GS vs STA: Ghosts, Witches, and Magic Romances

Good shit vs. shit to avoidTime for Good Shit vs Shit To Avoid, where we build a recommendation list based on reader inquiry. This email comes from Jill: 

As Autumn weather and Halloween approach, I find myself craving romantic reading with similar setting. Does the all-powerful Bitchery have any suggestions? Books featuring magic and AutumnHalloween would be greatly appreciated. Paranormal stories featuring ghosts are welcome as welll…. If there's anyone I can turn to to find good romantic reading of any sort, it's you intrepid ladies.

Ghost stories would be great, as well as stories involving Witches and Magic in general. Every October I work my way through the works of Sarah Addison Allen and while it's not 'bibbidi bobbidi boo!' style magic, it has an inherent magical quality to the daily lives of the characters. Along similar lines (more traditional magic) is Annette Blair's The Scot, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Patricia Coughlin's Wedding Magic (haunted house). I'd love input from the Bitchery on all of these genres to sustain me through autumn and Halloween.

There are a TON of books featuring magic, autumn, Halloween, and while they're paranormal, they're not always quite the same as paranormal featuring weres, vampires, or other creatures. I think one of the first romances I read with magical witchery heroines was the Nora Roberts category series about the Donovans, starting with Captivated ( A | BN | K | SiB). I read the three books in that series in a day or so, I was so in love with those characters.  

There are many romances that feature ghosts, magic or witches, either as ancillary characters, plot devices (especially as part of ghostus-ex-machina endings), and possibly heroines, but I'm curious which you'd recommend. Which books should be on Jill's list? 


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  1. 1

    One of my favorite ghost stories is The Turn of the Screw, which I’ve just downloaded for a reread in honor of the seasonal spookiness. It’s not a romance, but a couple years ago Jennifer Crusie published a modern-day romantic adaptation called Maybe This Time, which is a sort of light ghost story romance. Not particularly scary, but definitely a fun read.

  2. 2
    Hollyg238 says:

    Heather Graham had a trilogy with the Flynn brothers – deadly gift etc features Salem, Halloween autumn.  They are good.

  3. 3

    Anna Dressed In Blood by Kendare Blake. It’s a little hardcore from the violence standpoint, being about a vengeful ghost and the teenage boy ghost hunter, but it was really well done. The protagonists were young, but based on violence and language, I’d wonder about classifying it as YA.

  4. 4

    There was a Nora Roberts trilogy too…Three Sisters Island. Loved it.

  5. 5
    ms bookjunkie says:

    I recently read Barbara Hambly’s STRANGER AT THE WEDDING. It’s got magic, romance and a ghost. It’s awesome! Here’s the reason I read it:

  6. 6
    Lisa says:

    If you want historical, try Whispers on the Wind by Donna Fletcher.  It is available at a great price from the author in e-book.

  7. 7
    Bri says:

    Madelyn Alt has a series that takes place in Ohio (I think there are currently seven books) that features lots of ghosts and supernatural powers.  I would categorize it more as a light mystery series with romantic elements.  There is a romantic story line for the main character, Maggie, but it is ongoing – there is not necessarily an HEA at the end of the book.  Its fun and light and the mysteries are not exactly difficult to solve but the small town and its inhabitants grow on you.

  8. 8

    There’s a witchy new Maggie Shayne “Portal Series” occurs, I believe, in autumn. The intro novella is free on Kindle too.
    Bell Book and Candle is the classic, but I am sure you’ve heard of it. 
    Chris Bohjalian’s The Night Strangers has sinister witches in it, not too much romance though. 
    The Thirteen by Susie Moloney also has sinister witches and a little romance. Rachel Armstrong witchy side of the WOmen of the Otherworld series is witchy with some romance. More UF than PNR.

  9. 9
    Stella K says:

    Isabel Cooper’s “Lessons After Dark” is a historical paranormal romance about school for gifted witches.

    And Karina Cooper has the Dark Mission Series taking place in Seattle which is about witches (they are still in my TBR list)

  10. 10
    Jlo101 says:

    Dogs and Goddesses by Jennifer Crusie, et al. may partially qualify.

    Also for magic and urban fantasy in all seasons it’s hard to beat Ilona Andrews Magic series. Start with Magic Bites. Many Urban Fantasy books have Samhain or Halloween as a prime plot point as it is the time of the narrowest border between the supernatural and the reality as we know it. I’m sure the Bitchery would be happy to recommend more titles in this genre if you’re interested.

  11. 11
    joanne says:

    You can try Meg Cabot, she wrote/writes a lot of ghost romances.
    Also, if you have a ubs:
    The Ghost & Katie Coyle Anne Kelleher
    Highlander In Her Bed by Allie Mackay
    Wake Unto Me by Lisa Cach

  12. 12
    ashley says:

    the Jazz Tremaine books are cute because they don’t take themselves too seriously. I am already not a big fan of witchcraft and really don’t believe it, so books that take that stuff really seriously kinda bug me.

  13. 13
    Barb in Maryland says:

    Best evah ghost romance?  Tryst by Elswyth Thane.  It’s a real oldie—worth tracking down at your library or UBS.
    Old Barbara Michaels stories often feature ghosts—best is “Ammie, Come Home”.
    As for general magic without were-creatures or vampires—I can second (or is it now third or fourth??) Nora Roberts.  Not only the Donovan series, and the Three Sisters set, but the McKade series and her new Inn at Boonsboro series also feature ghosts, as does the Garden series.  Midnight Bayou has a ghost as well.

  14. 14
    Kris Bock says:

    I immediately thought of Barbara Michaels as well. And of course some Nora Roberts. They both have done numerous books that are basically contemporary romances but with a ghostly element. Nora’s Sign of Seven trilogy has a more dominant paranormal element.

    Darynda Jones’s First Grave on the Right series has all kinds of wacky paranormal elements – the narrator is the Grim Reaper. And Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, is a brilliant and hysterical novel about the coming apocalypse. While not a romance, it does have romantic elements

  15. 15
    Laragrey says:

    I just finished Sarah Rees Brennan’s “Unspoken”. It’s YA, and mostly dark sorcerers with a hint of ghosts. It’s also a beautiful and affectionate homage to Gothic novels in general, and it takes place in a mysterious English village with a spooky manor house high on the hill and a creepy rhyme about the Lynburn family that lives there, and a romance that’s almost not a romance because…I’ll stop here. I cannot recommend it highly enough, go read it.

  16. 16
    laj says:

    I loved Annette Blair’s The Kitchen Witch and My Favorite Witch, TSTWTW not as much.  The book covers are gorgeous and the stories very sexy and funny.
    I also liked Nora Roberts Donovan Trilogy about cousin witches.  The first book’s hero writes Horror movies, he’s hilarious when he realizes she’s a “real” witch.

  17. 17
    laj says:

    I love Meg Cabot’s Mediator series.  Great YA series.

  18. 18
    Ann says:

    Jasmine Haynes’ Max Starr series—more mystery with a strong romantic/erotic arc throughout. Wonderful characters with just the right amount of angst.

  19. 19
    Amandag_18 says:

    I have two recommendations, neither are true romances but have romantic elements. First is Janet Evanovich’s Wicked series – takes place in Salem and is wonderfully rediculous. Definitely a fun read, but it doesn’t take the paranormal world all that seriously. Second is the All Souls trilogy by Deborah Harkness. These books blew my mind – the story is so beautifully intricate weaving ancient magic with modern times, with a hero and heroine you want to support. I hope you check it out!

  20. 20
    cleo says:

    Dragon Heat by Allyson James – it’s a romance with a UF vibe – there are dragons and witches and whatnot running around contemporary San Francisco.  The witches start out as evil, but at least one of them turns around and is the heroine of the sequel (the Black Dragon maybe).  I love this book – it’s silly and over the top, but fun.

    Also, Shelly Laurenston’s novella, The Lion, The Witch and her Lack of Wardrobe is a lot of fun.  The heroine is a kick ass witch, the hero is a lion shape shifter.  It’s pretty stand alone, although it is part of a series (iirc).

  21. 21
    javerch says:

    I enjoy the supernatual themes (though not as big a fan of the vampire/werewolf genre anymore – oversaturation I think.) So, in no order are some of my favorites:
    Practical Magic – Alice Hoffman (the movie is great too!)
    Second Glance – Jodi Piccoult
    Madeleine’s Ghost – Robert Girardi – might be hard to find but sooo worth it
    C.E. Murphy’s Walker Papers series – Urban Shaman has the Wild Hunt!
    Annette Blair’s – Vintage Magic series – Ghosts & vintage clothes
    Kalayna Price – Alex Craft series
    Karen White – The House on Tradd Street (this is a series)
    Most of these books aren’t romances but they have romantic elements. Also, I love Harkness’s All Souls Series and Darynda Jones’ Grave series – I think the 4th one will be out in October – can’t wait!

  22. 22
    Corvidchild says:

    Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause is the best werewolf story I’ve ever read but please, please don’t watch the movie.

  23. 23
    graniagrace says:

    Oh yes, Tryst!  I love Elswyth Thane.  How about the last novel in the Williamsburg series where Mab starts having Tibbys’ memories?

    For the ESP inclined, try Victoria Lauries “Psychic Eye” or “Ghost Hunter” series.

  24. 24
    Kristy says:

    Blatant self promotion – I recommend my book, The Stormclyffe Affair. It’s a ghost story/romance with some quirk. It takes place in a haunted mansion on the coast of Maine in September/October. It’s a little bit steamy, a little bit funny, and has a HEA.…

    Also, if memory serves, I was obsessed with Anne Rice’s The Witching Hour series way back in high school. I hardly remember it now, but it was dark and sexy (To a 17 year old.)

  25. 25
    BitsyRavenclaw says:

    Can I just say that I love you all? I’m going to start looking through the titles listed and surely all of the input will last me several Octobers! You guys are always the best resource for books.

  26. 26
    Kosmon says:

    Nina Kiriki Hoffman’s Fistful of Sky is one of my favorites.  Gyp was powerless in a family of magical people until she gets the power of curses.  It does have romantic elements.  I reread it at least once a year.

  27. 27
    Readsalot81 says:

    Nora Roberts has quite a few trilogies that involve the supernatural. Some of my favorites are the Sign of the Seven Trilogy (Blood Brothers, The Hollow, Pagan Stone) and the Circle Trilogy ( Morrigan’s Cross, Dance of the Gods, Valley of Silence). *g*  HP Mallory has a couple of series out. (IIRC -She was originally self-pubbed ,then got picked up by one of the big 6) Her books are cute and fun.  She has the Dulcie O’Neil series and Jolie Wilkins – Wilkins is a witch. (You can get the first books of both series for free from Amazon if you’d like to give her a go)

  28. 28
    TaraL says:

    I also immediately thought of Barbara Michaels but my favorite is “Witch.” I’ve probably read it at least 5 times over the last 30 years, maybe more. All of hers are damn good though, not straight romances, but always with strong romantic elements.

    I’ll also second the Psychic Eye and Ghost Hunter series from Victoria Laurie. There’s something odd about the writing style that I can’t quite put my finger on, but that little niggle at the back of my brain doesn’t really interfere with my enjoyment of them.

  29. 29
    Karin says:

    Lisa Kleypas’s latest series, Friday Harbor, is her first foray into the paranormal, and I think she’s doing a good job of it. A ghost plays a big role in the most recent book, “Dream Lake”.  If you like traditional Regency romances, there’s an old one, “Lady of Spirit” by Edith Layton that features a ghost. And Jo Beverly’s book, “Forbidden Magic” has some witchery in it. 

  30. 30
    Amy says:

    I would recommend Stacia Kane’s Downside Ghosts series. It has Witches, Ghosts, Demons. And speaking of ghosts, makes me think of Darynda Jones Grave series, so I’m throwing that in there too.

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