Friday, September 08, 2017

A gallery of Gothic historical novels, or, what to read while waiting for Kate Morton's next book

Australian novelist Kate Morton's novels bridge genres: they're multi-period family sagas carefully layered with mysteries from the past, some romance, and often an old house at the center. I'm a big fan, one of many from around the world. All five of her books have been international bestsellers, and she recently posted about her upcoming book #6 on her Facebook page.

Gothic novels formed a good part of my reading as a young adult, and then the genre fell out of favor for years, only to be revived in the early 21st century -- with Morton as one of its foremost practitioners. She has helped bring these books back into the mainstream. Given the complexity of her novels, she can only write so quickly, but readers who crave books featuring similar elements have plenty to choose from.  Below are 12 "readalikes" for her work.

This is the first in a new series of thematic lists of historical novels (with some recommendations of titles from other genres mixed in), all written with the intent of introducing readers to new and intriguing-sounding books. Unlike many earlier lists, I'm including both new and older titles.

Please let me know what you think, and if there are any other subjects or themes for which you'd like recommendations!



Four sisters, the aftermath of their cousin's disappearance, and a modern family who stumbles upon the 50-year-old mystery after arriving at Applecote Manor in the Cotswolds.



What factors destroyed the once-close relationship between Cornish twins Adele and Amelia as they came of age in the war-torn 1940s?  The answers are left to their descendants to find out.



This creepy historical novel set in the post-WWII Welsh countryside features two young women facing hard times, a mansion reputed to be haunted, and horrifying secrets from the past.



In this atmospheric historical Gothic set in the Norfolk Broads in the early 19th century, a young woman facing destitution encounters a mysterious stranger in the marshes one foggy night.



A historical novelist researching the Jacobites in early 18th-century Scotland discovers unexpected truths in her fictional storyline.  Kearsley, of course, has been writing romantic mysteries with "twin-stranded storylines" (the phrase used for her HNS conference workshop on the topic) for over 20 years, so newcomers to her work have an extensive backlist to investigate.



A novel of reincarnation, layers of folk memory, and a mysteriously possessive form of love that stretches back through many centuries of English country history.



In 1950s West Virginia, Olivia VanBibber and her brother bring a plate of their great-aunt's fried chicken to a newly arrived stranger and get pulled unexpectedly into a haunting genealogical mystery.

Rett MacPherson has also written the Torie O'Shea contemporary mystery series, many of which feature family secrets (my favorite is The Blood Ballad, which is as creepy as all get-out).



A decrepit, isolated mansion in Scotland's Outer Hebrides, a woman with an unexpected inheritance, and a skeleton whose presence unearths a mystery about Muirlan House's former inhabitants.



What happened in the grisly cellar in Poet's Cottage in remote Tasmania eighty years ago? Australian writer Josephine Pennicott writes Gothic mysteries with a bohemian edge.



In 1924, the death of her uncle Toby, a ghost hunter, compels an Oxford student to travel to Rothewell, a small town by the sea, to investigate what happened. Readers of St. James's novels may find an occasional ghost or two within the pages.



Three of Katherine Webb's novel have been published in the US, and she's continued to write others for the UK market, including this one. The Misbegotten is an evocative period Gothic set in Bath in 1821, opening with a young woman seeing eerie portents on her wedding day.



A secret room in an elegant Gilded Age mansion, a portrait, and a ruby necklace are linked through three generations of women in this smoothly written, multi-period Gothic by a trio of popular authors.

12 comments:

  1. This list is fantastic! I am going to have to add so many of these books (or all of them!) to my TBR, I love a good Gothic historical novel, especially at this time of year. The Forgotten Room and Poet's Cottage are both new to me and sound really intriguing. Thanks for sharing these!

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    1. It is a good time of year for Gothics. Of all of the books, Poet's Cottage may be hardest to find (I had to buy it from Australia) but it's worth seeking out. I'm happy you liked the list!

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  2. What a great list! Thank you for these titles. I have read four of them, so know the quality you are recommending. Ferney is one of my all-time favourite books.

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    1. That's great that you've also read and loved Ferney. It's been a while, so I ought to read it again. Have you read the sequel?

      Thanks for commenting about the post!

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  3. Loved "The Winter Sea" and really liked "The House Between Tides" but I was underwhelmed by the first in the Rett Macpherson Torie O'Shea series, "Family Skeletons," so I haven't tried her again. Looking forward to reading "The Wildling Sisters." Thanks for the list!

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    1. I don't remember much about the first Torie book anymore, but I was gripped by the end of the series - they seemed to get spookier as time went on. Hope you enjoy Wilding Sisters!

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  4. Sounds like a wonderful list of spooky Gothic tales! I've recently read one by Vikki Wakefield, switch I'm sure will be on next year's Children's Book Council of Australia shortlist. It's a YA novel called "Ballad For A Mad Girl", centred around something nasty that happened in a small Aussie town in South Australia twenty years before the heroine's time. There's a ghost possessing her, refusing to go away till she has investigated and ensured justice for the murder victim. A very nice piece of Gothic!
    Final Day At The Writers Festival

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    1. That sounds good! YA fiction has a number of enjoyable Gothics.

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  5. All these look great. Will definitely add them to my list.

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  6. I am already a huge fan of several authors on this list, and it's especially nice to see fellow Canadians on the list (Kearsley and St. James).Themed lists are a wonderful idea, especially for books in subgenres that are sometimes difficult for readers to find!

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    1. Glad you think so - it's fun to put them together, too!

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