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Monday, July 18, 2011

Review: Dracula in Love by Karen Essex

Publisher: Anchor Books (Random House)
Genre: Historical fiction, romance
Trade paperback, 368 pages
Book Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book  Tours
My Rating: 90/100

"Reader, you are about to enter a world that exists simultaneous with your own. But be warned: in its realm, there are no rules, and there is certainly no neat formula to become—or to destroy—one who has risen above the human condition…The truth is, we must fear monsters less and be warier of our own kind."

London, 1890. Mina Murray, the rosy-cheeked, quintessentially pure Victorian heroine, becomes Count Dracula’s object of desire. To preserve her chastity, five male “defenders” rush in to rescue her from the vampire’s evil clutches. This is the version of the story we've been told. But now, from Mina’s own pen, we discover that the story is vastly different when told from the female point of view.

In this captivating, bold act of storytelling, award-winning author Karen Essex breathes startling new life into the characters of Bram Stoker's Dracula, transporting the reader into the erotic and bizarre underbelly of the original story. While loosely following the events of its classic predecessor, Dracula in Love deviates from the path at every turn.

The result is a darkly haunting, propulsive, and rapturous tale of immortal love and possession.

From the shadowy banks of the river Thames to the wild and windswept Yorkshire coast, Dracula’s eternal muse—the most famous woman in vampire lore—vividly recounts the joys and terrors of a passionate affair that has linked her and the Count through the centuries, and her rebellion against her own frightening preternatural powers.

Mina’s version of this Gothic vampire tale is a visceral journey into Victorian England’s dimly lit bedrooms, mist-filled cemeteries, and terrifying asylum chambers, revealing the dark secrets and mysteries locked within. Time falls away as she is swept into a mythical voyage far beyond mortal comprehension, where she must finally make the decision she has been avoiding for almost a millennium.

Stoker’s Dracula offered one side of the story, in which Mina was a victim bearing no responsibility for the unfolding events. Now, for the first time, the truth of her secret history, and of vampirism itself, is revealed. What this flesh and blood woman has to say is more sensual, more devious, and more enthralling than the Victorians could have expressed or perhaps even imagined.

Three Reasons Review
1.) Reasons you chose this book

I accepted this book for review because I had read good things about it when it was first released.  Also, I read the original Dracula about two years ago, and enjoyed it a great deal.  I was curious as to what Essex created and the point of view she chose, Mina, is quite interesting.  It's about time Mina told her side of things.

2.) Reasons you liked or disliked this book

I have mixed feelings about this book.  The story started off strong and drew me in quickly, however, somewhere in the middle, I became lost.  I was starting to ask myself, "Where is Dracula, and how the heck is he in love, if he only flits in and out from time to time?"  I understand it was Mina's side of the story, however I lost interest in her.  Mina captivated me at first, but then I became increasingly frustrated with her.  This is probably due to Mina being the quintessential Victorian lady, well mannered, quiet, not as strong as I like my female characters to be.  And that is where the strengths of this story lie, the Victorian setting.

Essex's writing planted me firmly in Victorian London.  The conversations, behaviors of people, manner of dress...this story could have been written by someone who lived during the Victorian age.  One aspect that annoyed me at the time, but I have come to understand and respect is Essex's depiction of the asylum.  Her descriptions of treatments and diagnosis of women during this time are scary spot on. (I know from personal research.)  I wondered at first why Essex was going down this road, however it goes with her premise.  This is the true story, and not what you have been told.  Scary that women were thought of and treated this way.  Makes me shudder.

I also adored the way Essex described how Dracula and Mina came to be, their love story.  Essex's history of vampirism is one of the best I have ever read.  Very creative and totally plausible.  This history doesn't come until the last 80 pages or so, so i am glad I stuck around.  I also feel sorry for Dracula.  He has been waiting an eternity for his beloved, and I don't believe Mina is very sympathetic towards him.  I don't think she realizes how much he has done for her through the ages.

3.) Reasons you are recommending this book

I would recommend this book because it is so well written, and the story is creative and different.  I did almost put this down half way through, but have come to realize it was because of Mina and her behavior.  I don't like Mina, and without giving anything away, that's all I can say.  Nope don't like her and have no sympathy for her.  Dracula on the other hand....he is quite devoted.  The word doormat comes to mind.  All in all Dracula in Love is quite an interesting tale, and worth a try.

Please stop by on July 21st for a guest post by Karen Essex, and for more information, please visit one or more of the following:

Karen's Website:

Karen's Blog:

Karen's Facebook Page

To read what others thought of Dracula in Love, please visit the virtual book tour page.

Thanks to Amy from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for including me in the tour. 

 2011 Challenges Met:  Historical Fiction