About My Love Haunted Heart

lost-ecstasy-cover-detail

Everyone should have a few guilty pleasures and one of mine is the romantic gothic fiction that was so popular in the 60’s & 70’s. Long out of print, to only be found tucked away in the dark corners of charity shops, ebay and car boot sales, I find their bewitching covers and the terrible deeds hinted at within impossible to resist.

goldenfigSo what is it about these small, usually unappealingly mouldy smelling, paperbacks I find so attractive? Maybe it was too much time spent watching Dark Shadows when I was growing up or a gradual disenchantment with an over-hyped, over-priced market in modern horror, but time and time again, like the proverbial moth to a flame, I find myself irresistibly drawn to these haunting tales of romantic suspense and supernatural horror.

Of course with all great loves there are a few fatal flaws. The obligatory happy endings for one. One could, and should, argue that love can only truly be called gothic if it is unrequited, doomed, tortured, twisted or taboo – think Poe’s Madeline and Roderick or Emily Bronte’s Catherine and Heathcliff.

But I guess for this particular genre, market forces dictated that the hapless heroine survive long enough to be swept off her feet by a real live hunk of (mostly) human love. To be fair, I’m sure many readers bought these books specifically for the ‘riding off into the sunset’ happy endings, but for those of us who prefer intrigue over romance, there are usually more than enough plot twists, villains and unhappy skeletons in the closet to keep us coming back for more.

Another criticism levelled at this type of fiction is the overall quality of writing. It is true that in the wrong hands these stories can come out clichéd and cheesy, with stereotyped characters, predictable plot twists and those “Oh come on! Give me a break!” moments that jar the reader out of the story. The subject matter and sheer numbers o titles published no doubt makes gothic romance an easy target.

To the Dark TowerlBut I do not think this genre is any more guilty of “hack” writing than any other and in the right hands many of these books contain absorbing, evocative stories, full of the kind over dramatic, melodrama that’s so fun to lose yourself in. And they are a credit to their authors – particularly when you consider the very restrictive guidelines they must of conformed to just to get published. In any event, literary snobbery aside, any book that gets people reading is a great book and there is no doubt the gothic romance genre has a loyal and avid readership.

So this blog is a collection of excerpts, cover art and reviews on some of my favourite reads in vintage romantic gothic fiction. In their hey day there must have been thousands of these novels published but these days they are becoming harder to come by and, just like the haunted houses they depict, many of them are falling into ever increasing states of decrepitude. I can only live in hope that someone, someday resurrects this forgotten genre and starts reprinting some of these titles, complete with their original gorgeous artwork, soon.

Pssst… Mlle Ghoul has been kind enough to ask me a few questions on my fascination with gothics. So if you’re curious too, follow the link here:  After Dark in the Playing Fields.Enjoy!

the-waiting-sands

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Published on September 10, 2009 at 13:45  Comments (26)  

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26 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hi, I just purchased what I believe are 3 original Jerome Podwil covers to published gothic horror romance books. Might you be able to help me identify what books they are? michael.f.finn at gmail dot com

  2. Wonderful blog earmarked specifically to the genre of vintage Gothic Romances. I am huge fan of Gothic fiction and what better could than to have it laced with appropriate doses of passionate romance! I agree with you entirely when you say that Gothic romances in its true nature should entail unhappy unrequited romances. There is more darkness that one can discover lurking beneath an unrequited romances than the “happily lived after” endings. Nevertheless, the cover art at that time made up for all the darkness that one could possible imagine the moment they laid their eyes on a potential Gothic Romance. Like you I hope that the resurrection of this genre happens sooner in the near future. Until then I am giving myself up heartily to the guilty pleasures of the dark, passionate, romances of the young adult fantasy fiction of the time. Here are books I am really looking forward to:-
    1. Fallen (Lauren Kate)
    2. Hush Hush (Becca Fitzpatrick)
    3. Body Finder (Kimberley Derting)
    4. Angelology a novel (Danielle Trussoni)
    5. Anna and the French Kiss (Stephanie Perkins)

    All these books have a certain element of Gothic fantasy, deep romance & the supernatural aspect of it that kind of makes it unrequited during the course of the novel. Anyways, I thoroughly enjoyed your blog and will definitely look forward to updates.

    • Hi Odzer, thank you for your comment and thanks for the book recommendations – I am always on the look out for more gothic romances to read! All the best, sara

  3. I love it! So glad I found your blog. As you’ve seen, I occasionally feature Gothic paperbacks on my horror fiction site. Some of them are utterly bewitching!

    • Thanks for stopping by Will and I’ve added a link to your wonderful blog. I notice you posted about Gwen in Green – I’ve got the coronet edition and I must say, it’s an interesting read! That Fawcett Crest cover is gorgeous. Congratulations on your new job by the way!

  4. Just dropping in to say I enjoy your blog. I used to read a lot of the old gothics when I was young, so it’s nice to find someone reviewing them. I’m sure I’ll discover some I missed.

    • Thanks MRH,
      I hope this blog helps you re-discover some of your favourite gothics or finds you some interesting new ones to read! Pop by again soon!
      sara

  5. I really love this blog! I have just literally spent hours on here 🙂 It truly may be the best blog i’ve seen. You have some awesome art and reviews of the books featured here and I want to say thanks for helping keep these awesome works alive. I collect old books particularly for their artwork and remember loving the gothic book covers as a kid, my aunts had plenty of them. Nice work, thanks!

    • Thanks for the lovely comment bryan, and look out for more reviews soon! I love the artwork too, and I get a lot of emails from people who collect the older paperbacks specifically for their covers – did you ever get a chance to read any of your aunt’s gothics?
      best,
      sara

  6. You are quite welcome Sarah! I surely will. Yes I did read some of them, and I really enjoyed them! My grandparents recently passed away, and they(my aunts) left all their books at their house when they grew up and moved away. The books as far as I know are still there. Tons of books are there actually of all kinds. Unfortunately we all are not on the nicest terms now, and I have not been inside my grandparents house but twice since they passed away. As they are not sentimental people or readers anymore, i’m afraid all these books will be thrown away!! I have asked my father to please keep all the books for me if he can get over there. If I get some of them I will let you know what gothics I find!

    • Oh, I’m sorry to hear that, fingers crossed your father can find some books for you!
      best
      sara

  7. Your Blog is amazing 🙂
    I also love gothic novels and buy all the gothic books I find.
    Kisses, Aris.

    • Thanks for the lovey comment Aris, and if you have any recommendations of gothics you’ve enjoyed, please feel free to share them here!
      best
      sara

  8. So excited to find your blog….I started reading gothics as a kid and it probably started my love of parapsychology. I’m sure I have 50 of them on the shelf I haven’t read yet that I’ve collected over the years. I’ve been guilty of getting distracted by contemporary ‘cozy’ mysteries. Looking through your blog has made me remember just how charming the gothics are….so nice to see someone who appreciates them too..thanks for putting together such an awesome website…
    Lyn

    • Thanks Lyn! And I hope you’ve been inspired to start reading some of your gothics again!
      best
      sara

  9. Hi, Sara!
    My name is Sara too, and beside the name I also share a passion for those wonderful old gothics you write about here with such love and dedication 🙂 The only problem is, where I live (Slovenia), it’s extremely difficult next to impossible to find gothic suspense/romance novels around easily, so the only thing I can do is order them from ebay from elswhere, where they are more readily available, so thank God for the internet 🙂 Well, just wanted to tell you, I love your site, and faithfully follow it and every now and again I think to myself, “I’ve just got to check My love Haunted Heart to see if Sara’s already written about a new book!” So I’m very happy to read such a great site being written by a true gothic paperback lover like you. Just out of curiosity, if it’s not too personal, I often wonder how old you might be, as the way you write, I would think of you as a more mature, well-versed person with experience in writing, but you also have a site very-well designed which makes me think of you as younger person….just wondering…I’m 25 by the way. Well, anyway, keep up the great work and I’ll keep enjoying reading your great site! Sara 😀

    • Hi Sara, thanks for visiting and thank you for your lovely comment. Sorry I’ve not replied sooner but I’ve been taking a break from all things computer related for a while! I’ve been reading lots though and should have some more reviews up soon. Have you read any good gothics lately you’d recommend? As for my age… well lets just say I’m about the same vintage as most of the books on this site, though perhaps a little less well preserved! Best, Sara

  10. Someone on Goodreads mentioned your blog for us fans of gothics. Glad to have found another fellow fan! I don’t know what drew me to them–maybe the romance/danger combination, but I’ve never stopped loving them. There are a very few new authors still writing them, but you really have to look for them. I always keep my eyes open for them!

    • Thanks for the comment Kat and I agree, the romance / danger combination is a perennial favourite for me too. No matter what other genres I get into, the gothic romance is one I come back to again and again!

  11. I love this! I grew up reading these and now I write them. Thanks for creating this blog, You ave quite a collection!

    • Thank you!

  12. So you’re the competition! 🙂

    I scour the back shelves and obscure community book sales for these gothic gems as well. Once in my possession, and read, I find it difficult to place them back into circulation. Do you? I know it’s selfish, but I admit to keeping my favorites.

    I’m surprised you have left out tribute to gothics written in the late 40’s, and the 50’s. They have a different flavor than those written in the 60’s and definitely those of the 70’s. I would say they are darker because often the heroine is herself kept “in the dark” with respect to her position in society, which makes for a special kind of twist to the plot of it’s own. Whereas in the 60’s and 70’s a woman could more easily speak up and had much greater autonomy, the same couldn’t be said of most of the female characters of the earlier gothics.

    The genre must not have been as popular in the 40’s and 50’s; they are hard to find. Perhaps the lack of titles is because women didn’t want to read about the helplessness they often lived everyday.

    Thank you for posting this blog! Happy reading!

    Ame

    • Hi Ame, thanks so much for your comment. I agree, I find it difficult to pass on books after I’ve read them, especially my gothics!

      And that’s a really interesting point about the gothic’s of the 40’s & 50’s. I must confess I haven’t read too many of them – though probably more than I think since a lot of the gothics published during the 60’s & 70’s were re-issues of older novels. Rebecca was published in 1938 and sparked renewed interest in the genre so I’m sure there were many others published then. Do you have any favourites from that era you’d recommend?

  13. Hi Sara!

    Your website is an absolute godsend!! I am new to the vintage gothics but am in LOVE with them. My mother and grandmother both had a secret love of them which must be therefore in my blood. I read my first Mary Stewart book in high school Touch Not the Cat. One of favs to this day. But your site is incredible! I’m finding a goldmine of good material. I’m a published author with three publishing houses, and I’m actually starting a series this fall where I’m writing modern gothics set in present day. I’m hoping to renew interest in young readers with the haunting old classic gothics. I’m dying to explore your site and read more of these old classics! If you ever do reviews on recently published gothics, I’d love to send you a free copy of my upcoming release The Shadows of Stormclyffe Hall when it’s available this Sept (2014). Thanks again for making such a great site! I plan to spend all weekend catching up on old posts. I love how you show all of the covers and post the pictures on your posts. So awesome!!!

    • Thanks for stopping by. It’s always great to hear from writers who are bringing gothics into the 21st century! I don’t currently review recently published fiction but that could all change as I’m always on the lookout for new gothics to read, so watch this space! Best of luck with your novel!
      sara


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