The Sweet Spot – Gothic Romance
For some readers, a few small words are all it takes to make them pick up a book: “gothic,” and “romance.” But what do those words really mean, in a literary sense? The terms “Romance” and “Gothic” are, in fact, tied to specific literary movements in the eighteenth century. The Castle of Otranto, the 1764 novel by Horace Walpole, with its dark family secrets and crumbling castle, is usually hailed as the first gothic work. Collectively, both genres deal with very similar themes—something supernatural or fantastical, described in a gloomy or foreboding mood, where characters and their experiences are anything but ordinary. Countless people claim to love these genres, crave them, but not everyone has read an eighteenth-century novel.
I do, in fact, read these genres very heavily, both in the traditional and the contemporary sense. What pulls together works written centuries apart, for me, has everything to do with three narrative components: mood, content, and theme. Both as a reader and a writer, whether or not I think something is Gothic, or Romantic (not lovey-dovey, but adventurous and fantastical), depends on the presence of certain things. Castles? Yep. Magical creatures? Uh-huh. Family secrets? Definitely. Obscured pasts coming to light, sometimes in ghostly form? Absolutely! And as far as I’m concerned with mood: the darker, the better. That, maybe, is the fine, sometimes invisible line between literary Gothicism and Romanticism—the dark factor.
Being eye-ball deep in these literatures for longer than I’ve been a writer, it makes perfect sense that I would be influenced by such tropes. A Vision in Crimson, the first title in my new epic fantasy series Frostbite, is the strongest example in my own writing about how Gothicism and Romanticism go hand-in-hand. Speaking in terms of narrative structure, my fantasy world is fashioned primarily after more classical realms of fantasy—and I do mean classical, for you will find a pegasus, a few minotaurs, some fauns, and things of that ilk that are usually associated with Classical literature. Generally, the setting for such Romances are depicted as idyllic, making them contrast all the more sharply with the dark influences in their world.
And that’s where my brand of Gothicism comes is. I borrowed from Bram Stoker’s Dracula not only the functions of his titular character—his strengths, weaknesses, and motivations—but I also used its deeper themes as a model. Particularly, the idea of Dracula’s invasion of England. If you had to describe A Vision in Crimson using only known literary references, you could say that it is the tale of what happens when Dracula invades Narnia. From the Gothic genre as a whole, I took more: a post-apocalyptic, vampire-driven world as a starting-off point, for one, and nagging questions about family trees for my two protagonists, Kate and Luca. They are both painted as Romantic figures, because both are pulled out of Earth and brought to a magical place filled with equal parts wonder and danger. Their story feels grand, and epic, and adventurous, with varying levels of excitement and peril.
Now romance, with a little “r,” is the steamy stuff that, alongside vampires, will never go out of fashion. A Vision in Crimson has more than its share of steam. But there was no magical moment when someone decided to use Gothic tropes for stories containing sensuality. Dracula had his three brides, and Carmilla before him had strong sexual undertones. It is human nature to be attracted to mystery and decadence, and to feel the allure of people, places, and things that are foreign to us. The fact that we keep reinventing these things, changing features here and there, but still with the same underlying premise: woman discovers dark castle, and its dark lord, and promptly falls in love, pulls at the very fabric of our existence. On any given night, a little Gothic, a little Romance, and a lot of romance can change your life. It’s the kind of story we’ll always want to read. And, it’s the kind of story I will always want to write.
NOTE from WWMB: For more of Kathyrn’s insight about A Vision in Crimson, click on the blog tour banner above. It will take you to Kathryn’s website listing all her tour stops.
About A Vision in Crimson
Katelyn knows her magic is risky, but Icaryan light is fading fast and she is desperate. Returning to Earth, she crosses paths with Luca, a vampire hybrid living on the outskirts of humanity.
Passion sparks their weary hearts. The rogue hunter follows Katelyn into a world teeming with wonder and danger, forsaking his own quest to root out his father.
But his father has not forgotten him.
A Vision in Crimson is the first installment of a new epic fantasy blistering with romance and Gothicism.
Publication date: June 1, 2017
Genre: dark romantic fantasy
Cover Artist: TS95 Studios
Number of pages: 323
Word Count: 80k
His dream was broken by the feel of something soft against his mouth. He opened his eyes and blinked, thinking for a moment that he was still asleep. Flooding his vision was the red-haired siren of his dream, crouched above him.
Her dark brown eyes were staring straight into his. He held her glance for a long while, then took a minute to glimpse at the rest of her. Her features were well defined and graceful. Her long luxurious hair, braided in a few places, spilled over her firm, ample curves onto the ground in front of her. Looking at it now in reality, he saw a unique, vibrant shade of red, darker and almost auburn in the shade of the trees, with strands of pure copper and gold highlighted by the sun through the forest canopy. Her large eyes sparkled. They were alight with intrigue and kind concern, but Luca saw a touch of the tired sadness that he was accustomed to seeing in his own dim reflection. Too much for someone her age.
Luca puzzled over her age for more than a few seconds. Her beauty and slender frame suggested a girl nearing her thirties, yet her countenance told him she had been through more than her share of life’s troubles, even for a woman of the rough and unprotected countryside.
She stared at his clear crystal blue eyes, framed by thick dark brows. A straight nose, tightly pursed lips and strong chin completed his face. Despite his pale complexion, he was dark and beautiful. She didn’t let it show on her face, but the woman had become immediately enamored of him.
Her fingers rested lightly on his mouth. After a silence that lasted a bit too long, she was the first to speak.
“I’ll have you out of there in just a minute,” she whispered. “I won’t hurt you, but we have to be quiet.”
She turned her head to the side to get a glimpse of the valley below.
“I’m looking out for a friend, and just spotted you here a minute ago. Once I’m sure he’s okay, I’ll start digging.”
Luca said nothing. When she was sure that he wouldn’t make a sound, she removed her hand from his lips and moved closer to the hill’s edge, looking for her companion. Luca got a better look at what she was wearing.
A plaid scarf in sapphire blue with hints of gold thread was wrapped around her neck and waist, covering a tunic dress of the same shade. Her legs were covered by high, soft leather brown boots and blue leggings, but Luca spied shapely thighs at the edge of her skirt. She wore a utility belt across her chest which hinted at her generous cleavage, despite her modest neckline. Above, his eyes traced the silhouette of her long, pale, comely neck with excitement, but he quickly quashed the flutter in his heart before it developed, and redirected his gaze.
At her hips, she wore two short swords, and the hilt of a dagger peeked out from the top of her boot. She seemed sure of herself, and didn’t appear the least bit threatened by Luca. She didn’t react to seeing him for the first time in the manner customary to women, and even scores of young men; they usually succumbed quickly to his outward charms—his dark aura and hypnotic stare, two of his many vampiric qualities. But she didn’t gasp in fear or swoon in ecstasy. That puzzled him.
A small part of him wondered why she hadn’t immediately responded to his visage, with a little disappointment. He chalked it up to her finding him covered in dirt from the neck down. But he knew that shouldn’t have stopped her from surrendering to his trance-inducing stare, even for a moment. He was intrigued by this girl, who had just happened to appear as his dream self was making love to her.
Her garb made her even more of a mystery. He only noticed these things, which were inconsequential to him, because the fabrics, colors, and design of her wardrobe were infinitely superior, and foreign, to anything he had ever seen, including some of the priciest fashions available in the biggest cities. He much preferred the naked version of her, which had dissipated with her actual presence. But even in all her gear, chosen for its rugged functionality, she looked regal. He saw her gesture to her friend, then she turned to face him once more.
“Okay, it looks like whoever did this to you is gone. I’ll have you walking around again soon. Who did do this to you, anyway?” she asked, as she began to claw at the earth with her hands.
His voice was as toneless and nonchalant as ever. Her hands paused for a moment, still holding clumps of dirt, and she looked at him quizzically.
“You buried yourself? Why on earth would you do a thing like that?”
Here came the part he always dreaded, but was compelled to divulge nevertheless.
“I’m a dhampir.”
Here, Luca thought, was the reaction he had been expecting, but had been unusually delayed. He waited for what he had said to sink in, but it didn’t. She was still honestly waiting for an answer. He repeated himself.
“I’m a dhampir.”
“What’s a dhampir?”
He just stared at her, his eyes going slightly wide.
“I’m not from around here,” she explained, “so you’re going to have to fill me in.”
Now it was Luca’s turn to pause. Never, in his entire life, had he been asked to explain this term. In a world whose entire existence revolved around the struggle between vampires and humans, to find someone who was not familiar with this word was truly unheard of. He experienced an emotion he had almost never had occasion to experience. He was, in a word, stunned.
“I’m part human, part vampire.”
She finally got it. He waited now for the standard response. Instead, a look of embarrassment swept over her face as she began hurriedly replacing the soil she had disturbed.
“I am so sorry, I didn’t realize. I didn’t mean to intrude on your resting. You looked like you were having a hell of a dream.”
If you only knew. But, was she actually apologizing for bothering his slumber? Luca’s revelation hadn’t fazed her in the slightest. His amazement at her response only piqued his interest in her more.
“It’s alright, I was just getting up.”
Though she had interrupted him, he felt rested.
“In that case, would you like me to help you?”
“Do what you like.”
She resumed her exhumation of Luca. “My name is Kate, by the way.”
Luca stretched his muscles slightly to a sitting position, the remaining earth above him falling away. He took her outstretched palm with his freed right hand, and they both stood up.
“Call me Luca.”
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About the Author
Kathryn Troy is an historian turned novelist and baker. Her nonfiction book, The Specter of the Indian: Race, Gender and Ghosts in American Séances, 1848-1890, is forthcoming from SUNY Press. Her historical expertise in the supernatural and the Gothic informs her fiction at every turn. Her genres of choice include dark fantasy, romance, horror, and historical fiction. She lives in New York with her husband and two darling children.
Find Kathryn Troy at:
Website – Bathory’s Closet: http://ladybathoryscloset.blogspot.com
Goodreads Profile: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16571460.Kathryn_Troy
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/bathoryscloset
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