Twisted Love: The 20 Best Horror Romance Books for Your Reading List

Horror and romance have been tied together longer than peanut butter and jelly. Seriously, the oldest book on this list was published 29 years before the popularization of the PB&J in 1901. Time is scary, isn’t it?

Twisted Love: The 20 Best Horror Romance Books for Your Reading List

The books included are all considered horror, some more than others. The common thread though is the romance at the center of the story. We’ve tried to stay away from any that are too spicy, that way the list is more accessible to everyone. That said, there will be a few that mix along the border of mild and medium. 

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Mexican Gothic

It doesn’t matter where you think Mexican Gothic is going because it will immediately make a sharp turn into one of the wildest stories you’ve ever read. It’s a modern message of colonialism and exploitation, with a surprisingly sweet love story at the heart even as the heroine Noemi discovers the terrifying truth about her new love and who his mysterious family really are.

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Carmilla by Sheridan La Fanu

Carmilla

Carmilla walked so Dracula could run. Published 26 years before Stoker’s own take on the vampire, Carmilla was setting standards for not just vampire romance, but lesbian romance as well. It still maintains itself today, holding up not only with La Fanu’s writing but also the romance between human Laura and Carmilla, the vampire who seduces her remains a steamy piece of fiction today. Imagine the shock of someone reading this in 1872!

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Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

Warm Bodies: A Novel (Warm Bodies Series, The)

The saying “the book is way better than the movie” is still true when the movie is already pretty good, Warm Bodies being the go-to example. A sentient zombie falls in love with a woman he saves after eating her boyfriend’s brain right in front of her. The ultimate meat-cute (rimshot). Still, the book really draws out the zombie tropes for a time before diving into a much-used cliche. 

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Horns by Joe Hill

Horns: A Novel

Joe Hill rose to horror fame outside of his father Stephen King’s influence, with Horns being one of his earliest breakout hits. A love story mixed with a supernatural twist after his fiance is tragically murdered, the hero Igby suddenly begins growing horns one morning after blacking out the night before. That’s just the beginning of the twisted and demonic love story at the center, with things escalating (or descending) into hell on earth.

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Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

'Salem's Lot (Movie Tie-in)

Salem’s Lot was King’s second novel to be published, just one year after the breakout hit of Carrie, in 1975. While the love story becomes a driving factor towards the climax of the book, it’s a more tragic subplot at the start. Protagonists Ben and Susan are just into their budding romance, slowly getting to know each other better when the town of Salem’s Lot descends into darkness. Some of the best horror King has written, it’s full of creeping, blood-chilling scenes playing on different vampire tropes of the time.

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The Witching Hour by Anne Rice

The Witching Hour

Sure, Interview With The Vampire might be the go-to recommendation for Anne Rice, but The Witching Hour has a much less overwhelming number of sequels in comparison. Though it does connect with that same universe, this story revolves around a woman meeting a near-death man with psychic powers. The woman, though, just so happens to be the latest in a long line of witches who have been cursed by an evil spirit, which really makes for a bumpy start to a relationship. Nevertheless, Rice’s signature romance is scattered throughout with steamy scenes and well-developed characters.

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House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

House of Leaves

Fair warning that this book is best read in a physical format due to the formatting. It can be a little intimidating at first, showing two stories in one: a dead man’s notes on a fictional documentary concerning the director and his family moving into a home that’s bigger inside than out (subject to change), and a depressed, lonely mechanic that finds the dead man’s notes. 

The romance lies in the director and his wife, who rekindle their slowly fading marriage even as the house becomes an ever-changing labyrinth into hell. The book changes throughout, mirroring both the house and mental state of the characters as it goes with changing print, font colors, and footnotes from the biker that ramble on about his own life. An undertaking for sure, unsettling and bleak, but one with a true romance at the very soul..

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Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

House of Leaves

An early gothic romance that piled twist after twist and left a historical mark on the genre. The title character herself never once appears in the book, dying a year before it starts, but is instead only talked about by other characters yet somehow she lurks in every page of the novel.

The horror is more in an atmospheric role here, with a lingering question of if Rebecca could truly be haunting her former husband’s new bride. As Rebecca breaks down their relationship from the afterlife, all manner of horrors are unearthed about Rebecca and her passing.

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Drawing Blood by Billy Martin (Formerly Poppy Z. Brite)

Drawing Blood

Drawing Blood is not a book for the faint, focusing on a man revisiting his childhood trauma and loss of his whole family by moving into their old home where the tragedies occur. It is extremely graphic when it comes to both the atrocities that happen and the romance was an early game-changer in Weird Lit and wider LGBT+ presence in the community.

The romance is steamy, but it still finds time to focus on the grief and trauma through the horror of a mind and time-bending haunted house. Again though, can contain extremely triggering subject matter including violence and SA.

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You by Caroline Kepnes

You: A Novel (1) (The You Series)

Let’s clear the air up front here- You is not a healthy romance in the slightest and should not be used as such. No, You is an all too real horror masked as a romance to draw more readers in. It works too! Joe is charming and handsome, and Beck is just the cutest, isn’t she? Except they’re both sociopaths and that makes it a lot less romantic than it seems.

Despite being more of an anti-romance, it is gripping and the psychology involved behind the characters is compelling horror, to say the least.

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The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

The Haunting of Hill House (Movie Tie-In): A Novel

It’s written by Shirley Jackson and that should establish it as a classic on its own, but it goes further by setting up one of the greatest tragic, longing romances in fiction. 

Don’t let it fool you either, though great in its own way, the Netflix series by Mike Flanagan only holds the basic settings and some character names in common. This is a totally different beast, with the 1963 film being more faithful. 

Centering on a paranormal investigator who brings strangers together in Hill House to prove the paranormal, the characters are real and the house is a constantly overbearing force itself. Gothic horror at its finest. 

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Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Bird Box: A Novel

Incomprehensible apocalyptic creatures emerge that cause people to have outbursts of violence, eventually leading to the deaths of themselves and others. A terrifying apocalypse where opening your eyes is risking death and madness.

The book follows protagonist Malorie at specific points in her life throughout the apocalypse, from becoming pregnant just before everything crashes down, to finding a small group of survivors and discovering not only her romance with another survivor but the love and fierceness of a mother protecting her children.

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Bitten by Kelley Armstrong

Bitten

A werewolf love triangle created four years before Twilight, but not given the credit it deserves. This book was revolutionary in the paranormal romance space, but various vampire romances of the surrounding years kind of stole the limelight. It follows a werewolf trying her best to dissociate from her past but gets pulled into dueling romances with a human and a werewolf. Sure it’s a bit played out now, but for its time it was groundbreaking.

Nonetheless, it had a massive effect on media to come and spawned its own series in the mid-2010s, with surprisingly good werewolf action, tense love triangles, and decent horror elements throughout.

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Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause

Blood and Chocolate

Blood and Chocolate actually outdated Bitten by a few years, but gets a little lost in the shuffle with its more young adult-geared tone and technically not werewolves protagonists. It has the bonus of being a coming-of-age story while also exploring the budding romance of the central character, a teenage girl trying to find her place in the Pack.

It spawned a movie adaptation but not much of the original book stayed intact during the transition. Then it got completely overshadowed, as is tradition for paranormal romance yet again,  a year later by Twilight.

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House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

House of Salt and Sorrows (SISTERS OF THE SALT)

House of Salt and Sorrows is more of a murder mystery with overt horror tones, but the romance that develops between our protagonist Annaleigh and a new man she meets in town is a central plot, plus one of the better in recent years. 

The horror gets really intense before the story even begins, with seven of Annaleighs eleven sisters dead due to a so-called family curse. Annaleigh has her suspicions though and sets out to confirm them before she becomes the latest victim.

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Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood, Book 1)

The first in The Sookie Stackhouse Novels and the basis for True Blood season one. Dead Until Dark takes away the historic New Orleans antiquity of Anne Rice for a tight-knit bayou community in Louisiana after the public “coming out” of vampires to the world.

The charming characters, a blend of the supernatural into reality, and a chilling serial killer mystery at the center of tensions between humans and vampires bring it all together for a fun, steamy, and slightly bloody time.

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The Last Days of Jack Sparks by Jason Arnopp

Last Days of Jack Sparks

Sure, you know these are the Last Days of Jack Sparks, but it’s all about what happens in those last days that counts. Following Jack from a first-person perspective in his own manuscript, bookended by notes from his brother after Jack’s death under strange circumstances.

Jack Sparks should be named Jack-Ass in the initial chapters, but as the audience unpacks his trauma along with him and he explores his romance with room-mate Bex, you gain a soft spot for Jack and hope he can somehow avert his fate to live out this budding love story. 

He is a massively hard character to like at first though, so just be encouraged to give it a few chapters if that turns you off of it.

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Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz

Odd Thomas: An Odd Thomas Novel

Odd Thomas is to Koontz as The Gunslinger is to King. A rich character with enough tragedy to sink him but enough heart to keep moving. Odd is guy who can see ghosts, tries to help anyone out-living or dead, and is deeply in love with his girlfriend Stormy.

Odd and Stormy have such a pure, deep romance it’s hard not to get involved, while Odd’s supernatural ability and attempts to help others make you cheer for them more.

Going into much more is spoiler territory, but Odd and Stormy’s love is at the center of everything, leading up to a terrifying and tragic climax. 

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The Vampire Diaries by L.J. Smith

The Awakening / The Struggle (Vampire Diaries, Books 1-2)

While the show adaptation became its own beast, the novels didn’t hold back on some of the steamier aspects of the love triangle between Elena and vamp brothers Stefan and Damon. Even though the book doesn’t shy away from the romance, it also doesn’t shy away from the bloody descriptions, and there are some brutal ones involved as these vampires are the improbably strong type.

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Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller

BITTER ORANGE

A modern gothic romance triangle with more of a thriller bent than horror, but brings both to the table. A woman shares a new apartment with a strange couple on the floor below her. Then she starts spying on them, developing an obsession the strange couple gladly builds on. 

Things are never as they seem and everyone is unreliable. Equal parts Shirley Jackson’s atmosphere and Alfred Hitchcock’s tension, it spirals into deep, unexpected directions as a strange romance develops. 

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FAQ

Is horror romance a thing?

Of course, it is! Horror and romance are two of the most compatible genres out there. Think of them like a universal blood type for genres. Usually, it goes by either paranormal romance or supernatural romance, but Gothic horror is also a top subgenre.

Are there any other genres like romantic horror?

Romantic thriller is a great place to start, and a widely accessible genre. Otherwise, most mainstream horror fiction will still complain a romantic subplot a majority of the time if you’d rather go light on the romance.

Is Gothic Horror the same as horror romance?

Gothic literature largely relies on atmosphere for the horror and is probably one of the best blends of romance into the genre since it allows for steamy romantic relationships against a cold backdrop of mystery and ominous settings;.

Who are some great horror romance writers?

Anne Rice is one of the first standouts among the genre; and has been followed by authors like Keri Lake, Jaime Jo Wright, and Claire Contreras

What if I want my horror more extreme but with a romantic twist?

Plenty of darker and more bloody horror authors have popped up over the years, Clive Barker being a big voice in LGBT horror with deep romance at the center. Lauren Beukes and Mira Grant have also shown a more intense flavor to their horror romances.

What are the most popular horror books?

1. It by Stephen King (1986, Psychological Horror)
2. The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty (1971, Supernatural Horror)
3. The Shining by Stephen King (1977, Supernatural Horror)
4. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818, Gothic Horror)
5. The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris (1988, Psychological Horror)
6. Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897, Gothic Horror)
7. Pet Sematary by Stephen King (1983, Supernatural Horror)
8. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (1959, Psychological Horror)
9. Carrie by Stephen King (1974, Psychological Horror)
10. The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey (2014, Post-Apocalyptic Horror)
11. The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson (1977, Supernatural Horror)
12. The Call of Cthulhu by H. P. Lovecraft (1926, Cosmic Horror)
13. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (1898, Psychological Horror)
14. The Haunted Palace by Edgar Allan Poe (1839, Gothic Horror)
15. Ghost Story by Peter Straub (1979, Supernatural Horror)
16. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson (1954, Post-Apocalyptic Horror)
17. The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker (1986, Supernatural Horror)
18. The Birds by Daphne du Maurier (1952, Psychological Horror)
19. The Mist by Stephen King (1980, Supernatural Horror)
20. The Rats in the Walls by H. P. Lovecraft (1923, Cosmic Horror)

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