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Gothic Chick Lit 101

OrsoffBeth Orsoff has published five novels, including Honeymoon for One and Disengaged. Her latest book, Vlad All Over, came out last week.

I love chick lit. I love reading it, and I love writing it. But one of the common complaints about the genre is that the reader knows from the start generally what's going to happen and how the book will end. And in many cases, that's true.

If you start reading and the heroine has a potential love interest, odds are she's going to end up with that character at the end. This is not an ironclad rule in chick lit, as it is in romance (heaven help the romance author who doesn't deliver happily ever after!)—and it's not a rule at all in more literary women's fiction—but chick lit straddles the line between those genres and contains elements of each.

Hence the dilemma: Do you meet readers' expectations and risk being predictable, or do you subvert those expectations and risk alienating them? The solution: a new subgenre—gothic chick lit. What the hell is that?, you ask. Sometimes it's easier to define something by what it's not, rather than what it is.

A book is not gothic chick lit if:

  • One or more of the characters is an actual vampire. And if that vampire is an impossibly sexy man who only has eyes (or fangs) for a plain Jane, then you're reading paranormal romance, not gothic chick lit.
  • The story is set in a sunny beach town where everyone drinks colorful cocktails with little umbrellas in them. This could be any number of genres, but it's not gothic chick lit, which requires at least a little dark and stormy weather, preferably at an ominous castle or a forbidding family estate.
  • Bad things never happen. One of the few inflexible rules of gothic chick lit is that it requires drama—the soapier, the better.

So if you find yourself reading a book set in a mysterious land like Transylvania, with a feisty, monetarily challenged heroine and a domineering hero who just happens to be wealthy, handsome, and single, and their romance arises out of lies, betrayal, and some really hot sex in a boathouse (and that's just the beginning of the unseemly behavior), odds are you're reading gothic chick lit.

And if that book just happens to be titled Vlad All Over, I guarantee it.

—Beth Orsoff

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