Title: Dracula in Love
Author: Karen Essex
Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books): “From the shadowy banks of the river Thames to the wild and windswept Yorkshire coast, Dracula’s eternal muse, Mina Murray, vividly recounts the intimate details of what really transpired between her and the Count—the joys and terrors of a passionate affair that has linked them 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 asylum chambers, revealing the dark secrets and mysteries locked within. Time falls away as she is swept into a mythical journey far beyond mortal comprehension, where she must finally make the decision she has been avoiding for almost a millennium.
Bram Stoker’s classic novel offered one side of the story, in which Mina had no past and bore no responsibility for the unfolding events. Now, for the first time, the truth of Mina’s personal voyage, 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 have imagined.”
Thoughts: When revamping an extremely well-known and beloved classic novel, liberties must be taken. Ms. Essex does this with her re-creation of Dracula, but these changes add a certain mystique and realism to the story – removing the horror from the Count and adding it to the vastly more realistic men of the novel. The result is a story that is both familiar and unique, creative in its use of other mythical beings to enhance the vampiric myth but chilling in its accurate depiction of women and men in Victorian England.
In Dracula in Love, Ms. Essex gives readers a chance to finally get into the mind of Mina. Intelligent, immensely resourceful, and extremely compassionate, Mina is ever a traditional heroine; all the men swear to protect her, and all the women cannot help but be her best friend. Yet, Ms. Essex challenges Bram Stoker’s portrayal of the women by delving into Mina’s minds, unencumbered by her diary entries, which must be edited by the mere fact that Mina always intends for them to be read by others. Mina, and Lucy, are highly empowered women who are shackled by society’s values and, more importantly, by the men in their expectations of proper womanly behavior. Dr. Seward’s mental hospital is understandably more frightening than Count Dracula, and all of the men’s callous disregard for either woman’s rights and feelings displace the horror surrounding Dracula and moves it to the more mundane Dr. Seward, Arthur, Quince, and Jonathan. The shock and confusion felt by Mina as she makes these discoveries is echoed by the reader at the injustice of her situation.
If Mina stood out in Dracula, she absolutely shines in Dracula in Love, as she realizes the dangers of the blood transfusions, the mental hospital and the idea the men may not always know best. Her willingness to stand up to these scenarios and fight for her rights fleshes out the strength of character only hinted at by Stoker.
Mythology has always been a huge part of any vampire story; Ms. Essex does not hide behind the one myth and includes all of them that have ever influenced any vampire story – Sidhe, faeries, and many others. Not only that, but Ms. Essex does a great nod to Mr. Stoker’s own research and influence on the vampire myth. By including the red-headed Irishman in the background, it adds a tongue-in-cheek touch of realism to the story. This also means that Dracula himself is more honorable, more sensual and ultimately more romantic.
Read right after Dracula, Dracula in Love provides an intriguing fleshing out of each character’s back story. In addition, it provides the reader the opportunity to read between the lines of the various journal entries and letters that make up the original story. While it doesn’t outshine said original, it does add a very enjoyable, very interesting addition to the vampire genre.
Thank you to Doubleday for my advanced reading copy of this book!