What I really love is a good old fashioned gothic romance, where a young woman has to solve the mystery of a dark and terrifying castle by candlelight (and a bit of running through corridors away from frightening noises doesn’t go amiss either)
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen summed this up brilliantly. Teenage girls in the 17th and early 18th century were gripped by orphaned heiresses trapped in renaissance Italian castles. Later on the Victorians brought the terror into gaslight London, and Daphne Du Maurier brought the mystery up to date in Rebecca. The problem is that ‘Gothic Romance’ isn’t really a genre you can easily search for, even amazon’s ‘people who bought this also bought’ section wasn’t helping me much (when in the past it has found me loads of things to add to my ‘to read’ list) as it tended to only bring up books by the same author. If you were in a bookshop (i adore the rummaging in the second hand one in my local market) you would probably find some of this genre in ‘historical romance’, but I don’t just want the romance, I want a good mystery plot too. The rest you would probably find scattered amongst general fiction (and maybe horror) but weeding them out can be hard.
A while ago I came across a website called ‘Women running away from houses’ which documents many book, often from the 60’s and 70’s where a heroine is gripped by the terror of whatever is happening in the building behind her. This seemed to be a good starting point to search for some of the authors in bookshop and library categories. Another good source I found was lists on Goodreads which pointed me in the direction of some authors.
Im not entirely sure how I came across Amanda Grange, but I am so glad I did. I think i was searching for the word castle in amazon. The first book that caught my eye was Stormcrow castle. The kindle version had a title of Castle of Secrets and the cover was just a girl in a pink dress, but on finding the hardback, there was a painting of a rather worried looking girl in had and cloak with an imposing mansion behind. This got me hooked and luckily my library seems to like Amanda Grange too.
Stormcrow Castle by Amanda Grange: When Helena goes to visit her aunt, the housekeeper to Lord Stormcrow, she is shocked and disturbed to find that her aunt has left (suddenly in the middle of the night) to care for a sick relative. Knowing that this is not true, and being mistaken for the new housekeeper Helena is determined to investigate from within. What secrets are Lord Stormcrow hiding and who’s grave does he visit in the dead on night, what are the noises in the attic and can she stay calm in front of suspicious servants while getting to the bottom of the mystery. This book was so good and I never guessed ”who dunnit’
Carisbrooke Abbey by Amanda Grange: Miss Hilary Wentworth takes an appointment at Carisbrook Abbey, despite the urges of the locals for her to turn back. The gruff Lord Carisbrook does not welcome the presence of women in his house and although he frightens her he also enthrals her. But there is real danger in the castle and a secret which must be kept hidden yet threatens to break free causing destruction and maybe death.
After this I have been raiding the library’s supply of Amanda Grange. I went for the ‘mystery in the castle’ stories first and am curious to see what else is in store. What I didn’t realise is that I already own an Amanda Grange novel, Mr Darcy Vampyre, but I haven’t got on to reading it since I got it for last Christmas.