The best books for historical gothic family saga fans

Carrie Dalby Author Of Perilous Confessions (The Possession Chronicles)
By Carrie Dalby

Who am I?

I’ve been fascinated by the feelings stories can evoke in readers since I cried over Bridge to Terabithia in middle school. From the time I was twelve, I’ve sought snapshots in time that ooze with a strong sense of place and flawed characters to capture my heart when reading. I’ve found well-researched historic Gothic family sagas to be the most consistent in delivering that raw emotional bond between the setting/characters and reader. As a writer, I strive to recreate what I crave when reading. The historic Gothic family sagas I’ve chosen represent an array of characters you will love—or love to hate—and cry over.


I wrote...

Perilous Confessions (The Possession Chronicles)

By Carrie Dalby,

Book cover of Perilous Confessions (The Possession Chronicles)

What is my book about?

Lucy Easton, an aspiring novelist, will do anything to boost her chances at publication—including betraying her family. But when she crosses paths with the charismatic Alexander Melling, her aspiration for success pales in comparison to the attraction she feels towards him.

Alexander is a young lawyer from a powerful family, striving to free himself from his father’s shadow. The more time he spends with Lucy, the more desperate he becomes to shed the secrets of his past—a past that can destroy both himself and the woman he’s falling in love with. From gossip magazines to gleaming Mardi Gras balls, Lucy and Alex navigate the Edwardian era in the Deep South with both passion and guilt.

The books I picked & why

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Crescent Carnival

By Frances Parkinson Keyes,

Book cover of Crescent Carnival

Why this book?

The ultimate in historical Southern Gothic family saga is Crescent Carnival. Keyes was a bestselling author in the mid-twentieth century because of her in-depth sagas. This epic tome covers three generations of high-society New Orleans characters through their scandals and secrets from the 1890-1940s. I had to remember not to get bogged down by the historical information which showed how grounded it is in facts that enriched my knowledge about the city, state, and Mardi Gras. Instead, I focused on the characters I was rooting for—no matter if I agreed with them or not. The last quarter of the book was binge read worthy, and I used a lot of tissues.


The Vines of Yarrabee

By Dorothy Eden,

Book cover of The Vines of Yarrabee

Why this book?

Dorothy Eden was well-known as a Gothic/Thriller Romance author fifty-plus years ago, but her family sagas are where her skills really shine. The Vines of Yarrabee had me scared to keep reading because I knew tragedy was coming, but I couldn’t stop reading because I was invested in the less-than-perfect characters—most of whom I was angry over for much of the story. These fictional humans are tucked in a rich setting I could see, hear, feel, smell, and taste. I learned a lot about Australia and its settlers in the 1800s, but it’s the people in the story that I still carry with me, several years after reading it.


Captains and the Kings

By Taylor Caldwell,

Book cover of Captains and the Kings

Why this book?

Caldwell opened my eyes not only to aspects of American history I wasn’t familiar with, but current politics with this heavy saga. Captains and the Kings highlighted the plight of Irish immigrants in the mid-1800s and then widened the scope to show the follies of the social classes, political corruption, and greed into the new century. True events and historical figures are woven into this fictional tapestry with such skill that everything seems plausible. I ended the read fearful for our future, like I’d typically get from reading a dystopian novel. It’s an intense read needing tissues, a search engine for looking up historical tidbits you might not be familiar with, and possibly a dictionary. The book haunts me to this day—in a good, though horrific, way.



The Thorn Birds

By Colleen McCullough,

Book cover of The Thorn Birds

Why this book?

Setting is a looming character in Gothic stories of all types, and the harsh Australian landscape of the early 1900s featured in The Thorn Birds is no exception. While reading, I often felt the need to shower to clean the dust, smoke, and grime that the characters were experiencing off of me. Characters in sagas are like family: you don’t have to like them to care about them. While I couldn’t personally relate to any of the main players, I was invested in their drama until the end. And, yes, I cried for them as well. All the feels!


The Prince of Eden

By Marilyn Harris,

Book cover of The Prince of Eden

Why this book?

The seven-book saga featuring the Eden family by Marilyn Harris is an amazing read, but I found The Prince of Eden to be the most moving. Not only is Edward Eden the most likable (though still questionable) of the men in the family, the book sheds light on an era of British history I wasn’t very familiar with, the 1830s-50s. I became a spectator of the social unrest, opium dens, and more within these pages. The fictional characters move alongside historical people and events, leaving their own footprints in the world of possibility within this emotional read.


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