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Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco

BOTTOM LINE: I LOVE Audrey Rose and Thomas. So very, very much.

Genre: Young Adult; Historical Fiction; Horror
Publication Date: 19 September 2017
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Synopsis from the Publisher:

“Following the grief and horror of her discovery of Jack the Ripper’s true identity, Audrey Rose Wadsworth has no choice but to flee London and its memories. Together with the arrogant yet charming Thomas Cresswell, she journeys to the dark heart of Romania, home to one of Europe’s best schools of forensic medicine…and to another notorious killer, Vlad the Impaler, whose thirst for blood became legend.

But her life’s dream is soon tainted by blood-soaked discoveries in the halls of the school’s forbidding castle, and Audrey Rose is compelled to investigate the strangely familiar murders. What she finds brings all her terrifying fears to life once again.”

My Thoughts: Reader beware: there will be gushing.

I am just going to put it out there that I have a crush on Audrey Rose Wadsworth. She is everything I ever hope to be even if she is set in the 1880’s and is twenty years younger than me. She is intelligent, curious, courageous, fiercely independent, and not hampered in the least by society’s expectations of her. She questions the status quo, wholeheartedly supports and loves her friends and family, and remains devoted to the pursuit of truth and of making the world a better place. I adore her femininity combined with her determination. She is one of my favorite literary heroines.

I will also admit to having a crush on Thomas Cresswell. He is the perfect foil for Audrey Rose, and I love their dynamic. His ideas of support may be a bit antiquated, but Audrey Rose is quick to make him see the light. He is willing to learn from her. Even better, he not only freely admits to her being every part his equal, he treats her as one. For any boy, modern era or Victorian, this is a prize-worthy notion. Then there are his quips and innuendos. Given his social awkwardness, that he is so forward with her is delightful, with her reactions to him even more entertaining. Together, they are a match made in heaven and just this side of swoon-worthy.

Then there is the setting of Hunting Prince Dracula. While Vlad the Impaler never lived at Bran Castle (history shows he was imprisoned there for a few months), its association as Bram Stoker’s Dracula’s castle was enough to have me salivating to read it. What happens inside the walls of that castle is enough to put me over the edge into ecstasy. We have a serial killer murder mystery, science, hidden passages, mysterious medieval orders, a bloody legacy, creepy teachers, and blood. Lots and lots of blood. All with a hint of the rise of Vlad himself. For me, it doesn’t get much better.

All gushing aside, like all novels, Hunting Prince Dracula is not perfect. It can be a bit cheesy and predictable at times. Ominous things seem to happen around Audrey Rose that all but force her to take action. At the same time, there are a few scenes that strain credulity as well as characters are that are mere caricatures used to enhance the spooky vibe. Yet, one can acknowledge these things and still enjoy the hell out of the story.

Enjoy it I did. I enjoyed it so much I want to go back and read it again just because Audrey Rose is such a delightful heroine. Given everything that happened in the first novel, I even like how emotionally vulnerable she is. She is a woman who feels too much and still has to deal with the fallout from the last book’s tragic revelation. This does not weaken her character in any way in my opinion but rather strengthens it. Her struggles to deal with her grief while remaining composed and clinical during her classes pierce your heart because we all know one does not preclude the other just as we all have examples of times we ourselves had to bury our emotions for fear of not being taken seriously. In many ways, even though Audrey Rose inhabits the Victorian era, her struggles to gain approval in the field of forensic science are all too modern.

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