Tag Archives: gothic romance

Crimson Peak: More Bloody Than a Tampon–And I Relished it

18 Feb
Got a sinister hero? Then you've got my interest.

Got a sinister hero? Then you’ve got my interest.

by Madeline Iva

I was attracted to the preview for Crimson Peak, and even more attracted to Tom Hiddleston, who stars in it. Yet I couldn’t tell from the preview if the movie was a horror film or romantic suspense.  Not loving horror films, I waited to watch it on video where I could fast forward through the scream-y parts if need be.

I shouldn’t have worried. Crimson Peak is a Gothic Romantic Suspense movie—capital G, emphasis on the ick.

Gothic? Horror? Gothic-horror? What’s the difference, you’re wondering. Some say it’s not horror if there’s no blood splatter on the wall. Oh, Crimson Peak has blood splatter a-plenty. Not just on the walls, but also the carpet, the snow, the clothes, the skin. Never since Carrie has a movie audience been so drenched in red dyed corn-syrup.

But a Gothic sensibility is all about the build up. We revel in the hints of secrets, and spend a lot of suspenseful time wondering what—what chilling secret could be in the creepy investigator’s file? In the locked rooms of the ancient hall, in the gooey red brick pits in the basement, in the locked luggage next to the gooey pits…

We’re looking for twisted hidden secrets. We want them revealed and brought out into the light of day–or at least twilight if that’s all there is to be had in the gloomy climate of Northern England. The dangerous horror part is only a small component of the whole.  We’re much more involved in the building psychological strain and suspense. (What could it beeeeee in that bedroom?)

Excellent Gothic stories always ends with a goodly amount of implosion. We want the mansion destroyed by fire, we want the mad-woman jumping off the roof–only to drown in the pond.  We want the carriage plunging over a cliff. (Bonus points for managing such a feat without harming the horses.)

In this way, CRIMSON PEAK is most definitely a gothic movie. I was worried about horror elements, when in fact (SPOILER ALERT!)

what we have here is merely……really ugly ghosts, trying to deliver helpful messages.

What the movie doesn’t deliver in horror, it delivers in gothic architecture and gowns. Is there any better satisfaction for the Gothic enthusiast than a once-gorgeous house pocked with decay like swiss cheese? Better yet is the house that delivers some weird and extravagant folly. Fluttering moths on the walls? Check.  Mine shaft in the basement? Check. (Yes, I’m not kidding, there really is!)

HouseCrimson Peak’s also got gothic quatrafoil bannisters, fan vault trim, and oculus glass up the wazoo. Spindle carvings drips from beamed ceilings panels, and gingerbread sprawls across the stairwells. It’s like being in heaven for those who know they really belong in hell.

Gowns billow in haunted breezes, Nightgowns hug the neck like a confining clasp of a strangler.  Robes of silk outline heaving breasts, and glorious hip length locks run in a dark river across the neck and down the ribs. Do I sound orgasmic? I was. I still am, a little.

TomTom Hiddleston is the anti-hero who stands in the center of all this wanton glory. Is there any better man to play a twisted romantic hero? I think not.

Tom…Tom…let me count the ways.

His intelligent sensitivity, his understated sensuality…his ice blue eyes that nevertheless melt with innate sympathy, yet tragic acceptance that no…there’s no help for you.

I get ovary spasms just from listening to the way he explains what Gothic romance is on Charlie Rose and how repressed sexuality bursts forth in ghosts, mayhem and horror —

Jessica Chastain, meanwhile, plays his evil sister in a repressed matronly way worthy of Mrs. Danvers (The nasty housekeeper in REBECCA). We’re not quite so interested in her while Tom is on screen–how could we be?  But at the same time, yeah, she’s workin it.

Frankly, I would have been just as happy if they decided to change the tale to that of a twisted incestuous couple who rid themselves of the shallow American heiress so they can live in lecherous macabre delight—an alternative HEA. (What’s that I hear?—It’s the sound of a thousand fan fiction posts launching on Wattpad.)

JessicaBut Crimson Peak is not a perfect movie for us Gothic fans. Alas, there are bad American accents, cheesy overdone bloody effects.  I like over the top as the much as anybody, and didn’t mind the costumes and sets (who doesn’t like a mind shaft in a basement? Or leaves and snow falling gently through the gaping hole in the ceiling?) But the blood-like clay seeping from the walls? Okay…a leetle bit over done. Actually WAY overdone. Why Guillermo? Why? The writer/director crossed the line a few times, and in doing so seemed to aim his movie towards a less refined audience. Sad.

However I respect any movie in which two women, heroine and villainess, battle it out at the end. I warn those of you who couldn’t hack the Psycho shower scene to quickly avert your eyes during their epic throw down. Talk about death by a thousand cuts—and in billowing bloodstained nightgowns!

Back to our Gothic Rules of Attraction. I like it that the heroine loves the bad guy, Tom Hiddleston (again a favorite trope) even after she discovers his dark secrets. Does he loves her? Agh! We sit and wonder. And! If he does love her–can they get out of that house alive together before it tumbles down and sinks into the oozing clay, a la The House of Usher?*Gown

That’s the question that kept me going all the way through the gory ending.

Alas, this movie was a little watered down for my taste. A little more lowbrow than it needed to be. I liked chewing on parts of it, but the best of gothic suspense tradition is not about hack and slash, it’s all about the revealing twitch of an eyebrow, the moment the locked door creaks open and our heroine will never again be innocent again.

*I’ve always wanted to own a house that comes with a black tarn.

Thanks for tuning in, readers! And follow us at Lady Smut, where we devote ourselves to bringing you shivery, sexy fun.

Madeline Ivaimgres writes fantasy, paranormal, and contemporary romance.  Her novella ‘Sexsomnia’ is available in our LadySmut anthology HERE, and her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, will be out Spring, 2016.

Crazy, Sexy, Ghoulish: Goth Rom Com

26 Oct

by G.G. Andrew

Halloween is the scariest holiday of the year and the sexiest. Whether it’s meeting a mysterious masked stranger at a party, or clutching that hot guy while you’re watching a scary movie…Halloween offers us a chance to shiver, a chance to flip expectations playing naughty to our usual nice.Crazy Sexy Ghoulish Cover Publishing Version JPG

I’ve always loved tales of gothic romance like Jane Eyre and Rebecca dripping with dark, shadowy mystery. Women hold candles while they roam the halls at midnight wearing long white nightgowns. Handsome, brooding men lock away their secrets, like a mad wife hidden in the attic. New romance lines like Harlequin E Shivers keep with the tradition of dark, secretive heroes offering us sensible heroines “beguiled by male magnetism and allure against all better judgment.”

I wrote my novella Crazy, Sexy, Ghoulish out of this love for all things mysterious, spooky, and romantic. The novella is set in a haunted house during Halloween week. It features dark hallways, monsters, and romantic intrigue. With this story I enjoyed playing with genre in two different ways.

Unlike the classic gothic romances, it’s a lighter story, with zombie jokes and plastic vampire teeth thrown in–what I like to call a “goth rom-com.”

Crazy, Sexy, Ghoulish also twists the usual gender roles. Instead of the hero being dark and mysterious, I made the heroine, Nora, the one who’s potentially mad, bad, and dangerous to know. Nora is a haunted house diva, acting out various creatures of the night to scare guests like the famous online horror geek Brendan. Yet Nora is hiding a secret of her own: she’s a monster.  Back in the day, she was one of those popular, mean girl who tormented Brendan all throughout middle school.  Nora only learned the error of her ways later on, after getting a nasty facial scar of her own.

Crimson Peak is the latest film to offer that gothic/romance/horror sensibility we crave.

Crimson Peak is the latest film to offer that gothic/romance/horror sensibility we crave.

On the flip side, Brendan is the innocent hero with a dry sense of humor and a pair of awesome shoulders. He’s drawn to Nora against his better judgment, while owning his special brand of horror-loving geek-ness.

It’s a play on the gothic thang, but subverted. Why should guys get to keep all the dark secrets?

Crazy, Sexy, Ghoulish is available on Amazon. Check it out HERE.

Also check back at Lady Smut on the first Friday of every month when I’ll be regularly posting about all things smexy as the new girl for Lady Smut’s ‘Friday Roulette’.  Til then, fang bangers.

Red Velvet and Absinthe: Gothic Paranormal Erotic Romance

12 Sep

Red Velvetby Madeline Iva

I mentioned RED VELVET AND ABSINTHE on my 10 obsessions list and wanted to rock out a little more about my fondness for all things gothic.

The collection is edited by Mitzi Szereto, with a forward by Kelly Armstrong and not only is it paranormal erotic romance –(which I love) it’s GOTHIC paranormal erotic romance.  Boo-ya!

I adore all the classic gothic authors: Poe, the Brontes, and especially Hoffman, LeFanu and others, but I love gothic in our modern era as well.  Daphne DuMaurier is awesome.  But as Kelly Armstrong mentions in her forward about our interest in all things Gothic:

From Herzog's Nosforatu

From Herzog’s Nosforatu

Classic Gothic literature….has gone in and out of fashion since Walpole.  In the sixties and seventies, it saw a revival with Gothic romantic suspense, most notably in the books of Victoria Holt, Barbara Michaels, and Mary Stewart.

(By the way, here’s a great post by Jennifer Brannen with some wonderful gothic romance titles to check out.)

Yes-yes-yes! This brings up a rarefied sub-genre that first introduced me to gothic:  60’s minimalist gothic suspense.

Golden Unicorn

this is an example of a 60’s minimalist gothic romantic suspense novel. The cover is awash in gold and the image of the unicorn, but the book’s setting is modern grey slab chilly through and through.

Check it out–the Golden Unicorn.  While the cover rocks my world and I was obsessed with it when I found it on a dusty shelf in a used book store, the setting inside is much more minimalistic.  You get winter sea and winter sky along with the cold sophistication of wealthy people at cocktail hour in a large frigid house.

Yet the heroine is not from that world.  She was adopted, and brought back to this bleak landscape because someone has died and mentioned her in their will.

There’s also a handsome man lurking in the background.  He’s the so-cold-he’s-burning-hot kind of guy (yum!) and since he’s the only other person under 50 in the whole book, you kinda get the feeling they’re gonna get together, though the romance is super understated and minimalist–just like everything else.

As the first gothic novel I read, there’s much of it that I don’t remember. However, I do remember is the setting.  Gothic is all about the emotional landscape brought to life all around the characters: this book had grey slab rocks, crashing seas, stormy clouds, and a heroine nobody wanted or loved as a child.  Something about the chilliness of the landscape made me feel so cozy in my warm house, with a throw that my grandmother had knit over me.


There were some really great images in Coppola’s Dracula. But it was actually, really derivative of Hertzog’s NOSFORATU– which is AWESOME.

Is that why we love gothic? Because the discomfort, danger, and drama make us appreciate our safety, comfort, and hum-drum day?

I think that’s part of it–but gothic is just a different in flavor from romantic suspense.  Romantic suspense is hard-headed and practical in some ways, like a shot of tequila.

Meanwhile, Mitzi Szereto notes her intro was written on a windswept moor somewhere in England.  How fun–and how fitting. Gothic is more windswept for sure, more lurid, and much more dramatic.  It’s full of hidden chasms that hold shocking surprises and reversals.  It’s more about decadence and perversity, as well as the sad monstrosity that some of us recognize from real life.  In this way paranormal is a perfect fit for gothic.

The interesting question is: how did the authors fit in the erotic aspect of the stories?  I’m all for settings that inspire a We-Shouldn’t-Have-Sex-But-I-Guess-We’re-Going-To-Anyway kind of moment.  For the heroine in The Golden Unicorn a little heat under the covers action would have been so welcome in that numb world.

I love all things Edward Gorey.

I love all things Edward Gorey. He is the lighter side of gothic.

Those kind of bad-choice moments make me squeal with happiness on the inside.   I love it when the major consequences to having that sex are revealed in the ugly light of day.  I love it when things go from exciting to bad to worse.

And yes, I love it when the storm finally passes away and you get the crazy gold light against the black storm clouds.  It puts me into an aesthetic frenzy and the raindrops hanging from every surface seem so rich and full of meaning.


Another image from NOSFORATU

All-in-all I simply cannot get enough of this gothic revival in romance.  I hope the trend continues to grow–not only within collections like Red Velvet–but within the various historical, paranormal, and erotic categories.

Thanks for stopping by today–please share your favorite gothic-y interest.  And if you haven’t already, please follow our blog. 🙂

Sexy Regencies? A Q&A with author Elf Ahearn

3 Apr

roses2A traditional definition of Regency romances imcludes setting in the British Regency period (1811 – 1820), strict and accurate attention to historical detail, an emphasis on intelligent, fast-paced dialogue, and on the developing romance between the protagonists. It does not, however, generally include explicit, sensual sex scenes. But that didn’t stop author Elf Ahearn from writing the kind of Regency she likes to read, which amps up the heat in a most satisfying way. Her new release is A Rogue in Sheep’s Clothing, and she joins us today to talk about her book, her work as an actress, and what’s in store next.

ELIZABETH SHORE: Hi Elf, thanks for joining us today! Why don’t we start out by talking about the setting for your book. Of all the historical time periods that a writer could choose from, you’ve picked the Regency era for your series. Could you talk about why that specific time appealed to you?

ELF AHEARN: My sister is totally into Regency romances, she won’t read anything else, so to guarantee at least one sale… well, I had no choice (Not true – she’d read any dribble I scratched on paper).  The real story is that the Regency chose me. I wanted to write something with sex and adventure – women risking everything – their reputations, their lives, their fortunes, for love. It’s very freeing that Ellie Albright, the heroine in A Rogue in Sheep’s Clothing, can’t clap a cell phone to her ear and call the police when she’s in trouble; Hugh Davenport, my hero, can’t access a therapist to work out his hostility towards his mother, and my villain can’t be found via his credit card purchases. Working in the past is awesome.

 ELIZABETH: Did you start out writing A Rogue in Sheep’s Clothing knowing it was going to be a series, or were you thinking it was going to be a single book that later evolved into a series?

ELF: It took me four years to write this book. Romance is a genre that has very set rules – I had to learn those rules to my bones before I could really create, plus, I’m stubborn. I had to write a scene first – even if my critique partners warned me in advance – before I learned that it didn’t work. If I’d thought about a series before I started, I probably would have quit. So, the answer is, no, I didn’t have a series in mind, but as I learned to relax into the genre, know my way around a little, romance writing became such a joy that I had to start another book.

ELIZABETH: As I mentioned in the intro, Regency romance readers may be surprised by the heat level in your books as regencies are traditionally more “tame” than what you’ve written. Inquiring Lady Smut minds want to know, why are your books steamier?

ELF: One of the first Regency romances I ever read was by Sabrina Jefferies, whose love scenes are scorching hot. I thought, heavens to Betsy, I could never be so graphic! My hand may have even clutched my heart, I can’t remember. Once the story got underway, however, my inner poet seized on the sex. Beyond the throbbing members and heaving bosoms, I thought, ‘What does a man’s leg look like in moonlight – that slash of shadow under a taught thigh muscle… and what does the curve of a woman’s hip feel like to a man when he first runs his hand over it – the skin, smooth and soft, the bone fitting perfectly into the cup of his hand… Well, you get the picture.

ELIZABETH: Oooooh, I sure do! OK, as I fan myself to calm down . . . You’ve said that you think a good tag line for your books is “Regency romance with a gothic twist.” Could you talk about that?

ELF: “Regency romance with a Gothic twist,” is my warning label. Not all Regency romances, but most Regency romances, are what I think of as parlor dramas. The hero and heroine have a personal battle that takes place, typically, in the confines of a magnificent English estate. In A Rogue in Sheep’s Clothing, there’s a struggle between the hero and heroine, but also an exterior conflict where the stakes are life or death. Pretty dark for a novel taking place in 1816. I didn’t want readers taken by surprise by the book’s intensity. And the sequel, Lord Monroe’s Dark Tower, is even more “Gothic.”

ELIZABETH: And what about the horse who plays a prominent role in Rogue. What’s the appeal for you?

ELF: Growing up, The Black Stallion by Walter Farley, one of the greatest young adult novels of all time, was my bible. I was mad for horses, and when I became an adult, I vowed I would seize my chance to write a horse race and give it all the Walter Farley magic I could muster. Hopefully, the clash of thoroughbreds in Rogue is more exciting than a worm versus a slug. Readers, let me know.

ELIZABETH: In your past you were very active in the theater. Has your theater background helped with your career as a writer?

ELF: Yes, absolutely. I have a highly dramatic sensibility and that all stems from my days trodding the boards. It has nothing to do with my personality, which is exceedingly calm, cool and collected (I lie). But truly, theatre gave me a good feeling for dialog and dramatic structure that serves me well in writing fiction.

Aspiring writers! become an actor first, starve for several years, forage for food, then take up fiction, then starve for several years…

ELIZABETH: Oh but we’re SO happy  you’ve made the sacrifice! Tell me, are you blogging? Where can we find you?

ELF: A few years ago I started a blog exclusively about my cat, Sufie. It became such a pain, though, chasing her around every day with the camera. She wouldn’t stay in the poses, she resented the intrusions on her privacy, the interviews weren’t going well. I gave up. Now, I’m planning a blog titled, The Writer’s Cat, and I’m looking for others to submit stories about their felines. I’ll sit back and let everyone else do all the work, while Sufie soaks up the peace and quiet. Hopefully a few gals from Lady Smut will make contributions. As for where you can find me, my Web address is elfahearn.com.

ELIZABETH: Great! So what’s next for you?

ELF: Crimson Romance, my publisher, bought the second book already, Lord Monroe’s Dark Tower, so hopefully it will be coming out in the next six months or so.

ELIZABETH: Sounds great!

Elf Ahearn is a professional writer with nearly two decades of experience. Her first novel, A Rogue in Sheep’s Clothing is available at Amazon.com, and BookStrand.com. She lives in New York with her wonderful husband and her pesky (yet adorable) cat.

Thanks for being our guest today, Elf!

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