Monday, October 7, 2013

Haunting Houses, Haunted Hearts

My guest is historical romance author, Kat Sheridan. She is addicted to historical Gothic novels and feels the best romance novels include storms, castles, bat-shit-crazy villains, and a high body count. Oh yes, and larger than life heroes and heroines. Today she talks about a character present in all Gothic romances that we often forget.

With the coming of autumn we all tend to draw closer to the hearth. The weather is cooler, the sunny days fewer, and the rain and winds are the harbinger of the coming of winter. The days are darker, and night comes early. Now is the time of year I love to curl up in front of the fire with a hot beverage and a good book. And my favorite choice for this time of year is the old school gothic romance.

What’s a gothic romance? There are certain classic tropes that are usually included—an intrepid heroine, a dark, alpha hero, mysterious goings-on, and danger. But there is always one other character, the thing from which the genre actually gets its name: a house.

The term “gothic” originated from the Gothic architecture of the pseudo-medieval structures that were the setting of early gothics. It might be a mansion, an abbey, a manor, a hall, or a hotel, but it becomes a key “character” in the story. It’s more than just a setting, a framework for events. It takes on a life of its own. Consider these descriptions of the residences in some classic gothics:

“There was Manderley, our Manderley, secretive and silent as it had always been, the gray stone shining in the moonlight of my dream, the mullioned windows reflecting the green lawns and terrace.” ~ from Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier.
“It was three stories high, of proportions not vast, though considerable: a gentleman's manor-house, not a nobleman's seat: battlements round the top gave it a picturesque look.” ~ description of Thornfield Hall from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.
“Halfway down a by-street of one of our New England towns stands a rusty wooden house, with seven acutely peaked gables, facing towards various points of the compass, and a huge, clustered chimney in the midst.” ~ House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

These haunting—and possibly haunted—houses are representatives of larger themes in the stories. When Manderley or Thornfield burn down, it’s a representation of finally destroying the past to make way for the future. Even the name “Thornfield” is thought to represent the “field of thorns” Jane has to overcome in order to find her happiness.

And so it is with Tremayne Hall, the mansion in my debut Victorian Gothic romance, Echoes in Stone. When Jessa first arrives, on a suitably stormy night, it’s described thusly: “The immense stone mansion loomed over her, perched on the edge of the cliff like a bird of prey. Three stories rose above her, stretching out to both sides from the central portion. Rounded towers punctuated stone wings at either end, topped with crenelations biting like giant’s teeth into the night sky. A light glimmered in a window, high in the eastern tower. An additional glow shone through the colored glass panes framing the massive Gothic arch of the front door. Otherwise, the house stood shrouded in darkness.”

I deliberately described the house as a living thing—a bird of prey—because it plays such a key role. As the story progresses, Tremayne Hall reflects the lives of the inhabitants. In the beginning, Jessa’s explorations reveal this: “But everywhere, there were signs of neglect. Paving stones had shifted, making the walkways treacherous. The dry fountain overflowed with leaves. Weeds all but choked out any blooming plants. It was if the lack of love and care in Dash and Lily’s relationship had spread itself over the house, cloaking everything in a miasma of decay.”

Does it get better? Does Tremayne Hall succumb to the ashes like Manderley or Thornfield, or can it, like the hero, Dash Tremayne, be transformed? Not to be a tease, but there’s only one way to find out!

  • So tell me. Do you have a favorite dark and stormy tale, or do you prefer to keep your reading on the sunny side?


Echoes In Stone~

A Victorian Gothic Romance – Available October 1, 2013
BUY: AmazonB&NKobo
A letter from the grave… 
Lily is dead. But a mysterious letter launches her half-sister, Jessa Palmer, on a harrowing journey into the wilds of Cornwall to rescue Lily’s daughter from a tyrant of a father, a man who confessed to murder. Jessa follows in Lily’s footsteps to a forbidding castle on the cliffs, but discovers the past will not stay dead at Tremayne Hall. Someone—or something—wants to ensure Jessa is no more successful at escaping than was Lily.

A heart locked in stone…
Bitter, brooding, and tragically scarred, Viscount Dashiell Tremayne believes Jessa is just like her manipulative, unfaithful half-sister. He’s not about to let another treacherous woman into his home or into his heart. Particularly not a woman who’s come to steal his daughter. Only one can win in the battle for a child’s life. Then the accidents begin.

A passion that threatens to consume them…
Jessa wants only to take her niece and escape the grim manor. But Dash, fiercely protective of those he loves, gives up nothing that belongs to him. As the danger escalates, so does the heat between Jessa and Dash. Soon she’ll have to make a choice: surrender the child to a man she cannot trust or surrender her heart to the same fires of passion that destroyed Lily. Excerpt


Kat Sheridan is a former project manager and business analyst whose very serious exterior hides a secret romantic. She is fond of books, bourbon, big words, coffee, and shiny things. Kat splits her time between the Midwest in the summer and the South in the winter, sharing her home with the love of her life and an exceedingly dignified Shih Tzu. No matter where her body is, though, Kat’s imagination can most often be found on some storm-wracked coast, plotting historical romances that include forbidding castles, menacing villains, and heartthrob heroes. She loves to hear from readers, and can be contacted at, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.