Gothic fiction fans can thank 18th-century novelist Horace Walpole, a son of Britain’s first prime minister, for creating the dark, grotesque genre.
In 1790, Ann Radcliffe’s novel, A Sicilian Romance, marked the first gothic romance. For centuries, we’ve devoured tales of virtuous characters in gloomy castles, battling petrifying supernatural elements in a quest for true love.
The Brontë sisters added timeless, terrifying works to the subgenre, and a 20th-century thriller novel, Rebecca, found success as a black and white gothic Hollywood movie.
Gothic romances continue to thread sensuality into the supernatural. So whether you’d like a slow, clean burn or a listen thick with erotic escapades, here are our top nine picks for sexy gothic romance audiobooks that turn up the heat but still give you the chills.
- Her Soul to Take: Souls Trilogy, Book 1 by Harley LaRoux
- The Widow of Rose House by Diana Biller
- Devil at the Gates by Lauren Smith
- Last Night’s Scandal by Loretta Chase
- Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye
- Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
- The Book of Living Secrets by Madeleine Roux
- Dragonwyck by Anya Seton
- On the Night of the Seventh Moon by Victoria Holt
Best Gothic Romance Audiobooks
Her Soul to Take: Souls Trilogy, Book 1 by Harley LaRoux
This thoroughly modern gothic romance stars college student Rae, a budding paranormal investigator fated to meet a security guard named Leon. But is he what and who he seems?
Hiding the truth that he’s a known assassin in the demon realm, Leon refuses to kill Rae. Instead, he shields her from the magical cult that once owned him. But Rae knows he’s stalking her and wants her body and soul all to himself.
LaRoux built the story carefully, allowing her characters to absorb you into their setting slowly. As a result, the action, suspense, and sensuality elevate into a pulse-pounding listening experience, expertly narrated by the talented Gregory Salinas and Desireé Ketchum.
Listen with a free trial at: Audible
The Widow of Rose House by Diana Biller
A gothic romance set in the gilded age that’s as delightful as it is dark, Alva Webster finally escapes an abusive marriage and heartless gossip, returning stateside to a rundown New York mansion she intends to restore into a home.
Unfortunately, the ghosts in possession of the mansion don’t want to leave. Enter Samuel Moore, a brilliant professor who’s confident he can end the hauntings.
Alva refuses to yield to imaginary ghosts and is even more resistant to the handsome and unconventional Sam. But they’re forced to unravel terrible secrets at the mansion, and he gets closer to capturing her broken heart.
We loved hearing the period dialogue, intriguing plot, and steamy attraction between Alva and Sam come to life by narrator Samantha Desz.
Devil at the Gates by Lauren Smith
The plotline is pure English gothic, with heroine Harriet lost and injured on a stormy night escaping her cruel stepfather. She stumbles onto the shadowy estate owned by Duke Redmond Barrington, called the Devil of Dover, a frightening man she can’t trust.
Both characters are fleshed out well, and a shared passion ignites that may prove victorious against the terror-filled surroundings. Narrator Nathaniel Priestley’s swoon-worthy voice certainly adds to the enjoyment.
Last Night’s Scandal by Loretta Chase
This is Book 5 in the Carsington Brothers series. While the hero and heroine appear as children in an earlier book, we reviewed this as a standalone for its gothic elements.
Peregrine is Earl of Lisle, Olivia Wingate-Carsington is a Regency London debutante, and their families share a long history of adventures and perils.
Oliva drags Peregine into a ‘scandalous scheme’ at a gloomy Scottish castle inhabited by wicked ghosts and craven murderers. Still, their biggest danger becomes their unruly passion for one another!
Loretta Chase is famous for her witty dialogue, narrated exceptionally well by Kate Reading, who has a talent for voices that blend into the story without overtaking it.
Listen with a free trial at: Audible
Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye
Inspired by Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, this gothic romance injects modern satire and graphic action with a bold serial killer for a heroine.
Jane Steele has fought to the death against tormentors her entire life when she spots an advertisement. Master Charles Thornfield now owns her childhood home, and he wants a governess.
She takes the job without revealing her true identity, convinced she’s the rightful heir. But Jane doesn’t count on falling passionately in love with Mr. Thornfield, and she’s terribly unsure that she can possess him without her murderous past coming to light.
Narrator Susie Riddell has an extensive list of film and voice acting credits, and her Jane comes alive with sensuality and strength.
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
‘Last night, I dreamt I went to Manderley again.’
Whether you’re familiar or unfamiliar with one of the most famous first lines in 20th-century romantic literature, it’s not too late to discover—or rediscover—Daphne du Maurier’s gothic romance masterpiece in audiobook form.
Narrator Emma Fielding captures the growing maturity of the unnamed heroine, who begins as an insecure wallflower and learns strength through terror and adversity.
Listeners get swept into the intensity of her May-December romance with a scarred hero, the ghostly presence of his dead wife, and forces plotting against their happiness with a magnificent but creepy estate in Cornwall as the haunting backdrop.
Listen with a free trial at: Scribd
The Book of Living Secrets by Madeleine Roux
Called genre-bending, The Book of Living Secrets is a teen gothic romance with two young heroines, Adelle and Connie, encountering danger in an alternate reality after they physically transport into Moira, the world within their favorite book.
The terror begins when the girls realize that fictional balls and love affairs conceal unspeakable, nightmarish horrors. To survive, they must rewrite their fates to return safely to their Earthly existence.
Narrator Kate Marcin reminds us of a grownup mom reading us a fascinating story. It’s not sensual but still comforting and a great intro to gothic romance for younger listeners.
Dragonwyck by Anya Seton
Published in print in 1944, Dragonwyck is an American gothic romance that takes place during the spring of 1844 in the Hudson River Valley. The heroine is 18-year-old Miranda Wells, bored with farm life and longing for escape.
Her chance comes when a mysterious, distant relative named Nicholas sends an invitation for her to visit his luxurious gothic estate, Dragonwyck. Naturally, Miranda falls for Nicholas and Dragonwyck immediately, but terrible, terrifying secrets are in store.
Hillary Huber does a good job narrating a dramatic, atmospheric story. The New York State setting is unique for the genre, and it’s an entertaining enough listen without graphic or sexy hints.
On the Night of the Seventh Moon by Victoria Holt
Any gothic romance fan interested in the genre’s modern history may want to indulge in an audiobook by Victoria Holt. She wrote countless bestselling gothic romances in the 1970s, and many of her original readers re-read her classics out of pure nostalgia.
Holt was renowned for being wordy, and while some criticize this technique in a physical romance novel, it makes for a rich audiobook experience.
Helena, the heroine, is a teenage English schoolgirl lost at night in the misty Black Forest. Her fear of being alone in a strange area lessens when a handsome man on horseback comes to her rescue and delivers her back to his estate.
He bewitches Helena, and they dine and dance. But then, romance and reality blur, and what seems like a dream to Helena leads to severe consequences that affect the outcome of her life.
Narrator Virginia Leishman sounds as if she’s stepped right out of Downton Abbey, and if you adored that series like all of us, you’re sure to enjoy listening to her bringing this entrancing romance to life.
What’s your favorite gothic romance audiobook? Let me know in the comments section below!