The best classic French gothic novels you probably never heard of

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been attracted to the Gothic before I even knew the term. From watching The Munsters as a child to wanting to live in a haunted house and devouring classic Gothic novels like The Mysteries of Udolpho and Dracula, I’ve never been able to get enough of the Gothic. After fully exploring British Gothic in my book The Gothic Wanderer, I discovered the French Gothic tradition, which made me realize how universal the genre is. Everyone can relate to its themes of fear, death, loss, guilt, forgiveness, and redemption. On some level, we are all Gothic wanderers, trying to find meaning in what is too often a nightmarish world.


I wrote...

Vampire Grooms and Spectre Brides: The Marriage of French and British Gothic Literature, 1789-1897

By Tyler R. Tichelaar,

Book cover of Vampire Grooms and Spectre Brides: The Marriage of French and British Gothic Literature, 1789-1897

What is my book about?

Many British and French Gothic novels are being rediscovered today that are part of the second Gothic Golden Age, an age often overlooked, but integral to the evolution of the Gothic. While nationalism influences these works, they are a melting pot of ideas and styles from both nations. Consequently, the only way to truly understand the Gothic tradition in British literature is to understand that tradition in French literature and vice-versa.

In Vampire Grooms and Spectre Brides, Tyler R. Tichelaar, PhD, argues there is no such thing as French or British Gothic literature, or even British or French literature during the nineteenth century. Works like The Count of Monte Cristo and Dracula can be better understood when placed within the context of a blended tradition.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Tyler R. Tichelaar Why did I love this book?

You may know this book as The Hunchback of Notre Dame, but you probably don’t really know it. Films, most notably the Disney cartoon, have grossly distorted this novel, often having Esmeralda ride off into the sunset with Phoebus. But the novel is really a very dark, Gothic story of love and lust, and one of the first existential novels. Frollo and Quasimodo both love Esmeralda, but she loves Phoebus, and he only loves himself. In the end, everyone dies, allowing their lust to destroy their common sense. Hugo wrote it to help popularize and save Notre-Dame Cathedral from falling into further disrepair. It influenced British author William Harrison Ainsworth to write The Tower of London, thus revitalizing British Gothic in a new way just as it did French Gothic.

By Victor Hugo, Lucy Corvino (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Hunchback of Notre Dame as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Victor Hugo's great story of Quasimodo, the deformed bell ringer of Notre Dame and his unrequited love for the dancer, Esmeralda. Classics Illustrated tells this wonderful tale in colourful comic strip form, offering an excellent introduction for younger readers. This edition also includes theme discussions and study questions, which can be used both in the classroom and at home to further engage the reader in the story.


Book cover of The Virgin Vampire

Tyler R. Tichelaar Why did I love this book?

This little-known French vampire novel, published in 1825, includes the first fully realized female vampire. Set during the Napoleonic Wars, a young Hungarian woman, Alinska, mysteriously turns into a vampire after a French soldier pledges his love to her, then abandons her. After becoming a vampire, she travels to France where her husband Edouard is now remarried and has a family. Unable to stop herself, she preys upon Edouard’s family. The story is remarkable for creating the first sympathetic vampire and being the first to associate vampirism with Eastern Europe. Bram Stoker may have known it or similar French novels. I love the character development here and the possibility that this novel inspired the entire vampire tradition, including Dracula, yet has been largely ignored until recently.

By Etienne-Leon de Lamothe-Langon, Brian Stableford (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Virgin Vampire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

During one of Napoleon's military campaigns, Edouard Delmont, a young officer, promised to marry Alinska, a Hungarian girl. Back in France, he goes back on his vows and marries someone else. Several years later, Alinska suddenly reappears in his life, transformed into an avenging vampire. She threatens to kill his wife and children unless he honors the vows he made to her... In The Virgin Vampire (1825), Étienne-Léon de Lamothe-Langon tells the story of the first, implacable, female vampire. What makes Alinska stand out in the ranks of female vampires is that she is not a predator, but the instrument…


Book cover of The Mysteries of London

Tyler R. Tichelaar Why did I love this book?

This 1844 novel has only been translated into English in an abridgement, but it was a tremendously popular novel in France. Féval capitalized on the bestselling novel The Mysteries of Paris by Eugène Sue by writing a novel with a similar title set in London. Later George W. M. Reynolds wrote another novel with the same name. What makes this novel stand out? Féval’s hero is an Irishman seeking revenge against the English who have wronged him. Disguising himself as the Marquis de Rio Santo, he worms his way into high society and sets about debauching ladies while plotting to blow up the Bank of England and destroy the British Empire. The novel would later inspire the creation of The Count of Monte Cristo and the character of Captain Nemo.

By Paul Féval,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Mysteries of London as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Excerpt from The Mysteries of London, or Revelations of the British Metropolis: Translated From the French

I'll be hanged if she will hear me, grumbled the captain. I shall appeal to the landlady Mistress Burnett; Mistress Burnett!

About the Publisher

Forgotten Books publishes hundreds of thousands of rare and classic books. Find more at www.forgottenbooks.com

This book is a reproduction of an important historical work. Forgotten Books uses state-of-the-art technology to digitally reconstruct the work, preserving the original format whilst repairing imperfections present in the aged copy. In rare cases, an imperfection in the original, such as a blemish or…


Book cover of Captain Vampire

Tyler R. Tichelaar Why did I love this book?

This novel, published in 1879, is set in Romania at the time of the 1877-8 Russo-Turkish War. It is significant for its setting because it predates Dracula (1897) in being set in Romania (home of Transylvania). Nizet was a twenty-year-old Belgian woman who encountered Romanians in Paris who told her about how Russians had treated them during the war. Nizet created the character of Captain Vampire to represent how Russia acted like a vampire toward the Romanians, even though they were Russia’s allies. Captain Vampire’s behavior is shocking yet fascinating. As a critique of war, the novel is extremely relevant today given Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine. Personally, I am amazed by how a woman who never saw a battlefield could capture war’s essence so vividly.

By Marie Nizet, Brian Stableford (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Captain Vampire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Written in 1879 (18 years before Dracula) by 19-year-old Marie Nizet, Captain Vampire, in its method and tone alike, is way ahead of its time. Although its plot has supernatural elements, and its antagonist is manifestly demonic, the novel's true purpose is to bring out the horror of war. A significant work in the history of horror fiction, it is undoubtedly one of the finest literary works ever to have made use of the vampire motif.


Book cover of The Immortal Woman

Tyler R. Tichelaar Why did I love this book?

This novel, published in 1869, is full of mystery. A young man disappears, apparently abducted by a beautiful woman. Upon hearing of the event, an elderly marquis recounts how the same thing happened to him in his youth. He soon realizes the present-day seductress is the same beautiful young woman he once loved. Determined to find the answers he failed to gain in his youth, he embarks on an adventure full of twists and turns to learn the true identity of the seemingly immortal woman. A mix of humor and romance, court intrigue, and revenge, The Immortal Woman will keep readers on the edges of their seats trying to guess how the novel’s mysterious events are possible and whether the marquis will survive.

By Pierre-Alexis Ponson du Terrail, Brian Stableford (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Immortal Woman as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1675, a female vampire possessing the secret of immortality was burned alive. Forty-five years later, during a dinner at the table of the French Regent, her then-lover, Marquis de la Roche-Maubert, discovers that another guest, Chevalier d'Esparron, is in love with the same immortal woman. However, her attraction to him is not to satisfy her hunger for blood, but to implement one of the greatest secrets of alchemy: the transmutation of lead into gold! Pierre-Alexis Ponson du Terrail (1829-1871) was a French popular writer and a master of the serialized novel, having penned over 200 such works in 20…


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By Alyssa J. Montgomery,

Book cover of Return to Hope Creek

Alyssa J. Montgomery Author Of A Spanish Seduction

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Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an Australian USA Today bestselling romance author who writes contemporary romance and uses the pen name Alyssa James to write medieval romance. I think the makeover trope resonates with me because although I’m no beauty queen now, I was definitely an ugly duckling in my teens. For reasons best known to him, my father insisted on close-cropped hair, and financial circumstances dictated out-of-style hand-me-down clothing. After university, I found my own style, but it wasn’t until I was accepted as an international flight attendant that I believed that I couldn’t be all that ugly if Qantas employed me!

Alyssa's book list on makeover romances

What is my book about?

Return to Hope Creek is a second-chance rural romance set in Australia.

Stella Simpson's career and engagement are over. She returns to the rural community of Hope Creek to heal, unaware her high school and college sweetheart, Mitchell Scott, has also moved back to town to do some healing of his own.

Mitchell, a former NFL quarterback, doesn't need the complication of encountering Stella again so long after the messy end to their relationship, but as each tries to build a new life, they are drawn together and find their chemistry is just as strong as ever.

Will their love be stronger the second time around?

Return to Hope Creek

By Alyssa J. Montgomery,

What is this book about?

When two old flames come back to their home town, sparks are bound to ignite. A rural romance from USA Today bestselling author Alyssa J. Montgomery.


A horrific car accident ended former world number-one Stella Simpson’s tennis career, and a betrayal ended her relationship with her fiancé/coach. When a family friend offers to sell her half of a property in the rural community where she grew up, it seems like the perfect place to escape, heal and begin the next phase of her life. Until she discovers that the man who broke her heart ten years ago has bought the…


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