Oct 18 2017 8:30am

Enter if You Dare: 8 Spooky Historical Houses for Your Halloween

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It’s that ghostly time of year again, bats and ghouls!

The air is crisp (at least up here in New England), the days are shorter, and everything is just a little spookier. Even my romance reads. This is the time of year when I get a craving for haunted houses; big, crumbling, rambling piles in bleak, isolated locations that are probably haunted by someone’s dead (or crazy) (or both) wife. Wives in the attic, ghosts on the stair—there’s just nothing that can compete with a haunted house when it comes to kicking off the Halloween season.

The romance version of the “Super Spooky Gothic House” (that’s a very official academic term as you can tell) is rather recognizable once you’ve encountered it for the first time. It’s most often found in those novels that are, while still part of the romance genre, drawn more from the Gothic novel than the domestic novel of manners. And one of the motifs of the Gothic novel that pseudo-Gothic romance novels pick up on frequently is The House. As with many Gothic novels, pseudo-Gothic romances often feature a hugely significant house, much like the rambling piles referenced above. I say “hugely significant” as, in the pseudo-Gothic romance as in the Gothic novel, the house is almost a character in and of itself.

When such a house is written well, the result is an atmospheric—spine-tingling, if you’re lucky—romp through haunted hallways, where ghosts both real and imagined stand between hero and heroine as they try to fight their way towards Happily Ever After.

Rating Spooky Houses

So in total for this project I went on an unapologetic book binge and read eight romances that I would label as “spooky house romances,” and they fell rather naturally into three categories:

  • Scary at First Sight — houses that were spooky on approach, but either not spooky on the inside or their spookiness was not significant
  • Spooky On the Inside — houses that were still spooky on the inside, but not hair-raisingly so)
  • Spooky All the Way — houses that were spooky outside, spooky inside, and genuinely creeped me out

I’m going to feature the three novels from that last category, and include the rest below on an honorable mention list. But I do want to say that not a one on this list was a do-not-finish, or a do-not-keep.

Maybe I just love how extra everything is in pseudo-Gothic romances (SO DRAMATIC!), but all eight were delightful.

Spooky All the Way

One Night of Scandal by Teresa Medeiros.

One Night of Scandal by Teresa Medeiros 

(Amazon | B&N | Kobo)

It was One Night of Scandal that really kicked off this project. I plucked it from my TBR Jar and was delighted to find myself reading a wonderfully Gothic-flavored romance. An excess of curiosity leads Carlotta “Lottie” Farleigh straight into the arms of her reclusive, supposedly murderous London neighbor, Hayden St. Clair - the Murderess Marquess. The bookworm and would-be writer finds herself swept up in an unlooked for marriage that carries her and her grim groom all the way to the windswept cliffs of Cornwall, to Oakwylde Manor - the home of the Marquess’ darkest secret: the cause of his previous wife’s sudden demise. This one actually stood the hair on my arms up once or twice. But midnight piano playing ghosts and candlelit walks through the dark will do that.

Haunted by the Earl’s Touch by Ann Lethbridge

(Amazon | B&N | Kobo)

This book I adored. I read about it in an article on USA Today’s Happily Ever After, and what caught my attention was Ann Lethbridge’s choice to incorporate an element of the Gothic novel into her romance that would normally be anathema to romance writers: a single POV. Beyond a scene at the beginning, and one at the end, no part of this novel is in the Hero’s POV. Teacher and (reluctant) ward, Mary Wilding, finds herself suddenly an heiress, with a very disagreeable guardian. If Bane Beresford, new Earl of Beresford, wants to inherit more than just his title and the accompanying crumbling seat in Cornwall then he’s either going to have to marry Mary to get his money back… or kill her. Even if Mary doesn’t want to play along. This book was a hoot—it really exemplifies the excellence possible in the Mills & Boon Legacy of Love/Harlequin Historical form. Though only 282 pages long Lethbridge manage to cram more Gothic weather, ghosts, and Jane Eyre allusions (I counted at least 5 and I’m sure there were more) into her novel then you would think possible. Add to that a thoroughly creepy house, complete with hidden passages, and a hero with as much incentive to kill the heroine as kiss her, and you’ve got a book that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

His Dark Kiss by Eve Silver

His Dark Kiss by Eve Silver

(Amazon | B&N | Kobo)

His Dark Kiss is actually the second book in Eve Silver’s Dark Gothic series, and I fully intend to read the rest. Silver is not afraid to walk the dark edge of the Gothic, to a degree that I didn’t find in any of the seven other novels. I cringed, I read through my fingers—it was fabulous. A few times I even found myself looking over my shoulder nervously. You know, just in case. Emma Parrish all but sells herself as a governess to Manorbrier and it’s dark lord, Anthony, Lord Craven, the husband of her dead cousin. Craven seems to be made more of shadow than man, and his mysterious tower seems to cast grim shadows on the long line of missing and dead governess that have come before her. I wrote pages of notes during this book - most of them dedicated to puzzling out who the villain was - and I never saw the truth coming. This book is perfect for a dark, rainy October day, but be prepared to down it in one sitting, because the mystery of Manorbrier will keep you guessing until the end.

Honorable Mentions: Spooky At First Sight

One Night in Scotland by Karen Hawkins. (Amazon | B&N | Kobo) While Hawkins doesn’t keep up the spook beyond first impressions there’s furniture throwing and heroines trapped in towers aplenty in this one.

The Dragon’s Bride by Jo Beverley. (Amazon | B&N | Kobo) At first glance Crag Wyvern is an imposing structure, that looks fit to be haunted. But the light-hearted tone of much of the book undermines some of the creepy factors of the house. The old earl was clearly a wretched, disturbed old lecher - and his taste in interior design will make your skin crawl, but when the skeleton on the wall is named Yorrick, it’s hard to be too spooked.

Honorable Mentions: Spooky On the Inside

The Devil’s Lady by Deborah Simmons. (Amazon | B&N | Kobo) This one is the odd man out on this list, as it’s the only one to take place prior to the 18th century. But it’s a fabulous 13th century set Harlequin Historical, and Dunmurrow is definitely spooky outside and in when the heroine first arrives. The hero keeps himself shrouded in darkness, and everyone’s pretty sure he’s compacting with the Devil.

The Bride and the Beast by Teresa Medeiros. (Amazon | B&N | Kobo) Normally I try not to let one author hit the same list twice. But Medeiros’ backlist could easily comprise half this list so I’m patting myself on the back for just including two. Besides, I can’t leave off a hero cryptically called The Dragon, to whom the heroine is offered as a virgin sacrifice, who he then keeps in a beautiful room in a tower in his magnificently ruined castle. This book was gorgeous.

My Dangerous Duke by Gaelen Foley. (Amazon | B&N | Kobo) This book was so unexpected in so many ways. Yet again our heroine is given as an offering to the nearby duke, who might actually be the Devil for all that everyone is afraid of him. Kilburn Castle, with its icy walls and black tower, looming over the Cornish coastline, is definitely not a cozy place. But what do you expect when the Warrington men are cursed to kill the women they love? 


Now, October has just begun. Which means there are still long days to fill before Halloween. And I never get tired of a haunted house - in case you couldn’t tell.

Do you have a romance that made your hair stand up? A spooky house that made you shiver? Which of the above are you most excited to get your hands on?

H&H Editor Picks:

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Jessica Avery grew up in the frosty, but not quite frozen, woods of Western Maine, where for seven or so chilly months of the year there’s not much to do but read. She got her start with romance novels early and in the last few years has set out to make a career of it, but in blogging about and pursuing the academic study of Popular Romance. You think she would have moved somewhere warm by now, but those Maine roots grow deep.

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
1. PollysLibrary
I was going to pick up a pen and a notepad to write down new titles but you know what? I already had them in my tbr pile or on my wishlist and all because of you, your spooky-themed posts on tumblr were fantastic, spooky and funny all at the same time.

Medeiros is mentioned twice because she deserves it, she's the haunted house/haunted castle mistress in my opinion, a favourite!

Apart from that I enjoyed reading this article and encourage you to write more, you have a way with words and you have the power to make me and many others want to read whatever you want us to read!

(Polly's Secret Library @ tumblr)
Maggie Boyd
2. maggieboyd66
Simone St. James writes WWII era historicals and they are the scariest romances you will ever read. The first is The Haunting of Maddy Clare but you don't really have to read them in order, they stand alone very well.
Heather Waters
3. HeatherWaters
@maggieboyd66 -- I really enjoyed The Haunting of Maddy Clare! Thanks for reminding me of that one.

And thanks for all the recommendations, Jessica!
Jessica Avery
4. RomancingtheBookworm
@PollysLibrary - Hi Polly! *insert frantic handwaving here*

@maggieboyd66 - You know I don't usually do WWII era, but I DO love a spooky book! I'll have to check it out!

@HeatherWaters - Hi Heather! Anytime! I could talk about houses in romance novels for daaaaays. Spooky ones just tend to be my faves.
5. House of Tucker
The House Next Door by Anne Rivers Siddons is a good example of "spooky on the inside." That book creeped the heck out of me. The TV movie was alright, but not as creepy as the book was. Especially that ending...
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