Over the last handful of years, I’ve got more in touch with my goth side. Goth Rebecca lurks in the corners and has maybe haunted the hallways of my life since Beauty and the Beast. The whole aesthetic of the dark and spooky castle? The danger of leaving? The Stockholm Syndrome? Like, I get the problematic aspects, but also, I’m super down for all those elements, which is why I’m kind of shocked that it’s taken me so long to finally embrace the whole “woman running from houses” book trend of the mid-century.
I read Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca in the 11th grade. That book made me finally appreciate my name. It also woke something in me. Prior to Rebecca, I wasn’t much into reading “old” books. After reading Rebecca, I still didn’t seek out “old” books. Of course, I read some V.C. Andrews then, but I was honestly too judgemental and couldn’t just embrace fiction trends once I noticed them. I detested cliches, and therefore, I also detested genre fiction.
A Gothic Change of Heart
I’m 34 now. I live a pretty mundane and exhausting life as a parent of two young children. This life really sucks sometimes. Like many other young mothers in my boat, I crave easy escapism. Unfortunately, modern escapism reading trends don’t get me. I dislike alpha males and I also think we should be eating the rich instead of boning them.
Somewhere along my new journey of writing gothic fiction, I found all those Pinterest boards full of gothic suspense covers of women running away from dark and brooding mansions. Looking at these covers, it’s easy to see the appeal. They trigger the Beauty and the Beast lore in me. They evoke a safe but intriguing adventure. They are pure escapism, which is exactly what I dove into recently when I cracked open the cover of my very first trashy gothic suspense book, The House of Fand by Anne Maybury.
The hair. The dress. The house. The colour palette. This is literally book heaven for me. Now, the book itself isn’t…great. Goth Rebecca wouldn’t hope for great writing, but this book is fulfilling all her needs. It has a naive but determined protagonist. It has a suspenseful crime plot. And, most importantly, it has not one, but TWO mysterious and devious dudes who she doesn’t know she can trust.
There’s also a “woman falls down the stairs” scene teased on the first page that I haven’t gotten to yet, but when I do, I can promise you that I will tell you all about it.
Apparently, I’m a horny housewife of a different era. I just didn’t know it until now…
Introducing my new “Gothic Suspense Review” Series
I’ve been very much enjoying writing my Grown-Ass V.C. Andrews book review series. I never thought of myself as much of a reviewer, but embracing the ridiculous plot points of V.C. Andrews books with a sassy tone has been really helpful to my non-fiction writing. The reviews get great feedback and I’ve met so many other fellow V.C. Andrews fans since I started the series back in 2019.
Ideally, I’d like to do the same thing with gothic suspense (or romance) novels from the 1950s – 1970s. At this point, I’m not sure what to call this new series but it’ll likely have something to do with me being a horny housewife. I dunno. I want to take a more sexually aggressive tone with this series, despite the fact that the love scenes are pretty tame and non-existent.
What I Love About Trashy Gothic Suspense
It’s the friggin’ danger. The intimate danger. Ever since I was a kid, I always kind of appreciated that sort of thing. Growing up female, I was always taught to fear men. But then I was also taught through Disney movies to fawn over them relentlessly. Now, we can talk about the problematic elements of these stories until the cows come home, but the truth is that these cliches do trigger a lot of feelings that I can’t help but embrace. And embrace them I shall.
I have no other choice but to write stories about devious men. Or to read stories about them. And now, I enjoy reviewing books or movies, or shitty short-lived Quibi shows about sketchy but weirdly attractive dudes.
When it comes to the aesthetic, I’m kind of down with the forced femininity of the plots. The women are always wearing fancy nightgowns and always look terrified, which ties into the later trend of the 1980s V.C. Andrews covers as well. I’ve always loved Halloween and dark and spooky settings. I love things that are a bit old-fashioned. There’s so much to love and I’m just fully enjoying this new obsession of mine.
Have you read any gothic suspense?
I’m not the only one. I kind of feel like the trends in fiction are leading in that direction. Today’s trend of “domestic thrillers” traces back to Rebecca, as well as other gothic horrors of earlier days. And, if the recent best-selling book Behind Her Eyes is of any indication, I do think that the mainstream literary world is treading back into some of that more horror-inspired surreal territory.
What gothic horror have you read or watched? What tropes do you enjoy? And, do you have any books that you suggest I read?