Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween - gothic romance style

Happy Halloween to one and all!

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I'm not sure why exactly. When I was little I loved dressing up and going from house to house to collect candy. Even in my teens I liked the dressing up part, though I didn't do the candy collection thing.

Maybe it's something about putting on a costume and being someone other than who you really are. On Halloween you can be anyone...or anything. The possibilities are endless for someone with a vivid imagination. Since I joined the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) in the 1990s I usually go with being a "medieval lady" for Halloween. It's a quick and easy costume. But I still love the "be whoever you want to be" aspect of the holiday.

I also enjoy being scared and Halloween provides a safe outlet for feeling and expressing fear. My first brush with feeling safely scared (outside of trick or treating) was reading gothic romance. Those great books where the heroine fell in love with a dark, brooding and compellingly dangerous man.

As a reader you were pretty sure he was the hero and wouldn't kill her, but the heroine wasn't nearly so sure. She was attracted to him but she was frightened by him too. I avidly read Victoria Holt when I was in my teens and she was a master at creating an eerie story where the heroine was in danger and didn't know who to trust.

I loved Jane Eyre for this same reason. There was a mysterious and intense connection between Jane and Rochester. But...there was a nameless evil lurking in the house. A danger that stalked Jane. I loved the fact that Jane was so intrepid. She saved herself and then went back to face her fears.

I think it was gothic romance that fed my love of paranormal romance. Because even more dangerous than a dark brooding lord of the manor is a dark, brooding lord of the manor with fangs. There was something strangely compelling about Dracula - even as over-the-top as Bela Lugosi played him. Dracula seemed to be someone who controlled others yet loved deeply.

This was especially true when I saw the 1979 version of Dracula starring Frank Langella. I was sixteen but even though the movie was rated R, I got in because I looked old enough to go. Frank Langella was nummy and I was ready to open a vein if he asked. Trevor Eve, who played Jonathon Harker, was good looking but really whiney - NOT hero material. Langella rocked the screen.

I was deeply affected by this film because it was one of the first times I remembered Dracula portrayed as a flawed individual who was dangerous but not necessarily inherently evil. He was seductive and strong. He could have had any woman but he was committed to Lucy and protective of her. It made him very appealing.

Another Dracula that made an impression was Gary Oldman's portrayal. He did the creepy aspect of Dracula very well. Licking Keanu Reeves blood off the razor blade while wearing the weird hair, or wig or whatever, was definitely repulsive. But even in that form, he was intriguing. When he traveled to England and began to romance He was suddenly human. A man in love with a woman instead of a vamp in search of his next meal.

I loved the ending of this movie too. To find out what had turned him into a vampire in the first place was both romantic and heartbreaking. This was a great movie.

So do you have favorite gothic or paranormal romances in book or movie form? What do you like best about a gothic or paranormal hero or heroine? What appeals to you about Halloween?


  1. Hi, Francesca! Great post. I'm not much of a Halloween fan and I don't like being scared. Which means no horror flicks and no Stephen King for me. But I, too, loved Victoria Holt. I guess that's about as "scared" as I want to get. I'm not sure this qualifies as gothic, but I think it might--Anya Seton's Green Darkness. It has a kind of Poe-esque theme. And it's a great, creepy book. I do like to dress up, though. Did you know some schools have implimented restrictions on the kind of costumes kids can wear to school? No masks, no gang colors, no weapons, no blood, etc. My mother, who is 81 now, was not allowed to trick or treat as a child. Her mother, a Polish immigrant. thought it was begging.

  2. Annie,
    Thanks for posting. It's so interesting how different cultures look at this holiday. I didn't realize schools were restricting costume choices. Boy, things were so much easier when I was a kid.

  3. I love dressing up, giving out candy to the kids in the neighborhood, and watching scary movies. Happy Halloween!

  4. My fave thing about Halloween is dressing up. I am not a huge fan of horror movies...too many nightmares!


  5. Hi, Francesca! I love to dress up for Hallowe'en, too. Since I don't have costumes, however, I usually dress all in black with holiday jewelry and a witch's hat. Scary enough for littles, but fun for everyone else. I envy you the SCA--wish I had the time for it! Brenda ND and I used to see them and talk to them at UWMilwaukee when we would go to our Renegade Timelords meetings.

    I never thought about my love for gothic romance as a precursor to my taste for paranormal romance, but I can see where you come from. I also loved Jane Eyre (I still count it as my #1 fave) since I was around 13. I must have read it 25 times now. One of the current authors I like with a similar line to Holt is Nora Roberts. Not all her stories could be classified paranormal, but she has several with those elements, especially her Captivated/Enchanted trilogy.

    Anyway, thanks for the insight. Hope you enjoyed your holiday.