Book Club Nominees

6 Gothic Horror Books for Your TBR

by @MrsReads, curator of HOWLS Book Club nominees for October’s “Filled (Me) With Fantastic Terrors” category

Seanan Maguire has said “Gothic horror is a very decorative genre,” and I’m inclined to agree. There’s something about an isolated setting, dripping with dark corners and oozing ancient curses, that draws me in like no other kind of horror. The following books are all Gothic, but are also more modern, and play around with the genre in what I hope are interesting ways.

The Militia House by John Milas

It’s 2010, and the recently promoted Corporal Loyette and his unit are finishing up their deployment at a new base in Kajaki, Afghanistan. Their duties here are straightforward—loading and unloading cargo into and out of helicopters—and their days are a mix of boredom and dread. The Brits they’re replacing delight in telling them the history of the old barracks just off base, a Soviet-era militia house they claim is haunted, and Loyette and his men don’t need much convincing to make a clandestine trip outside the wire to explore it.

It’s a short, middle-of-the-day adventure, but the men experience a mounting agitation after their visit to the militia house. In the days that follow they try to forget about the strange, unsettling sights and sounds from the house, but things are increasingly . . . not right. Loyette becomes determined to ignore his and his marines’ growing unease, convinced that it’s just the strain of war playing tricks on them. But something about the militia house will not let them go.

Meticulously plotted and viscerally immediate in its telling, The Militia House is a gripping and brilliant exploration of the unceasing horrors of war that’s no more easily shaken than the militia house itself. (StoryGraph)


This book first came to my attention through Roxanne Gay, who taught Milas in her MFA program at Purdue. After I read the summary, I couldn’t get the image of an abandoned barracks out of my head. The novel is about the horrors of war, the knowledge gap a soldier has when coming to a new command, PTSD, and the emotional toll placed on soldiers in a combat zone, among other things. I decided to include this novel because I’m eager to see how Milas handles this unorthodox setting in a subgenre so heavily reliant upon setting and mood.

Bookshop* | StoryGraph | Goodreads | Amazon

The Path of Thorns by A.J. Slattery

Asher Todd comes to live with the mysterious Morwood family as a governess to their children. Asher knows little about being a governess but she is skilled in botany and herbcraft, and perhaps more than that. And she has secrets of her own, dark and terrible – and Morwood is a house that eats secrets. With a monstrous revenge in mind, Asher plans to make it choke. However, she becomes fond of her charges, of the people of the Tarn, and she begins to wonder if she will be able to execute her plan – and who will suffer most if she does. But as the ghosts of her past become harder to control, Asher realises she has no choice.

Dark magic, retribution and twisted family secrets combine to weave a bewitching and beautifully written gothic fairy tale.


This book had me at “Gothic fairy tale,” as I wanted to include an option that leaned a bit more toward the fantastical side of the subgenre. So often the main character of a Gothic novel is discovering the evil in their surroundings. This book, however, sounds like our main character is bringing the evil with her, and that has me intrigued – I adore a good morally gray character.

Bookshop* | StoryGraph | Goodreads | Amazon

Malice House by Megan Shepherd

Of all the things aspiring artist Haven Marbury expected to find while clearing out her late father’s remote seaside house, Bedtime Stories for Monsters was not on the list. This secret handwritten manuscript is disturbingly different from his Pulitzer-winning works: its interweaving short stories crawl with horrific monsters and enigmatic humans that exist somewhere between this world and the next. The stories unsettle but also entice Haven, practically compelling her to illustrate them while she stays in the house that her father warned her was haunted. Clearly just dementia whispering in his ear . . . right?

Reeling from a failed marriage, Haven hopes an illustrated Bedtime Stories can be the lucrative posthumous father-daughter collaboration she desperately needs to jump-start her art career. However, everyone in the nearby vacation town wants a piece of the manuscript: her father’s obsessive literary salon members, the Ink Drinkers; her mysterious yet charming neighbor, who has a tendency toward three a.m. bonfires; a young barista with a literary forgery business; and of course, whoever keeps trying to break into her house. But when a monstrous creature appears under Haven’s bed right as grisly deaths are reported in the nearby woods, she must race to uncover dark, otherworldly family secrets―completely rewriting everything she ever knew about herself in the process. (StoryGraph)


Monsters, undiscovered manuscripts, an insular town, secret societies, suspicious neighbors…and a seaside cottage? This book has it all. A father-daughter dynamic examined in a Gothic novel is unusual, and I’m excited to see what Shepherd does with this.

Bookshop* | StoryGraph | Goodreads | Amazon 

A Good House for Children by Kate Collins

Once upon a time Orla was: a woman, a painter, a lover. Now she is a mother and a wife, and when her husband Nick suggests that their city apartment has grown too small for their lives, she agrees, in part because she does agree, and in part because she is too tired to think about what she really does want. She agrees again when Nick announces with pride that he has found an antiquated Georgian house on the Dorset cliffs–a good house for children, he says, tons of space and gorgeous grounds. But as the family settles into the mansion–Nick absent all week, commuting to the city for work–Orla finds herself unsettled. She hears voices when no one is around; doors open and close on their own; and her son Sam, who has not spoken in six months, seems to have made an imaginary friend whose motives Orla does not trust.

Four decades earlier, Lydia moves into the same house as a live-in nanny to a grieving family. Lydia, too, becomes aware of intangible presences in the large house, and she, like Orla four decades later, becomes increasingly fearful for the safety of the children in her care. But no one in either woman’s life believes her: the stories seem fanciful, the stuff of magic and mayhem, sprung from the imaginations of hysterical women who spend too much time in the company of children. 

Are both families careening towards tragedy? Are Orla and Lydia seeing things that aren’t there? What secrets is the house hiding? A feminist gothic tale perfectly suited for the current moment, A Good House for Children combines an atmospheric mystery with resonant themes of motherhood, madness, and the value of a woman’s work. (StoryGraph)


I don’t know that I’ll ever get tired of reading takes on the dark side of motherhood – the exhaustion, loneliness, and frustration that comes with all of the joy. Add in a spooky mansion, a kid with an “invisible friend,” and an absentee partner? Sign me up!

Bookshop* | StoryGraph | Goodreads | Amazon 

The Whispering Muse by Laura Purcell

At The Mercury Theatre in London’s West End, rumours are circulating of a curse.

It is said that the lead actress Lilith has made a pact with Melpomene, the tragic muse of Greek mythology, to become the greatest actress to ever grace the stage. Suspicious of Lilith, the jealous wife of the theatre owner sends dresser Jenny to spy on her, and desperate for the money to help her family, Jenny agrees.

What Jenny finds is a woman as astonishing in her performance as she is provocative in nature. On stage, it’s as though Lilith is possessed by the characters she plays, yet off stage she is as tragic as the Muse who inspires her, and Jenny, sorry for her, befriends the troubled actress. But when strange events begin to take place around the theatre, Jenny wonders if the rumours are true, and fears that when the Muse comes calling for payment, the cost will be too high. (StoryGraph)


Laura Purcell is a queen of Gothic writing and a previous book of hers, The Silent Companions, has lived rent-free in my mind since I read it. Her writing brings to life the settings she creates, and I’m eager to see what she can do with a West End theater in Victorian London. The book’s structure is unique, as the five plays in which Lilith stars frame the themes of this book, including Doctor Faustus and Macbeth. The literature nerd in me is eager to dive into this one.

StoryGraph | Goodreads | Amazon 

She Is a Haunting by Trang Thanh Tran

When Jade Nguyen arrives in Vietnam for a visit with her estranged father, she has one goal: survive five weeks pretending to be a happy family in the French colonial house Ba is restoring. She’s always lied to fit in, so if she’s straight enough, Vietnamese enough, American enough, she can get out with the college money he promised.

But the house has other plans. Night after night, Jade wakes up paralyzed. The walls exude a thrumming sound while bugs leave their legs and feelers in places they don’t belong. She finds curious traces of her ancestors in the gardens they once tended. And at night Jade can’t ignore the ghost of the beautiful bride who leaves cryptic warnings: Don’t eat.

Neither Ba nor her sweet sister Lily believe that there is anything strange happening. With help from a delinquent girl, Jade will prove this house—the home they have always wanted—will not rest until it destroys them. Maybe, this time, she can keep her family together. As she roots out the house’s rot, she must also face the truth of who she is and who she must become to save them all. (StoryGraph)


This book combines a traditional Gothic haunted house with an exploration of colonialism, identity, and complicated family dynamics. I haven’t read much by Vietnamese authors and I’m excited to see how Tran weaves these themes together.

Bookshop* | StoryGraph | Goodreads | Amazon 

And The Winner Is…

Out of these six books, HOWLers voted to read The Whispering Muse by Laura Purcell. Discussion starts on October 2nd, and you can read along by joining the Discord! This will be a 2-week read.

*The HOWLS affiliate storefront pays a 10% commission to HOWL Society and gives a matching 10% to independent bookstores

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