Grace's Mosaic Moments

Sunday, December 3, 2023

Reinventing the Gothic Format



Squeak's First Christmas (2017?)

Fortunately, after knocking the whole tree down - before decorating, thank goodness - she got the message:  No more climbing the tree!


Hailey, Cassidy, Riley - 2005

Hailey, Riley, Cassidy - 2022

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As mentioned in a previous blog, when I debuted my first Regency Gothic, I added the following Author's Note:                       

Brides of Falconfell is a tribute to the great era of Gothic novels, written by Victoria Holt, Jane Aiken Hodge, Mary Stewart, Phyllis Whitney, and other talented authors of that time. The books—more Jane Eyre and Rebecca than Pride and Prejudice—have several common elements: they are told in first person, as both heroine and reader must be isolated, unable to know what the other characters are thinking. Frequently, the heroines are married and begin to suspect their husbands of murder. There is often a child, usually the hero's from a previous marriage. A large, gloomy mansion is a must, where murder, madness, and evil abound, with the heroine escaping death by the skin of her teeth. I have put all these conventions in Brides of Falconfell and chosen an isolated location at the very "top" of England as a setting. I hope you will enjoy my personal attempt at "Gothic Revival." Blair Bancroft 

Today, I'm going to attempt to explain how, in my latest maybe-Regency/maybe-Gothic, I've turned the whole concept of the Gothic novel topsy-turvy. Something that may work, and may not. I'm certainly having fun snapping the old conventions and twisting them into something that may be intriguing, or possibly come under that dreadful condemnation:  "Neither fish nor fowl nor rare roast beef." Only time will tell.

Point 1 - First person. The Abandoned Daughter uses the multi-voices of the classic Regency Romance—not just the hero and heroine but a wide variety of characters, from a Cook to a Dowager Countess. 

Point 2 - Gloomy Mansion. The Abandoned Daughter begins in a run-down mansion in Oxfordshire, but the setting quickly changes to the splendor of Bath after its spurt of growth in the mid to late 18th century. One can set a Gothic novel in Bath?? I am in the process of finding out.

Point 3 - Heroine's Isolation. (Six of one, half dozen of the other.) Our heroine has been shockingly abandoned by her father, any other relatives, unknown. But she falls on her feet, employed as companion to an undemanding elderly countess in Bath, with freedom to explore the wonders of the city. No menace in sight.

Point 4 - Marriage/suspected husband. Our heroine is single, with no prospects. She does, however, have more than a few qualms about the viscount who alleges he has found her a position with his grandmother. Until he does exactly as promised and returns to London, leaving the heroine's apprehension flown on the wind.

Point 5 - Child. There are no children in The Abandoned Daughter.

Point 6 - Murder & Madness. Impossible to have any semblance of a Gothic novel without one or the other. Or both. So yes, there must be a series of suspicious deaths. And surely the man (or woman) who plots to kill must be mad. Or is he/she?

Point 7 - Stalker. A stalker in a Gothic novel?? Why not? Several classic Gothic heroines of the past are "stalked" before the threats against them become more lethal. (Though I don't recall the term "stalker" actually being used to describe the heroine's growing fear of a mysterious menace.)

Point 8 - Style. Both narration and dialogue owe a great deal to classic Regency Romances - light-heartedness that takes some time to devolve into the awareness that life in Bath is not as idyllic as it seems.

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 The Abandoned Daughter is no farther along than Chapter 4, so truth is, I'm not sure I can pull it off. But after ten Gothics that more or less followed the rules, I couldn't resist giving it a try. It will be some months before readers can judge for themselves. (I do enjoy a challenge!)

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My second Regency Gothic:

 Penelope Ruth Ballantyne has lived at the tail of the army all her life, experiencing the rigors of life in India, followed by five years of war in Portugal and Spain. Not surprisingly, now that she is orphaned, she accepts the most challenging position available, companion to an invalid who lives on the edge of Exmoor in northern Devonshire. After years of constant travel, Penny longs to settle under one roof, find a true home. Instead, she encounters hysteria, mysterious deaths, a nasty rival, and the constant fear of dismissal as she attracts the attention of more than one young gentleman in the household. Though the only one she truly sees is Robert, Lord Exmere, heir to Moorhead Manor. Together, they face a startling dilemma worthy of the judgment of Solomon.

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For a link to Blair's website, click here. 

Thanks for stopping by,

Grace (Blair Bancroft)

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