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Creating a Best Gothic Romance List
#1
I'd like to put together a "Best Gothic Romance Novels of the Twentieth Century." (This has been modified from the original thread which didn't specify gothic ROMANCE. So I'm going to re-number everything and remove the titles that are inappropriate.)

Here's the NEW CRITERIA FOR INCLUDING A BOOK ON THIS LIST:

1. It has to be written between 1900 and now
2. It has to have a romance at the center of the story (tragic romance is acceptable)
3. It must make use of a traditional Gothic setting: an old house, castle, or some such spooky building. Because of this, I didn't include some of Mary Stewart's books on this list, since they are more romantic suspense than Gothic in setting.
4. It has to be restrained in its use of horror or supernatural elements (in other words, out and out horror, like Stephen King's "The Shining," is not acceptable for this list).
5. It has to be a stellar representation of the genre (excellent writing, characters, use of Gothic literary devices) and/or it has to help re-define the genre by bringing in elements of another genre or re-inventing standard conventions of the genre (for instance, "The Watcher in the Woods" utilizes science fiction in an otherwise typical Gothic)

I have re-numbered the list and removed several titles (including some of my own suggestions) that don't seem to fit the criteria for being a romance, though they may be excellent Gothic novels. If anyone feels something has been overlooked on this list that should be included, please let me know. Likewise, if something doesn't belong on the list, let me know.

1. REBECCA BY DAPHNE DU MAURIER
2. MISTRESS OF MELLYN BY VICTORIA HOLT
3. NINE COACHES WAITING BY MARY STEWART
4. SEA JADE BY PHYLLIS WHITNEY
5. FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC BY V. C. ANDREWS
6. THE IVY TREE BY MARY STEWART
7. GREEN DARKNESS BY ANYA SETON
8. DRAGONWYCK BY ANYA SETON
9. THE WATCHER IN THE WOODS BY FLORENCE ENGEL RANDALL
10. MOURA BY VIRGINIA COFFMAN
11. HOUSES OF STONE BY BARBARA MICHAELS
12. HOUSE OF IMPOSTERS BY WILLO DAVIS ROBERTS
13. THE WAITING SANDS BY SUSAN HOWATCH
14. JAMAICA INN BY DAPHNE DU MAURIER
15. SONS OF THE WOLF BY BARBARA MICHAELS
16. VOICE OF THE DOLLS BY DOROTHY EDEN
17. VOICE OF MURDER BY MARGARET ERSKINE
18. GAD'S HALL BY NORA LOFTS
19. THE MIDNIGHT DANCERS BY ANNE MAYBURY
20. THE CIRCULAR STAIRCASE BY MARY ROBERTS RINEHART
21. GIRL ON A HIGH WIRE BY RAE FOLEY
22. MIDSUMMER MASQUE BY JILL TATTERSALL
23. BRIDE OF NEWGATE BY JOHN DICKSON CARR
24. A FALCON FOR A QUEEN BY CATHERINE GASKIN
25. THE REFLECTION OF EVIL BY JAN ROFFMAN
26. KIRKLAND REVELS BY VICTORIA HOLT
27. LEGEND OF THE GREEN MAN BY SARA HELY
28. BRAT FARRAR BY JOSEPHINE TEY
29. THE HANGMAN'S TREE BY DOROTHY CAMERON DISNEY
30. MILL REEF HALL BY ARIADNE PRITCHETT
31. THE SECRET OF CANFIELD HOUSE BY FLORENCE HURD
32. DO NOT DISTURB BY HELEN MCCLOY
33. THE TOWN CRIED MURDER BY LESLIE FORD
34. WHY SHOOT A BUTLER? BY GEORGETTE HEYER
35. BROWNSTONE GOTHIC BY ELIZABETH SHENKIN
36. THE PAVILION BY HILDA LAWRENCE
37. THE EVIL OF TIME BY EVELYN BERCKMAN
38. THE THIRTEENTH TALE BY DIANE SETTERFIELD
39. SHADOW GLEN BY DOROTHY DANIELS

1. "Rebecca" by Daphne du Maurier--really started the entire 20th century trend
2. "Mistress of Mellyn" by Victoria Holt--inspired by "Rebecca's" enduring success, "Mistress" set off the publishing phenomenon of the Gothic genre of the 60's.
3. "Nine Coaches Waiting" by Mary Stewart--Stewart proved that high literary quality and the modern Gothic can go hand in hand. Virtually any of her "Golden Period" Gothics could be listed here.
4. Something by Phyllis Whitney--any suggestions? Should it be her first Gothic? I think she deserves a place on the list for so consistently keeping solid, decently crafted Gothics on the bestseller lists.
5. "Flowers in the Attic" by V. C. Andrews--Re-invented the Gothic genre by liberally mixing it with horror. Though not particularly well written, Andrews' novel taps into some major primal Gothic fears.



Okay, I need help! I think we should be able to come up with 50 must-read titles. Are there any here you don't agree with? I don't want to get too far out of the Gothic Romance subgenre--so I'm trying to avoid overt horror novels with Gothic overtones.

But I need help! What other books do you think deserve to be on this list for their importance or sheer good quality?
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#2
Okay, I'm going to add to my own list since nobody else has yet. Sad

7. "The Ivy Tree" by Mary Stewart--I know Stewart is already on this list with "Nine Coaches Waiting," but she deserves more than one place on this list. "The Ivy Tree" breaks some of the Gothic conventions and is so literate, surprising and atmospheric, it deserves a place here.

8. "Winterwood" by Dorothy Eden--Superior Gothic from this prolific author. It's a traditional entry in the genre but well written and effectively told. Eden deserves some representation on this list, and--unless anyone thinks differently--"Winterwood" would be my pick.

9. "Green Darkness" by Anya Seton. I debated putting this or "Dragonwyck" on the list, both which represent Seton's effective fictionalizing of historical research. In the end, though "Green Darkness" may be more innovative with its reincarnation theme, I prefer "Dragonwyck." But apparently, I'm in the minority, so "Green Darkness" it is.

10. "The Watcher in the Woods" by Florence Engel Randall. Randall wrote Gothics for adults, but "Watcher" was marketed to a juvenile/teen crowd. I suspect that's because the publisher wasn't quite sure what to do with it. It's an effective, spooky traditional Gothic up to a point, and then it introduces science fiction elements that are surprisingly effective. Forget the poor film version made by Disney--the novel is the real thing, and it gets my vote for most underrated Gothic.

11. Something by Virginia Coffman? Any ideas? I'm not very familiar with her work but she was quite prolific in the genre and seemed to have an interesting perspective as she used elements of late 60's/early 70's counterculture to pepper her supernatural Gothics. Heck, she had real supernatural elements in her novels, which sets her apart from the crowd!

12. "Houses of Stone" by Barbara Michaels. Here's another Master of the genre. Most any of her books are worthy examples of the genre done well, but "Houses" is a step above. Michaels effectively incorporates the history of the genre itself into the story, and for lovers of classic Gothics, it's a great read. Add a literate, unconventional heroine (who is neither young or exceptionally beautiful) and you have a mature, sophisticated Gothic.

13. Something by Willo Davis Roberts? Again, any suggestions for a superior title from her? Her Gothics were all nicely crafted, intelligent, and well written.

14. Something by Susan Howatch? I've only read "April's Grave" and it wasn't particularly distinguished--but I've read some of her others are very skillfully done.
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#3
15.  "Jamaica Inn" by Daphne du Maurier--Like Mary Stewart, du Maurier's sheer literary skill earns her a second place on this list.  "Jamaica Inn" is a skillful, traditional historical Gothic, that takes a well-earned twist into a study of insanity and hatred the likes of which we rarely see so chillingly portrayed in a Gothic.  Add an uneasy conclusion where the reader doubts the heroine has a happy ending ahead of her, and you have a unique, genre-influencing Gothic.

16. "Rosemary's Baby" by Ira Levin--Supernatural Gothic that has all the trappings of a traditional one: spooky apartment building, bride who doesn't know her husband as well as she should, creepy neighbors. Always modern and brisk, "Rosemary's Baby" packs a wallop at the end. It may not seem like a traditional Gothic romance, but if you think about it, you'll realize Levin follows the format brilliantly--until the end.
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#4
I'd like to add to this list. You can probably see some of the others' reviews under Book Reviews.

17. "Sons of the Wolf" by Barbara Michaels. I know you already listed Barbara Michaels but she is one of my favorites and I'd recommend almost any one of them.

18. I did not like "Winterwood" by Dorothy Eden but I did like "Voices of the Dolls".

19. "The Voice of Murder" by Margaret Erskine. This is a Gothic suspense/police detective story.
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#5
Great tamtam. Erskine is a great addition--and I agree about Michaels deserving more than one place on the list. I think "Sons of the Wolf" may be the one Michaels I haven't read yet!
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#6
Nice to see another new member. I'll add something:

20. I believe it was Nora Lofts who wrote "Gad's Hall" and "The Haunting of Gad's Hall". There was an element of the occult that I found particularly eerie.

21. Perhaps someone can suggest something from Anne Maybury. I only read one and it was OK except for the inconsistencies within the story. I know she gets very good critical reviews generally.

22. Some consider Mary Roberts Rinehart as Gothic. I think they are more romantic suspense but "The Wall" has a feel of the Gothic.

22. "Girl on a High Wire" by Rae Foley. Several of her works could be considered Gothic, even the ones featuring amateur sleuth Hiram Potter. I really enjoy reading her works.

For #11, how about "Devil Vicar"?

I enjoy Mary Stewart as well and I'd put "My Brother Michael" or "This Rough Magic" on the list.
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#7
Thanks paigenumber for the additions!

I haven't read the Nora Lofts novel, but I'll look into it.

Mary Roberts Rinehart is best known for "The Circular Staircase," which definitely has some Gothic elements. Her novels were written before "Rebecca," however, so they are a lacking that romatic influence and come across more as straight mysteries with some slight Gothic trappings. But you're right, she deserves inclusion on the list. I'd put "The Circular Staircase" on there as it was hugely popular, spawned a popular play called "The Bat" (which was then novelized as "The Bat" and attributed to Rinehart--but it was written by someone else!) "The Bat" then spawned several movie versions.

Thanks for the Virginia Coffman suggestion. I'll look it up and then add it to our list under #11. When I get a minute, I'll redo the opening post so it has an updated list.

I think you feel about Mary Stewart the way I do. Wink Her "Golden Age of Gothic" (in my opinion) began with her first novel and ended with "Touch Not the Cat." Any one of those books could probably be included on this list.

Believe it or not, nobody has ever (publically anyway) done a list like this. I've been looking for awhile. So, if we get enough people's input, this may actually be a very helpful internet resource. We could even get a link from wikipedia. For someone just starting out in the genre, it could be very useful.
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#8
#23. Something from Jill Tattersall. Perhaps "Midsummer Masque".
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#9
Hi maisonvivante, and well done on starting this thread!

Your heading didn't stipulate best Gothic romances, but best Gothic novels so I would offer:

#24. Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake. Although many consider this a fantasy masterpiece, it is also inarguably one of the great Gothic novels of the 20th century (and part of possibly the best of all Gothic trilogies.)
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#10
#25: Bride of Newgate by John Dickson Carr. Carr may be considered one of the great Golden Age mystery writers but he had several works that would be considered Gothic. This one reads like a historical romantic mystery.

#26: The Ninth Guest (The Invisible Host) by Gwen Bristow and Bruce Manning. Gwen Bristow traditionally wrote romances and this is the only mystery she wrote that I am aware of. This may or may not be considered a Gothic by others but I really enjoyed it. There is definite terror and suspense with a subtle romance. It reminded me of Christie's Ten Little Indians, although this book was copyrighted years prior to Christie's.
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