The best books set in the best mysterious manors

Who am I?

For The Dire Days of Willowweep Manor, artist Christopher Baldwin and I tried to create a Gothic manor with all the trappings: winding stairs, secret passageways, towers, crypts, and, above all, mysteries. Above all, it had to feel real enough that readers might want to visit. Chris created a 3D computer model of Willowweep Manor and used it as the basis for his background art. I filled the manor and its grounds with everything I’d want in my own manor, using these books and many others for inspiration. As it turns out, Willowweep is not exactly what it seems, but what Gothic setting is?


I wrote...

The Dire Days of Willowweep Manor

By Shaenon K. Garrity, Christopher Baldwin (illustrator),

Book cover of The Dire Days of Willowweep Manor

What is my book about?

One dark and stormy night, Haley sees a stranger drowning in the river. Since her greatest passion is Gothic romance novels, she knows her moment has come. But when Haley leaps into the water to rescue the stranger, she awakens in Willowweep. It certainly looks like the setting of one of her favorite books: A stately manor. A sinister housekeeper. Three brooding brothers. There’s even a ghost.

Except Willowweep is not what it seems. Its romantic exterior hides the workings of a pocket universe—the only protection our world has against a great force of penultimate evil, and its defenses are crumbling. Could cruel fate make Haley the heroine that Willowweep needs?

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Castle Waiting

Shaenon K. Garrity Why did I love this book?

A pregnant noblewoman fleeing a less than happy happily-ever-after finds her way to Castle Waiting, an overgrown castle that’s become a haven for forgotten figures from fairy tales, folklore, and myth. Much of this unbelievably absorbing comic is spent simply exploring the castle and following the residents in their day-to-day lives. And what better way is there to spend one’s time? Linda Medley’s immersive artwork, with its flavor of old-fashioned woodcuts and classical book illustrations, makes Castle Waiting look like the perfect place to rest between adventures, or maybe stay and become one of the long-term residents.

By Linda Medley,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This (wildly popular) graphic novel, a feminist fairy tale, is now in paperback.

Castle Waiting is the story of an isolated, abandoned castle, and the eccentric inhabitants who bring it back to life. A fable for modern times, it is a fairy tale that’s not about rescuing the princess, saving the kingdom, or fighting the ultimate war between Good and Evil ― but about being a hero in your own home. The opening chapter tells the origin of the castle itself, which is abandoned by its princess in a comic twist on “Sleeping Beauty” when she rides off into the…


Book cover of The End of Summer

Shaenon K. Garrity Why did I love this book?

In a dreamlike fantasy world, a royal family holes up for the three-year winter in their vast, quiet palace. As the winter wends on, cabin fever sets in, but at least the young twins of the family have their giant cat Nemo to keep them company. Even if things don’t go so well for the characters, the palace, with its enormous baths, masses of eiderdown quilts, and mile-high windows for watching the snow fall, feels like a cozy place to spend a chilly night—or several hundred. Tillie Walden is a stunning talent, and in her debut graphic novel, created while she was still in art school, she emerges as a fully-formed artist with a personal, intimate style.

By Tillie Walden,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In a secluded castle, at the beginning of a winter that is predicted to last for three years, Lars is battling illness and boredom. He passes the time with his siblings and his giant cat, Nemo, as secrets are revealed and tensions within the family begin to simmer...

Tillie Walden's classic debut graphic novel returns in this special edition that includes the new prequel story, 'Lars & Nemo'.


Book cover of I Capture the Castle

Shaenon K. Garrity Why did I love this book?

If you can’t decide whether you’d rather live like a Jane Austen character or a Bronte character, but you don’t have the income for either, split the difference and join the bohemian Montmain family. Two bookish teenage sisters live in a crumbling castle with their once-famous author father, their whimsical nymph of a stepmother, their genius little brother, and a handsome boy conveniently living on the premises. The girls are ready to stop reading about love and start living it, and right on cue two eligible bachelors show up. This book exudes summer, the one time of year when living in a rural English ruin with no money for heating oil could feel romantic.

By Dodie Smith,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked I Capture the Castle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

One of BBC's 100 Novels That Shaped Our World.

A wonderfully quirky coming-of-age story, I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, author of The Hundred and One Dalmatians is an affectionately drawn portrait of one of the funniest families in literature.

Part of the Macmillan Collector's Library; a series of stunning, clothbound, pocket sized classics with gold foiled edges and ribbon markers. These beautiful books make perfect gifts or a treat for any book lover. This edition is illustrated by Ruth Steed, and features an afterword by publisher Anna South.

The eccentric Mortmain family have been rattling around in a…


Book cover of Rebecca

Shaenon K. Garrity Why did I love this book?

The classics endure for a reason, and Manderley remains the epitome of Gothic manors to die for, or over. Striking the perfect balance between desirable and disturbing, the rhododendron-flanked de Winter estate draws the nameless heroine of Rebecca under its spell from the moment she enters. Unfortunately, Maxim de Winter has chosen to be cagey to his new wife about his previous marriage to the magnetic Rebecca, not to mention how exactly she passed away, leaving the second Mrs. Winter to navigate deadly levels of unresolved drama. But forget Mr. de Winter: this is the story of two women, one dead and one (barely) living, fighting over a prime piece of real estate. 

By Daphne du Maurier,

Why should I read it?

37 authors picked Rebecca as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

* 'The greatest psychological thriller of all time' ERIN KELLY
* 'One of the most influential novels of the twentieth century' SARAH WATERS
* 'It's the book every writer wishes they'd written' CLARE MACKINTOSH

'Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again . . .'

Working as a lady's companion, our heroine's outlook is bleak until, on a trip to the south of France, she meets a handsome widower whose proposal takes her by surprise. She accepts but, whisked from glamorous Monte Carlo to brooding Manderley, the new Mrs de Winter finds Max a changed man. And the memory…


Book cover of We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Shaenon K. Garrity Why did I love this book?

Sisters Merricat and Constance, along with their sickly Uncle Julian, don’t really live in a castle; their New England estate is a once-stately mansion which Merricat now protects with magic spells. It’s been just the three of them since the rest of the family died of strawberries seasoned from a poisoned sugar bowl, which everyone in town blames on Constance, but how could that sweet-faced young lady be a murderer? When reading Jackson’s gleefully wicked modern Gothic novel, keep reminding yourself that, as appealing as it may seem, barricading yourself from society in a crumbling manse with your unhinged murder family is probably not the solution to your problems.

By Shirley Jackson,

Why should I read it?

15 authors picked We Have Always Lived in the Castle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Living in the Blackwood family home with only her sister, Constance, and her Uncle Julian for company, Merricat just wants to preserve their delicate way of life. But ever since Constance was acquitted of murdering the rest of the family, the world isn't leaving the Blackwoods alone. And when Cousin Charles arrives, armed with overtures of friendship and a desperate need to get into the safe, Merricat must do everything in her power to protect the remaining family.


You might also like...

Too Good

By Carol Moreira,

Book cover of Too Good

Carol Moreira Author Of Riptides

New book alert!

Who am I?

I’m fascinated by the relationship of humanity to nature. When I was young, we moved all the time – my dad was in the military and we moved to a new base every 18 months. All those military bases were located in the British countryside and, in the absence of other forms of continuity, nature became like a best friend. I still walk every day. Reconnecting with trees, grass, the sounds of birds, centres and energizes me. I get my best ideas when walking. But, of course, nature is also threatening – Covid and cancer are natural. I’m fascinated by that juxtaposition and always trying to reflect it in my work.  

Carol's book list on the beauty and threat of the natural world

What is my book about?

This is a steamy tale of vulnerability and betrayal. Struggling in her marriage, her new life in England, and her work in a hospice, Canadian-born Lindsey is drawn to her best friend's attractive husband, David.

Guilt about her fascination with David is complicated by her admiration for his wife, Grace, a cancer doctor at the hospice. But when Grace is killed in a terrorist attack, Lindsey is drawn to Grace's man, unheeding of the dangers.

Too Good

By Carol Moreira,

What is this book about?

Struggling in her marriage, her new life in England, and her work in a hospice, Canadian-born Lindsey is drawn to her best friend’s attractive husband David. The sight of his lean gardener’s body working in the hospice grounds fills her with longing and makes her forget the sadness in both the hospice and her marriage.
Guilt about her fascination with David is complicated by her friendship and admiration for his wife Grace, a cancer doctor at the hospice. But when Grace is killed in a terrorist attack, Lindsey is drawn into a passionate romance with Grace’s man unheeding of the…


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