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I am a faithful fan of the Gothic romantic genre but there’s something about lying in dazzling sunshine by the Pacific Ocean in the height of the Antipodean summer that makes one a little fickle.  That’s how Nora Roberts’ High Noon ended up in my beach bag this week.

What I found amazing was how many Gothic elements are contained in this contemporary romantic suspense from the superstar of romantic fiction.

The most striking Gothic element is the house. The heroine is effectively trapped in an old mansion by the terms of her mean-spirited Aunt’s will and her mother’s agrophobia. The agrophobia was a great device, it was a believable reason for the heroine to stay put despite an escalating level of danger.

The house is in Savannah, so whilst it’s not quite a deserted moor or Scottish highland, there is something moody and atmospheric about Savannah. A number of stories have been set here, including the famous Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.  I think there’s a hint of danger and mystery lurking in Savannah that can be exploited in a novel.

The heroine is in danger and although the danger doesn’t lurk in the house, it arises from her work, which seems a satisfactorily modern way of reinterpreting the ghosts in the attic.  The villain enacts a suitably deranged and escalating vendetta against the heroine to send a slight shiver down one’s back, even though you know Nora will give you a happily-ever after story.

The hero is too good to be true and so virtuous it irritates a little at times, but I guess we all deserve to read about a Prince Charming on our holidays every once in a while and the heroine’s family and history is charmingly dysfunctional so the hero needs to balance everything out by being perfectly grounded and virtuous despite being fabulously wealthy, thanks to a lottery win!

Overall it’s a good read and whilst it’s not a Gothic, it’s definitely got enough Gothic elements to keep Goth fans at least fairly happy on their beach holidays.

Do you think Gothic elements can work in mainstream contemporary fiction? Do you have any good examples or suggestions for the rest of my time at the beach?

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