance and Gothic Romance are bedfellows. In the case of the Gothic Romance, it’s no longer a dark castle, or mansion with mysteries tucked away in chambers hidden behind movable bookshelves. Or where mad aunts in diaphanous nighties are confused for ghosts or vice versa. (That’s in my next book.)

Dark Descent into Desire, my current book due for release early next year, revolves around Blake Sinclair, a dark brooding billionaire with a past that reads like something out of a classic Gothic Romance. His birthplace being the Yorkshire moors, where if one listens carefully, they might even catch a whisper of Cathy and Heathcliff’s dirge in the howling wind.

Leaving his past behind, he heads to the city. Even though his star soon rises along with his empire, the ghosts of his past shadow him. And no matter how opulent his life becomes nightmares haunt him.

In steps smart and beautiful artist, Penelope Green, who not only becomes his object of obsession but also manages to go where no one else has gone: to the heart and soul of this damaged man. 

Call it Dark Romance or Gothic Romance, I just can’t resist the broken hero, who through passionate love disguised as unbridled lust, becomes a better man. Layers of cynicism and negativity slowly dissolve and a pure soul is revealed.

Whether set now or in the past, the male leads share similar stories. They might have been born into dysfunctional households, or, through no fault of their own, find themselves in a do-or-die struggle.  

The first impression of romantic heroes like Heathcliff, Rochester, or Blake Sinclair, is that they’re arrogant, strong, and deeply compelling men, but scratch the surface and there’s a sensitive, damaged man, who’s at battle with himself.

In contrast, the female appears vulnerable and fragile, but scratch the surface and she’s a ghost-slayer. Strong and determined to protect her lover, no matter what. It’s this power of opposites, a form of yin and yang if you like, that galvanizes their spirits.

And there lies our Happily Ever After, and why these stories are so compelling, because of the battle that takes place not just around, but within the man, and how love conquers all.


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