The Dark Side of Historical Romance

There is a dark side to the historical romance genre.  It’s Gothic romance, which doesn’t always give the reader a happily-ever-after ending. Born centuries ago, the genre flourished in late 18th and 19th century England. They were dark tales, often with a supernatural backdrop, set in creepy houses, castles, or ruins. Somewhere lurking in the fearful locations were mysterious men with secrets or questionable pasts who wooed unsuspecting female heroines.  Of course, in the mix, there could be ghosts, monsters, vampires, and other evils lurking beneath the bed.

The romance, however, is still a focal point of these dark tales of love intermixed with the not-so-pleasant surroundings.  A few years ago a Gothic romance by the name of Crimson Peak hit the theaters starring Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, and Mia Wasikowska.  Tom Hiddleston in an interview with Charlie Rose in October of 2015 (which you can find on YouTube), says this about the genre. “It was a way of expressing things about society in the eighteenth century that were repressed, which were sexuality and the fear of death. Gothic romance is the first genre to speak and explain the supernatural.”

After doing a bit of Google searching, I came across another good article about the genre that is worth the read – Romance Unlaced: Authors Discuss Today’s Gothic Romances by Madeline Hunter of USA Today (July 13, 2016). “Years ago, before big, fat historical romances broke onto the scene, I would look at the mass-market racks in the drugstore and see rows of covers that had much in common. A woman in a flimsy gown running down a hill in the night. In the background, cast in eerie moonlight, was a big house.”

If you haven’t read a good Gothic lately, perhaps it’s time to venture to the dark side of romance. Tread with caution, as not all endings are happily ever after.

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