Donna Lea Simpson on Gothic Romance


by Donna Lea Simpson, guest blogger

I read a few gothic romances when I was much younger… you know, the kind with the cover that shows the girl running from a castle wearing a floaty dress. I keep getting, from readers and reviewers, that I write Gothic historicals, but I never set out to do that. Maybe Gothic style just comes naturally to me.

The usual set up of a Gothic, historic or modern, has the heroine trapped somewhere with a man who may be some kind of dangerous, murdering madman. Or… he may just be a nice misunderstood guy, but he insists on keeping secrets from the heroine and everyone else! The one facet of the heroine’s character that is vital to the Gothic plot, is that she cannot leave the mystery alone. She doesn’t pack her bags and escape the castle in a timely fashion, she doesn’t just shut her mouth and ignore the weirdness, she’s compelled to pick away at the hero’s mysterious behavior, open the door to the forbidden room, or descend to the cellar from which the weird, clanking noises come.

In this sense, I suppose Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark (Sourcebooks Casablanca – April 2009) does follow classic Gothic sensibility. There are mysteries here, weird things afoot at night, and Lord Anthony Darkefell, the dark brooding hero, is not telling all he knows. Lady Anne Addison is the ultimate intrepid heroine, not willing to let the mystery rest. She must know the truth! However, Gothic heroines often seem to blunder mindlessly through the novel, making discoveries by accident, and Lady Anne uses all of her wits and considerable skepticism.

ladyanneOne enormous difference between Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark and the true Gothic is the use of the hero’s viewpoint. Gothic novels never feature the hero’s viewpoint, because to do so dilutes the ‘unknown’; a viewpoint character exposes some of their soul to the reader, or it’s not proper characterization. I wanted readers to get to know Darkefell, to understand him, and his changing feelings for Anne.

I guess when you get down to it, the use of some aspects of the Gothic is just plain fun, both for the reader and writer. In Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen had great fun with Gothic sensibility. Her heroine, Catherine Morland, imagines all kinds of horrible things-that General Tilney murdered his wife, or imprisoned her-until she is shown how wrong it is to let her imagination run riot like that.

Now, in a true Gothic, Catherine’s worst fears would have been proved right!

Another big difference between my Lady Anne books and classic Gothic style, is, you never get a sequel to a Gothic. I have managed to stretch the series to Lady Anne and the Ghost’s Revenge (Sourcebooks Casablanca – August 2009) and Lady Anne and the Gypsy Curse (Sourcebooks Casablanca – November 2009), and having fun all the way, with Lady Anne and Darkefell’s increasingly romantic entanglement.

I hope you all enjoy the books, and I would be interested in hearing if you feel there are Gothic elements in the book, and how they work to the story’s benefit, or detriment. I had a great time with these characters; they often do quite unexpected things!

Visit me at for more information on the Lady Anne series!

Author: Guest Blogger

Guest Bloggers featured at Love Romance Passion are romance authors, various industry personnel, and readers just like you!

15 thoughts on “Donna Lea Simpson on Gothic Romance”

  1. I love Gothic novels because they are usually more expressive and romantic. The beauty of gothic novels comes within the words that are generally used to describe everything and the scenery is gorgeous. I’d love to win this book AND do a review of it on my blog! Thanks for the contest!


  2. Hi Donna, I was a big fan of gothics in my teens. I tend to think of stories like this the new gothic, no more heroines waiting for the hero to step in and protect and figure out everything. Now she’s right out there herself digging and prodding, or partnering up with him. He’s still the protector, but she’s not waiting in the shadows anymore.

  3. Whatever inspires you to write these fantastic novels?Does your idea’s for writing a book come from imagination,events in your life,dreams or sheer fantasy of the mind?Hope i win.

  4. I love gothic romance novels for its ability to merge a bit of fear with anticipation & intimacy. We become acquainted with dark, strong male characters in settings that are breathtaking & let’s face it dark & Oh!!! so intriguing.

  5. I love gothic romance novels for its ability to include elements of mystery romance. We become acquainted with strong male characters who always seem to have something to hide;usually in settings that draw us into a world very different from our own.

  6. I started out reading gothics so they were my first romances. I enjoy reading things from times past as opposed to contemporaries.

  7. I’m just a gothic kind of girl, I love the darkness and feeling that they invoke in me. It really just seems natural to me.

    Is that an early April Fool’s joke above? lol

    deidre_durance at hotmail dot com

  8. HI Ms. Simpson,
    I’d just wanted put it out there that I’ve read your second Lady Anne novel, The Revenge of the Barbary Ghost and I reviewed it for Sarah’s Point of View (
    0). It was a great novel, but I never got the chance to read “The Howl in the Dark” or “The Curse of the Gypsy”. I was wondering if you’d like me to review those two books for you as well on my own reviewsite ? Please feel free to email me anytime at or contact me on bookblogs at . I loved your second novel and I’m sure I’d love the rest!
    The Romance Reviewer

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