My love for reading was fostered by my grandmother. She would often visit a local used bookstore; the type that traded all manner of publications. She would take my sister and I on Saturdays, to pick out books using her store credit that she had earned from trading in her old books. That is when and where I discovered my first gothic novel.
Intrigued by the cover art. A woman running from an ominous looking house at night. The house looming behind her and a look of sheer terror on her face. I remember that it was published by Zebra Gothic Romance. I do not remember much more than that, but it did start me down a path over the years towards an obsession in gothics. I loved every story regardless of how generic the plots were.
Many of those Zebra Gothic Romance books were written in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Sadly, I think are out of print now. Every so often I come across one and add it to my collection. These thrilling books are precious to me.
The below list is what I have compiled, although it’s not quite the same, they are similar enough, in story, atmosphere and setting. Some of the ones on the list are more modern in setting but are still very much worth the read if you enjoyed those older Gothic Romance Novels like I did.
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When newly widowed Elsie is sent to see out her pregnancy at her late husband’s crumbling country estate, The Bridge, what greets her is far from the life of wealth and privilege she was expecting . . .
When Elsie married handsome young heir Rupert Bainbridge, she believed she was destined for a life of luxury. But with her husband dead just weeks after their marriage, her new servants resentful, and the local villagers actively hostile, Elsie has only her husband’s awkward cousin for company. Or so she thinks. Inside her new home lies a locked door, beyond which is a painted wooden figure —a silent companion —-that bears a striking resemblance to Elsie herself. The residents of The Bridge are terrified of the figure, but Elsie tries to shrug this off as simple superstition–that is, until she notices the figure’s eyes following her.
For more than two centuries, Winterbourne Hall has stood atop a bluff overseeing the English countryside of Cornwall and the sea beyond. Enshrouded by fog and enveloped by howling winds, the imposing edifice casts a darkness over the town.
In 1947, Londoner Alice Miller accepts a post as governess at Winterbourne, looking after twin children Constance and Edmund for their widower father, Captain Jonathan de Grey. Falling under the de Greys’ spell, Alice believes the family will heal her own past sorrows. But then the twins’ adoration becomes deceitful and taunting. Their father, ever distant, turns spiteful and cruel. The manor itself seems to lash out. Alice finds her surroundings subtly altered, her air slightly chilled. Something malicious resents her presence, something clouding her senses and threatening her very sanity.
In present day New York, art gallery curator Rachel Wright has learned she is a descendant of the de Greys and heir to Winterbourne. Adopted as an infant, she never knew her birth parents or her lineage. At long last, Rachel will find answers to questions about her identity that have haunted her entire life. But what she finds in Cornwall is a devastating tragic legacy that has afflicted generations of de Greys. A legacy borne from greed and deceit, twisted by madness, and suffused with unrequited love and unequivocal rage.
There is only one true mistress of Winterbourne. She will not tolerate any woman who dares to cross its threshold and call it home. Those who do will only find a reflection of their own wicked sins and an inherited vengeance.
When Rebecca Lennox receives a proposal from Sir Montague Chastain, she welcomes the chance to escape from poverty – but her new home is a maze of dark secrets, and temptation beckons in the form of her husband’s cousin Mervyn.
As she battles against her forbidden passion and Sir Montague’s strange machinations, Rebecca realizes that her only hope for survival is to unlock the secrets of Willow Castle…
Can love survive in the shadow of madness–and murder?
After her brother is killed in the Crimean War, innocent young Oriel Pembroke finds herself alone in the world. Disowned by the cruel father who has always despised her, she has nowhere to turn until she is taken under the wing of a glamorous relative she never knew: the former Duchess of Ellsworth, who has scandalized society by remarrying soon after her first husband’s death. At the opulent seaside estate of Ellsmere, Oriel thinks she has found a safe haven—but the darkly handsome young duke, Herron, believes otherwise. Haunted by the death of his father, he suspects that Ellsmere is sheltering a murderer.
Even as Oriel falls in love with the duke, she begins to fear that his grief and suspicion are turning to madness. When dangerous accidents start to befall both Herron and Oriel, however, she realizes that someone may be trying to stop them from discovering the truth about the past. And when someone from her past comes back into her life, she learns that he may hold the answer to the most horrifying secret of all…
Some houses hold secrets that are meant to be kept forever…
When Eliza Sullivan inherits an estate from a recently deceased aunt, she leaves behind a grievous and guilt-ridden past in New Orleans for rural England and a fresh start. Eliza arrives at her new home and finds herself falling for the mysterious lord of Havenwood, Malcolm Winfield. Despite the sinister rumors that surround him, Eliza is drawn to his melancholy charm and his crumbling, once-beautiful mansion. With enough love, she thinks, both man and manor could be repaired.
Not long into their marriage, Eliza fears that she should have listened to the locals. There’s something terribly wrong at Havenwood Manor: Forbidden rooms. Ghostly whispers in the shadows. Strangely guarded servants. And Malcolm’s threatening moods, as changeable as night and day.
As Eliza delves deeper into Malcolm’s troubling history, the dark secrets she unearths gain a frightening power. Has she married a man or a monster? For Eliza, uncovering the truth will either save her or destroy her.
A governess in a French château encounters an apparent plot against her young charge’s life in this unforgettably haunting and beautifully written suspense novel. When lovely Linda Martin first arrives at Château Valmy as an English governess to the nine-year-old Count Philippe de Valmy, the opulence and history surrounding her seems like a wondrous, ecstatic dream. But a palpable terror is crouching in the shadows. Philippe’s uncle, Leon de Valmy, is the epitome of charm, yet dynamic and arrogant—his paralysis little hindrance as he moves noiselessly in his wheelchair from room to room. Only his son Raoul, a handsome, sardonic man who drives himself and his car with equally reckless abandon, seems able to stand up to him. To Linda, Raoul is an enigma—though irresistibly attracted to him, she senses some dark twist in his nature. When an accident deep in the woods nearly kills Linda’s innocent charge, she begins to wonder if someone has deadly plans for the young count.
This is not “chance” — this is something planned…and deadly.
In a modern and twisty retelling of Jane Eyre, a young woman must question everything she thinks she knows about love, loyalty, and murder.
Jane has lost everything: job, mother, relationship, even her home. A friend calls to offer an unusual deal—a cottage above the crashing surf of Big Sur on the estate of his employer, Evan Rochester. In return, Jane will tutor his teenage daughter. She accepts.
But nothing is quite as it seems at the Rochester estate. Though he’s been accused of murdering his glamorous and troubled wife, Evan Rochester insists she drowned herself. Jane is skeptical, but she still finds herself falling for the brilliant and secretive entrepreneur and growing close to his daughter.
And yet her deepening feelings for Evan can’t disguise dark suspicions aroused when a ghostly presence repeatedly appears in the night’s mist and fog. Jane embarks on an intense search for answers and uncovers evidence that soon puts Evan’s innocence into question. She’s determined to discover what really happened that fateful night, but what will the truth cost her?
Declan Fitzgerald had always been the family maverick, but even he couldn’t understand his impulse to buy a dilapidated mansion on the outskirts of New Orleans. Ever since he first saw Manet Hall, he’d been enchanted—and obsessed—with it.
Determined to restore the mansion to its former splendor, Declan begins the daunting renovation room by room. But the days spent in total isolation in the empty house take a toll. He sees visions of days from a century past and experiences sensations of terror and nearly unbearable grief. Local legend has it that the house is haunted, and with every passing day Declan’s belief in the ghostly presence grows.
Only the companionship of alluring Angelina Simone can distract him from the mysterious happenings in the house, but Angelina has her own surprising connection to Manet Hall—a connection that will help Declan uncover a secret that’s been buried for a hundred years.
A darkly feminist, modern gothic tale pitched against a haunting backdrop, and populated by an electrifying cast of heroines
For 150 years, high above rocky Scottish cliffs, Caldonbrae Hall has sat untouched, a beacon of excellence in an old ancestral castle. A boarding school for girls, it promises that the young women lucky enough to be admitted will emerge “resilient and ready to serve society.”
Into its illustrious midst steps Rose Christie: a 26-year-old Classics teacher, Caldonbrae’s new head of the department, and the first hire for the school in over a decade. At first, Rose is overwhelmed to be invited into this institution, whose prestige is unrivaled. But she quickly discovers that behind the school’s elitist veneer lies an impenetrable, starkly traditional culture that she struggles to reconcile with her modernist beliefs—not to mention her commitment to educating “girls for the future.”
It also doesn’t take long for Rose to suspect that there’s more to the secret circumstances surrounding the abrupt departure of her predecessor—a woman whose ghost lingers everywhere—than anyone is willing to let on. In her search for this mysterious former teacher, Rose instead uncovers the darkness that beats at the heart of Caldonbrae, forcing her to confront the true extent of the school’s nefarious purpose, and her own role in perpetuating it.
A darkly feminist tale pitched against a haunting backdrop, and populated by an electrifying cast of heroines, Madamwill keep readers engrossed until the breathtaking conclusion.
One postwar summer in his home of rural Warwickshire, Dr. Faraday, the son of a maid who has built a life of quiet respectability as a country physician, is called to a patient at lonely Hundreds Hall. Home to the Ayres family for over two centuries, the Georgian house, once impressive and handsome, is now in decline, its masonry crumbling, its gardens choked with weeds, the clock in its stable yard permanently fixed at twenty to nine. Its owners—mother, son, and daughter—are struggling to keep pace with a changing society, as well as with conflicts of their own. But are the Ayreses haunted by something more sinister than a dying way of life? Little does Dr. Faraday know how closely, and how terrifyingly, their story is about to become intimately entwined with his.
For the past 18 years, Kate Williams has tried to forget the fateful summer in which her sister Lacie’s disappearance ripped their family apart. But when their estranged mother unexpectedly dies and Kate inherits Villa Magda, the family’s summer home on the Maine coast, Kate decides that enough time has passed. With the help of her husband, her son, and their close group of friends, Kate decides to face the past and go back to Villa Magda for one last trip.
But the sprawling, ocean-side house isn’t as picturesque as it seems, and as the week goes on, inexplicable incidents and suspicious visitors begin to torment Kate, threatening to expose her deepest secrets. The closer Kate gets to learning the truth about what happened that summer, the faster she realizes the house might be holding more secrets than she can handle.
As tensions run high and friendships unravel, Kate starts to question her decision to return to Villa Magda. But when tragedy strikes and a body is found floating in the pool, questions arise that demand answers: What really happened at Villa Magda 18 years ago? How much did Kate know? And how can the house be stopped from claiming its next victim?
Set on a remote and gorgeous Maine estate, Lacie’s Secrets is an exciting and cinematic psychological thriller with surprising twists that will keep the reader guessing until the very last page.
Grace Alban has spent more than twenty years avoiding her childhood home, the stately Alban House on the shores of Lake Superior, for reasons she would rather forget. But when her mother’s unexpected death brings Grace and her teenage daughter back, she finds more is haunting the halls and passageways of Alban House than her own personal demons.
Long-buried family secrets, a packet of old love letters, and a lost manuscript plunge Grace into a decades-old mystery about a scandalous party at Alban House, when a world-famous author took his own life and Grace’s aunt disappeared without a trace. The night has been shrouded in secrecy by the powerful Alban family for all of these years. Her mother intended to tell the truth about that night to a reporter on the very day she died–could it have been murder? Or was she a victim of the supposed Alban curse? Grace soon realizes her family secrets tangle and twist as darkly as the mansion’s secret passages.
With the help of the disarmingly kind–and attractive–Reverend Matthew Parker, Grace must uncover the truth about her home and its curse before she and her daughter become the next victims.
Practical, unassuming Jane Shoringfield has done the calculations, and decided that the most secure path forward is this: a husband, in a marriage of convenience, who will allow her to remain independent and occupied with meaningful work. Her first choice, the dashing but reclusive doctor Augustine Lawrence, agrees to her proposal with only one condition: that she must never visit Lindridge Hall, his crumbling family manor outside of town. Yet on their wedding night, an accident strands her at his door in a pitch-black rainstorm, and she finds him changed. Gone is the bold, courageous surgeon, and in his place is a terrified, paranoid man—one who cannot tell reality from nightmare, and fears Jane is an apparition, come to haunt him.
By morning, Augustine is himself again, but Jane knows something is deeply wrong at Lindridge Hall, and with the man she has so hastily bound her safety to. Set in a dark-mirror version of post-war England, Starling crafts a new kind of gothic horror from the bones of the beloved canon. ThisCrimson Peak-inspired story assembles, then upends, every expectation set in place byShirley Jackson and Rebecca, and will leave readers shaken, desperate to begin again as soon as they are finished.
As kids, Emily and Chess were inseparable. But by their 30s, their bond has been strained by the demands of their adult lives. So when Chess suggests a girls trip to Italy, Emily jumps at the chance to reconnect with her best friend.
Villa Aestas in Orvieto is a high-end holiday home now, but in 1974, it was known as Villa Rosato, and rented for the summer by a notorious rock star, Noel Gordon. In an attempt to reignite his creative spark, Noel invites up-and-coming musician, Pierce Sheldon to join him, as well as Pierce’s girlfriend, Mari, and her stepsister, Lara. But he also sets in motion a chain of events that leads to Mari writing one of the greatest horror novels of all time, Lara composing a platinum album––and ends in Pierce’s brutal murder.
As Emily digs into the villa’s complicated history, she begins to think there might be more to the story of that fateful summer in 1974. That perhaps Pierce’s murder wasn’t just a tale of sex, drugs, and rock & roll gone wrong, but that something more sinister might have occurred––and that there might be clues hidden in the now-iconic works that Mari and Lara left behind.
Yet the closer that Emily gets to the truth, the more tension she feels developing between her and Chess. As secrets from the past come to light, equally dangerous betrayals from the present also emerge––and it begins to look like the villa will claim another victim before the summer ends.
So Hannah Larson wonders. When a close relative falls ill, Hannah and her young son, Nicky, decide to join him for the summer at Ashton Hall, a historic manor house outside Cambridge, England. Hannah gave up her academic career to raise her beloved child, who is neurodivergent and experiences the world differently from others, and she’s grateful to escape her life in New York City, where her marriage has been upended by a devastating betrayal.
Soon after their arrival, ever-curious Nicky discovers the skeletal remains of a woman in a forgotten, walled-off wing of the manor, and Hannah is pulled into an all-consuming quest for answers. Working from clues in centuries-old ledgers and the personal papers of the long-departed family, Hannah begins to recreate the Ashton Hall of the Elizabethan era in all its color and conflict. As the secrets of her own life begin to unravel, and the rewards and complications of being Nicky’s mother come into focus, Hannah realizes that Ashton Hall’s women before her had lives not so different from her own. She confronts what women throughout history have had to do to control their own destinies and protect their children.
Rich with passion, strength, and ferocity across the ages, Ashton Hall is a novel that reveals how the most profound hauntings are within ourselves.
Amid the terror of the Second World War, seventeen-year-old Eliza and her troubled little sister Rebecca have had their share of tragedy, having lost their mother to the Blitz and their father to suicide. Forced to leave London to work for the mysterious Mr. Brownwell at Abigale Hall, they soon learn that the worst is yet to come. The vicious housekeeper, Mrs. Pollard, seems hell-bent on keeping the ghostly secrets of the house away from the sisters and forbids them from entering the surrounding town—and from the rumors that circulate about Abigale Hall. When Eliza uncovers some blood-splattered books, ominous photographs, and portraits of a mysterious woman, she begins to unravel the mysteries of the house, but with Rebecca falling under Mrs. Pollard’s spell, she must act quickly to save her sister, and herself, from certain doom.