Aug 25 2014 8:30am

Gothics Are My Weakness: Favorite Gothic Romance Authors

Heroes Are My Weakness by Susan Elizabeth PhillipsToday we're joined by author Susan Elizabeth Phillips, whose Heroes Are My Weakness is released tomorrow (you can read a special selected scene from the book now!) Like many of us, Susan read romance, including gothic romances, when she was younger, and she uses that inspiration to craft the forbidding hero and the updated nightgown-wearing heroine of Heroes Are My Weakness. Susan joins us to talk about her favorite gothic authors from the past, and discusses how an updated version definitely goes beyond the closed bedroom door. Thanks, Susan!

Hold up your hand if you remember the fabulous gothic romances of, among others, Mary Stewart, Anya Seton, Victoria Holt, Daphne DuMaurier, and Phyllis Whitney. And how could we forget Charlotte Bronte’s exquisite Jane Eyre, although I’m more than willing to forget her sister Emily’s horrifically depressing (and inferior) book about you-know-who.

Although I didn’t realize it at the time, these were the books that shaped me as the writer I became. These are the stories that were in my mind as I wrote Heroes Are My Weakness, my modern day homage to brooding hero/villains, gloomy houses by the sea, and morally strong heroines—although mine is a bit feistier than many of the early gothic heroines. (And she has puppets. Yes, puppets.)

It was also my chance to right a few wrongs. I never recovered from the fact that Anya Seton didn’t redeem the dark and dangerous Nicholas Van Ryn in Dragonwyck. Instead, she gave the heroine Miranda a happy ending with the chivalrous (and totally forgettable) young doctor. Another gripe with my beloved Anya Seton (and pretty much all the rest of them)— Miranda and Nicholas Van Ryn get married in the book, and yet we have no idea what transpired between them when the bedroom door shut. How could these great writers have cheated us so badly?

Or did they? I know my overactive teenage imagination spent long hours speculating on what went on behind those bedroom doors. Would I have done that if the writers had given me the details? Would I have made up all those stories in my head? I doubt it. And, really, did we want to see Mr. Rochester go all Christian Grey on Jane Eyre? I think not.

Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart, Phyllis Whitney… None of them gave us the sexual goodies, not in the way today’s romance writers do. Not in the way I do in Heroes Are My Weakness. (Especially in my male bordello scene, which is, in my mind, as funny as it is sexy.) But is restraint all bad? I don’t write sex scenes simply to titillate the readers. A good sex scene, in my mind, needs to reveal something about character and/or plot. Otherwise, it’s kind of boring, right?

When you read the classic old gothics, did you yearn for a little more detail, or were you happy with the way things were presented? Was the romance novel better off in those less explicit days or do you prefer today’s more uninhibited stories?

Talk to me!

Learn more or pre-order a copy of Heroes Are My Weakness by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, available August 26, 2014:

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SUSAN ELIZABETH PHILLIPS is a New York Times, Publisher's Weekly, and USA Today bestseller, whose books are published in over 30 different languages.

If you'd like to know more, including info on her newest book, whether any of her books will be made into movies, how to get an autographed book, where she gets her ideas, please visit her




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Heather Waters
1. HeatherWaters
I adore Gothics and that hint of horror in the romance. Anne Stuart is another author I think mixes the two really well in both historical and contemporary Gothics. Can't wait to read Heroes Are My Weakness!

Great question about whether we'd really have wanted to see what went on behind closed bedroom doors in classic Gothics. I think no, because I can't imagine changing a thing now. That said, I'm always in favor of sexytimes if they fit naturally into the story the author wants to tell!
Jennifer Proffitt
2. JenniferProffitt
When I first read Jane Eyre, I didn't miss the sex scenes that I was used to in seeing modern romances, and in fact when I saw the latest adaptation with Michael Fassbender, I didn't want to see their relationship turn sexual (even though I thoroughly enjoyed it for Reasons (read: Michael Fassbender)). And I was actually kind of pissed when they turned it sexual. So in rare cases I'm fine with keeping the bedroom door closed in a gothic.

I think there's a balance between the non-explicit gothics and the super explicit modern romances. Like you mentioned, I think a sex scene should serve some sort of purpose and not be totally without a point (outside of it's a romance, ergo it needs sex).
Janice Hougland
3. jdh2690
Thanks for the interesting question. Now, I prefer the more uninhibited romances. But I read gothics...and loved a teenager and young adult and they satisfied me just fine. I had not tasted of passion myself at that time. Now that I know "what's what" I like realism along with fantasy in my romances. Thanks for this post!
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