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29 June 1890
In the beginning, there was the voice.
That was how it began on that first evening, with a masculine voice calling out to me in my sleep; a disembodied voice slithering into my dream, a voice of deep timbre and tones, of sensuous growls, and of low, hollow moans--a voice laden with promise and with love. It was as familiar to me as my own, and yet I knew not whether it came from inside my head, from outside me, or from somewhere not of this earth. Hushed like wind through a valley and smooth like velvet, it beckoned me, and I neither had, nor wanted, power against it. The voice was my master.
I have been looking for you, I said.
No, we have been looking for each other.
Then came hands, no, not exactly hands, but touch--the essence of touch, caressing my face, my neck, and my arms, making my skin tingle and awakening something long dormant inside me. Smooth lips gently kissed me and then pulled ever so slightly away. Come, Mina, the lips whispered, and I felt warm breath as the words came out. You called to me, did you not?
Eager to discover the owner of those lips, the giver of that touch, I moved into the darkness, unaware where I was, or where I was being led, or by whom. But I knew that when we were finally united, it would be a homecoming. I felt as if my body were wrapped in warm skins and lifted into the air. Drifting through darkness and toward the unknown, I was not exactly flying but safely held aloft as I floated through nothingness. Something like fur tickled me beneath my chin and all around my neck and back.
After what seemed like a timeless journey, my bare feet touched mossy ground. Excited and intensely alive, my body was unfamiliar to me, except my heart, which beat with a new ferocity. The rest of me was some tingling mass of energy as I ran toward the hands and the lips with their promises of touch, of kisses, and of love. I saw nothing but felt hands come out of the darkness again and begin to stroke my hair and caress me with great tenderness.
But as I surrendered to the touch and the sensation, the sumptuous fur that had enveloped me dropped away, and the hands on my body turned rough. Suddenly I was clothed not in fur but in something wet. I began to shiver violently. Frigid air blasted my face, replacing sweet warmth. The dampness around me seeped through to my skin, chilling me to the bone. Someone--or something; could it be an animal?--pulled my garment up above my knees. A hand--yes, it was unmistakably a hand but not the hand that had touched me before--a hand so cold that it must belong to the dead crept up my leg, pushed my thighs apart, and found the only warm spot left on my body. I gasped and tried to scream but choked on my own voice as the icy fingers reached that inviolate place.
"Getting you ready is all." This voice was crass and mocking and not at all like the voice of devotion that had found me in my sleep.
I knew that I needed to resist, but I could not locate my limbs. I willed my legs to kick, my arms to rise, my fists to tighten, my muscles to gather their strength to fight this thing attacking me, but all the power in my body seemed to have disappeared. I wondered if I were dead and if this thing on top of me was the devil.
Yet I could not give up. Surely this mind that could think was still attached to a body. I opened my mouth to scream, but nothing escaped, not even a vibration. I took a breath, and a foul, sour smell shot up into my nostrils making me gag but letting me know that I was still alive. A warm, wet drop fell upon my eye, as if someone had spit on me.
I opened my eyes. I was not dreaming. No, the creature on top of me, reeking of stale beer and dripping his saliva onto my face, was all too real. But where was I? Who was this man, pushing my legs apart with his knees, this fiend with a coarse, unshaven face and bulbous eyes so red that I expected them to start bleeding? He pulled his icy finger out of me, shocking me as much with the withdrawal as he had with the insertion, and began to fumble with the buttons on his trousers. I rolled back and forth on the wet grass trying to get away, but with his free hand he gathered my nightdress at the neck, choking me.
"Stay put or you will be sorry you were ever born," he said.
I realized what was happening and I remember wondering what my fiance would say when I told him--if I ever told him, if I lived to tell him--that I had been raped while wandering, insensible, in the middle of the night. In my mind, I saw Jonathan receive the news, his stricken face turning white, shying away from me in disgust. How could any man, even one as kind as Jonathan, look upon a woman the same way after this kind of shame? At that moment, I knew that I must free myself from my tormenter. My life, or more than my life--as I thought back in those more innocent days--was at stake.
I tried to scream, but the stranger's fingers were at my throat. He undid the last button on his trousers, and his manhood shot into freedom, red, stiff, and ugly. He took his hand from my neck and put it over my mouth, but I bit hard at it, harder than I thought I was capable of, as if I had grown new teeth. Cursing me, he withdrew his hand.
"Now you are really going to get it," he said, pulling my thighs apart. He stared and then looked at my face with his glowing red eyes. Mirth had replaced his anger and determination.
"What's this? A devil's mark?"
He meant the wine-colored birthmark on my inner thigh that rose in two points like angels' wings. I tried to clench my legs together, but he was the stronger. "You'll be a feisty one."
I started kicking and flailing with all my strength until my surroundings were a blur. I saw nothing but flashes of the smug look on his ugly face against a dark sky. I tried to find my voice, because I had remembered reading that a woman's best defense against an attacker was her shrill scream. At last and with persistent effort I felt a tremor rise inside my chest, snake through my throat, and find its way out of my mouth and into the cold night air.
"Get your filthy hands off me," I yelled, and then I screamed again.
"Shut up, little whore." The fiend hissed, raising his hand away from me to slap my face. I winced, my courage draining out of me like so much air as I shrank from him. But the blow did not come. Instead, I heard a heavy thud against my attacker's back, and something picked him up from behind and pulled him off me. I saw the shock and terror on his face as he was swiftly lifted away from me and thrown like a heap of rubbish on the ground.
I sat up. I could not see the face of my rescuer, but he wore the tall hat of a gentleman and a black evening cape lined in shimmery pale gray satin. In his hand was a walking stick, which he used to deliver blow after sickening blow to my assailant. It all happened very quickly, as if time had sped up. My rescuer was a whir of motion, a dervish, battering the attacker until he lay still on the ground.
The gentleman did not even stop to consider the limp thing he had beaten but suddenly faced me as I sat in wonder. Had I blinked and missed the act of his turning toward me? The thought crossing my mind was that I had been attacked by a fiend and saved by a phantom. The angle of the brim of his hat obscured his face, and his features were in shadow because the moonlight illuminated him from behind. Strangely, as if we were old friends, he opened his arms as if to welcome me. He was familiar to me, but I could not place him.
At that point, I could only imagine that he had the same ambition as the first attacker, and I gathered my nightdress around me and began to crawl away. The walking stick in his right hand bore the bulbous head of a golden dragon, mouth wide-open, baring long, pointy teeth. Slinking backward on my hands and knees, I waited for him to advance upon me, but he stood motionless, arms stretched out as if in surrender. He was a tall man, and, if posture may give away age, I would have to say that he had the lean physique of youth but the stance of a man of maturity. I thought for a moment that I should get hold of my senses and thank him, but the stories in the newspapers of girls being abducted in the night by well-dressed men were fresh in my mind. The potential danger in remaining vulnerable to him far outweighed my curiosity, and when I thought my legs would carry me, I stood up and ran away.
I soon realized that I was on the banks of the Thames, and that it must be minutes before dawn, that time when the world takes on an eerie color, like that of gray pearls; that strange time when the sky is a luminescent brew of moonlight and dawn. A cold air passed my face, and thunder shattered the silence. I felt drops of rain trickle upon me and I could not resist the urge to turn around to see if my savior had decided to pursue me. He had looked so benevolent with his arms stretched out to me, like the image of the Christ welcoming his flock. I wished, in part, that he had followed me so that I might find out who he was and how he came to be on the deserted riverbank at this hour. But the feral nature of his swift assault upon my attacker made me rethink my wishes.
I needn't have worried; he was no longer in the place I had left him. In the distance, I saw a shiny black coach with unlit lanterns and two strong black steeds to lead it. Thunder crashed again, and lightning darted through the open sky. The horses neighed, one rearing on its hind legs, while the other seemed to call out to the heavens. I tried to see if my savior was seated in the carriage, but its closed curtains guaranteed the privacy of whoever was inside. With no one I could see at the reins, an explosive round of thunder sent the horses bolting, and the huge coach, glimmering in the burgeoning light of dawn, sped away.
I did not know exactly where I was but knew that if I ran downriver I would soon be in the area of the school, where I worked as assistant headmistress, and safe in my living quarters. I had to remember how to breathe as I ran away from the scene of my potential disgrace. Though it was summer, the air was frigid, and the light rain that fell upon me only made me colder. Each breath chilled and choked me as I ran along the embankment until I saw a familiar landmark and turned abruptly toward the Strand.
I heard the wheels of a carriage behind me, but when I turned to see if I was being followed, the street was empty but for a few hansom cabs parked in front of the hotels. The cabmen huddled beneath the oilcloth coats that protected them from the drizzle, perhaps waiting to whisk clients off to catch early trains. A lone flower cart rolled past me on its way to market, the white lilies trembling in their pots, nodding to me as if to say good morning.
I calculated by the changing light in the sky that it was not yet five o'clock, when things would begin to stir both in town and at the school. I had to be in my room before that time. There would be no explanation short of a bout of madness that I could offer for arriving at the premises at this hour and in my nightdress that would satisfy Miss Hadley, the headmistress.
In truth, there was no explanation that I could possibly give, not even to myself, of how I came to wander out of doors in the middle of the night, only to have been nearly raped by a stranger on the banks of the river just before dawn and saved by either a saint or a demon in gentleman's evening clothes. How had either of those men found me? I recalled the earlier dream, and the contrast of the velvet voice and tender hands with the brutality of the man who had tried to violate me. Perhaps he was the punishment meted out for that wickedly sweet dream. A woman who would leave her bed, no matter how involuntarily, to pursue a seductive, disembodied voice would surely get what she was asking for. How could I have done that, considering that I was engaged to a wonderful man like Jonathan? The shame of it burned through me.
My thoughts were again interrupted by the unmistakable clatter of carriage wheels. I looked in all directions but did not see any vehicle coming toward me. The sound had emphatically been there, no mistake about it, but it was distant, as if it came from inside a crater. I attributed it to the way that sound carried in this city; conversations and noises from far away were carried into one's own parlor on random gusts of wind. Still, I could not shake the feeling that I was being followed.
Shivering, I slipped down the alley parallel to the old mansion that housed Miss Hadley's School for Young Ladies of Accomplishment, retracing the steps I must have taken earlier. The back door was unlocked; I must have left it so. I closed it with great care and quietly climbed the rear staircase, hoping not to disturb any of the boarding students in their dormitory beds or, worse yet, Headmistress. Mercifully, the cleaning and kitchen staff lived off the premises and did not arrive until 5:30 in the morning. After fifteen years living in the building, I knew every single spot where the stairs creaked, and, like a child playing a game of hopscotch, I sidestepped each telltale place as delicately as I could and reached the third story where I lived with barely a sound made.
From the Hardcover edition.
In Dracula in Love, I wanted to turn the original story inside out, exposing its underbelly or its “subconscious mind.” My research turned up two themes for my book, which I explore in depth: 1 ) Vampires have a long, rich history dating back to pre-biblical times, in which many of the blood drinkers of myth were female, symbolic of feminine magic and power. 2 ) Women in Victorian England had a lot more to fear from their own culture than from vampires. I decided to portray Mina Harker’s life as it would have been at this time of great change, when technological advances allowed women to consider previously unimaginable choices, but also a time in which the choice between purity and desire could have deadly consequences.
Like Santa Claus and the tooth fairy, the vampire is here to stay. No longer a craze or a fad, s/he is now firmly embedded in our cultural lexicon. While humankind has always sought magical fountains of youth, today’s generations are downright insulted by ideas of aging and death. Our own technologies, from genetic and stem cell therapy to cosmetic procedures, give us the hope that we, too, will soon be able to transcend the human condition, and, like our glamorous vampires, remain forever young. This is why we cannot get enough of them.
And let’s face it: what woman does not dream that she will remain an object of love and desire for all eternity?
With warm wishes,
1. In the prologue, Mina Murray writes, “The truth is we must fear monsters less and be warier of our own kind.” What “monsters” evoke fear in the book? Which humans evoke fear?
How does feminism play into Mina’s choices? Miss Hadley’s? Lucy’s? Kate’s? How are these women similar? Which of the women do you ultimately consider more liberated?
How does Mina evolve throughout the story? What changes her? Where does she get her true power? Do you agree with her choices?
4. In some ways, the book is an exploration of free will versus fate. Are there any victims in the story, and why are they victims? To what or whom are they victims? Do you believe what Dracula says, that a person cannot be made to do something s/he has not chosen on some level?
5. Did Dracula in Love deepen your understanding of the roots of vampirism?
6. Discuss the different elements of vampire folklore in the book (i.e. The Lamia, the story of Lilith, the Sidhe, the ghost tales of Whitby) and the ways in which they have contributed to modern day vampire myths.
7. Victorian ideology and customs are strongly painted in the book. In what ways, does Mina accept them and give in to them? In what ways, does she reject them?
8. How do the vampires differ from vampires in other vampire books, films, and television shows, whether classic or contemporary?
9. Discuss sexuality as it pertains to different characters in the book. (Mina and Jonathan. Mina and the Count. Lucy and Arthur. Lucy and Morris. Mina and John Seward. Jonathan and the Lamia.)
10. What symptoms and behaviors deemed a patient “insane” in Lindenwood? How does the characterization of the insane relate to Victorian ideology?
11. In what ways does Dracula in Love reflect the Victorian obsession with Darwin’s theory of evolution and other scientific and medical advancements of the time? What 20th century events does it foreshadow?
12. What are the most poignant ways in which Dracula in Love differs from Bram Stoker’s Dracula? Do you find one account more credible than the other?
Posted August 17, 2011
I have been a longtime fan of Karen Essex and have read all of her books. I admit I was a bit skeptical at first with Dracula in Love because a) it's a slight departure from Essex's historical fiction approach and b) I'm not a huge fan of "re-makes," i.e., taking a classic novel and re-imagining it from a different perspective. But Essex blew me away with Dracula in Love -- this novel is unique in its own right, imaginative, and utterly engrossing.
I should have known better than to doubt, if even slightly, an author I have followed for the last ten years.
Dracula in Love pivots off of Bram Stoker's Dracula, only it tells the story from Mina Harker's perspective. May I venture to say that Essex does a better job than Stoker at fleshing out the Victorian setting, Mina's ambivalent feelings towards fiance Jonathan and the Count, and how the past and future figure into the present love triangle? Okay, I guess I just said that very thing. ;)
I love it when a favorite author continues to write exciting, high quality work. Essex is like a reliable friend who never disappoints and always opens my mind to new worlds. I recommend all of her novels and am wondering if indeed Dracula in Love is my favorite...hard to say considering all her novels are so dang good!
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Posted August 9, 2010
The advertisement for Dracula in Love by Karen Essex said: "If you read only one more vampire novel, let it be this one." That's a pretty bold statement so I took the bait. Dracula as told by Mina? Sounds pretty tasty, right? I bit (pun intended) on the posting for an advance copy. In hindsight, I should have probably just followed my gut telling me there's too much vampire-fiction out there for all of it to be worthy of the hype.
While reading, I found myself comparing Essex's retelling of Dracula with the original (how could I not?). It's been several years since I read Stoker's Dracula so I don't remember all the details, but everyone knows the basic plot. Nearing the end of Dracula in Love I pondered the basic question any reader should think of when perusing a spin-off: Is the spin worthy of the original? I asked myself if Essex's retelling was really anything new or original or markedly better. In the end I decided that Bram Stoker's novel is a classic tragedy, making Karen Essex's version a copy of a tragedy which came out underwhelming and fairly lifeless (which, although necessary for a vampire, is not so good for a novel). Her love scenes were hot and heavy, but her frequent use of the word "preternatural" annoyed me to no end. Knowing what happens in Dracula meant I knew what would happen in Dracula in Love, and although the story should to be in the telling, Essex didn't inspire me with her version like good historical-fiction should.
For those of you in search for the next vampire novel, sure, maybe you'll enjoy Dracula in Love because it's got vampires and they're attractive and it's got women taking control and all that good stuff. But for me, if a writer is going to tackle something as venerable as DRACULA, they had better do it well. In this case, the aim fell far from the mark and the resulting product was another paperback to add to the growing pile of fang-related books on the market these days. Sigh.
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Posted August 17, 2013
Posted October 25, 2011
I Also Recommend:
What happens when the heroes turn out to be the bad guys? It is a question posited by Karen Essex's take on Bram Stoker's immortal classic in her rendition entitled Dracula in Love.
The established cadre of vampire hunters are no longer a gentlemanly force of good against evil. Instead, Van Helsing is a masochistic nutcase who derives pleasure from the unreasonable medical practices he inflicts on his patients. His disciple, Dr. John Seward, adheres to this cruel methodology in treating the helpless women left in his care at an insane asylum. Arthur Holmwood is a heartless fortune hunter out to marry and murder for wealth. Morris Quince is nothing but a philandering playboy from America, while Jonathan Harker turns into an orgy obsessed nymphomaniac. And yes, the novel is still set in the repressed, buttoned-up Victorian era.
Stoker's women fare no better. What happens when a solid, put-together woman turns into a mentally unstable, emotional wreck? That's exactly what happens to Mina Harker. She goes from being portrayed as a lady of great intellect, self-control and profound courage to a confused, unsure, mystical shadow of her former self. Instead of leading the charge against Count Dracula, she is fighting off the dangerous advances of those who used to be her allies. Viewed as a wily female threat, she turns to Dracula's blood-thirsty embrace as a source of refuge.
When first coming across the title, it is a logical assumption to believe that Lucy Westerna would be the lead character. In the original, she is the one who is lured to the Whitby graveyard and seduced by Dracula. She is the one who transforms into a vampire after death. She is the one singled out by Dracula as his lover of choice. So it is a surprising turn of events to learn that Dracula's affections are actually captured by Mina. In fact, she is a supposed reincarnation of his cherished human/fairy lover whose rebirth he repeatedly awaits. He tracks her through the centuries in order for their passion to be reignited and to finally convince her to join him in immortality.
Where Essex finds her groove is in her telling description of a 19th century mental health facility. The insane asylum run by Seward, in conjunction with Van Helsing, is truly a house of horrors. What adds to its inherent repulsion is that for the most part it is an accurate depiction of what happened to overtly sexual women during this time period. The scene of Mina's water treatment is painful to read. Repeatedly soaked with freezing cold water and then forced to drink excessive amounts of this water certainly qualifies as torture, not medical care. The brutality that mentally competent women were subjected to in order to inhibit their natural sexual desires borders on barbarism.
The majority of the book centers around hormones, and is graphic in nature. This type of explicit sexual imagery is usually found in the erotic romance genre rather than a historical fiction novel. Wanton proclivities run through the blood of all of the central characters. There's Lucy and Morris carrying on half-naked in a graveyard. There's Jonathan in bed with three vampire-like women. There's Seward fondling Mina during a medical examination. There's Mina and Dracula in an assortment of lurid dream sequences. The list of couplings goes on and on. This unrestrained behavior is unexpected for those seeking a book more in line with the tone of the beloved classic.
Posted October 20, 2011
It took me a chapter or so to set my mind back to Victorian London, but once there I quickly became involved in the story of Mina Murray Harker. I found it interesting to read this particular story from a woman's perspective and I liked reading Mina's account of the events at that time. It was also refreshing to read Mina's struggles with being the very proper lady and still be a very sexual and sensual woman. Mina Harker makes for a delightful heroine and I found myself rooting for her all the way through the story; I felt her despair, her pain and her happiness. I will be honest and admit that I was saddened by the ending of the story. Karen Essex has written a beautiful love story and you are going to love it. Dracula in Love is going on my keeper shelf, right next to Bram Stoker's Dracula.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 29, 2011
I have read this novel three times now, it pulls the strings of my heart and brings my very being to a different realm of romance in my personal life, such a supernatural, intrigueingly romantic story, I wish I could read more as it ends but I like how the ending leaves it open to wherever you want it to go after that.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 7, 2011
This book falls into that small category of novels that entraps you, and when you try to escape to the pages of another book, you find yourself wandering right back to Dracula in Love. I enjoyed this book immensely.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 5, 2011
Dracula in Love by Karen Essex
Until now we have never been told the trueth about the woman who awoke the deepest depths of Dracul'a passion. Every story has two sides and finally Nina's story is told.
Karen Essex draws you into the life of Nina with a gentle hand bringing you into her world with words that paint the picture of her life. Essex's characters are written in exquiset detail, from the main characters to the "supporting actor's" like the old fisherman who brings Nina to tears.
Unlike many other aurthors who try to write books on vampires but end up only regurgitating the same story over and over again, Essex takes the classic points and shines them under a new light.
If you are going to read anything this year add this book to your must have's and keep an eye out for more from Karen Essex.
Posted August 11, 2011
Posted July 14, 2011
After reading Stoker's account of her relationship with Count Dracula, Mina Harker decides the author failed to obtain the truth or more likely revise what happened. The Count has been Mina's lover though she is unaware of this in their present relationship and that he would willingly die permanently for her.
In 1890 London, the human men in her life feel she is a porcelain doll needing their protection. She loathes the gilded cage her husband Jonathan keeps her inside of abetted by obsessed by Dr. Van Helsing and Dr. Seward. They are inane Victorian males who are wrong. Instead she and her dearest Count are in love as her supernatural powers begin to rival that of her beloved.
This entertaining retelling of the classic horror tale has a strong-willed Mina relate her interpretation of what occurred in England. In her mind, Dracula is the hero and her so called protectors the villains. Character driven, the plot is turned upside down as Mina sees the doctors and others assuming they know what is best for her, which is contrary to what she believes is best for her. Vampire romance fans will enjoy Dracula In Love as Mina tells her version of her passionate relationship with her Count and the murderous intruders who interfered.
Posted March 1, 2011
I was interested in the premise of this book, being a fan of gothic romances. I loved the new view of the classic story. However, the ending left me a little disappointed. I would have liked to see Dracula and his love end up together, considering the heroic way in which he rescued her from the pits of hell. Great writing and the novel moves forward at a good pace. I would recommend this one for a rainy day!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 15, 2011
Posted November 18, 2010
This book was not as I expected. I admit, I had some preconceived notions before reading this novel. The story of Dracula is fairly well known so it's was hard not to already have certain expectations. I'm a huge fan of Dracula stories and was intrigued by this one. First, I love the cover. It's dark, gothic feel invites you to dive into this book. As I said before, the storyline was not what I expected. Karen Essex took the tale we are all familiar with and mixed it with Irish folk/faerie tales. This made for an interesting story. The plot is mysterious and very sensual. The story is told from Mina's point of view, some of which is in diary entries. The only part of the story line that drove me crazy *SPOILER ALERT* was several mentions of how feeble and weak women are. I'm not a feminist but I did want to beat some of the characters over the head with my copy of this book. According to Karen Essex, this came from actual physicians notes. I am glad that I was born in this time period because they would have definitely locked me up! *SPOILER OVER* Karen uses many of the same characters we have all come to know but also introduces us to some new ones. I really like Kate, she has lots of gumption. I am sad to say, I didn't really care for Jonathan. To be honest I was pulling for Dracula the whole time. Overall I liked the story. It was a compelling read. This was the first novel I have read by Karen Essex. I definitely want to check out more of her work.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 6, 2010
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Karen Essex's Dracula in Love. The story took me into Victorian England with ease, and set me on a thrill ride right up to the last page. It is important for any potential readers to know that this is not just a vampire story, but rather an examination into the treatment of the women of that time period. Since this book is a retelling of Stoker's Dracula, the story already had a definite beiginning and end. However, I found myself wishing that the writer would have delved past the novel's end farther into Mina's life. Dracula and Mina are each other's soul mate's, kindred spirits, and the novel didn't leave us with that happy ending. Perhaps Essex will write a sequel???Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 22, 2010
There's lots of vampire fiction out there to choose from and I am rather picky on which ones I sink my teeth into. (Sorry couldn't resist) Dracula in Love by Karen Essex appealed to me as it is written from Mina's point of view. Mina, of course was at the centre of Bram Stoker's classic novel Dracula. Mina acknowleges that another novel has been written about what transpired, but it is false and she wants to tell the true story.
Essex cleverly uses many of the characters from Stoker's novel and completely retells the tale with Dracula not as a monster, but as a protector and lover of Mina.
I enjoyed the historical detail of the time and period. Essex has done a great job with bringing 1890 to life. Her descriptions of the asylums and 'modern' psychiatric methods in women's care were chilling, even more so as they are fact based. This theme is in direct contrast to Mina's awakening sexuality and plays a pivotal role in Essex's re imagined Dracula. The sex scenes read as very mild erotica.
I was completely caught up in this altered tale and actually liked Dracula, hoping he and Mina would finally end up together. But Dracula is not the focal point of Essex's novel. Rather it is Mina and Lucy who take centre stage. The depictions of all characters were strong though and fairly leapt off the page.
Essex has taken great pains to research eternal life through the ages with an eye to explaining the presence of vampires in the world. It's very well done, but I found myself glossing over a bit during these pages. I was in a rush to see what the final outcome would be.
Not your usual vampire fare - instead an intriguing mix of history, romance and the paranormal that combines for a pleasurable read.
Posted September 13, 2010
This book is told completely through Mina's eyes. No longer a secondary character for the men to build themselves on, but a fully formed person in her own right trying to find her way in Victorian England. Born a poor Irish child, Mina learns that there is a way to improve her station set in life and that is to learn everything she can at a boarding school to find a husband of society. After abandonment by her own parents, this is a welcome ideal even if it means suppressing her more "wild" nature that tormented her parents. She soon captures the heart of Jonathan Harker and they become engaged. However, a muse of sorts keeps pestering Mina in her dreams until she wonders if this is all life has to offer. Of course, this part is familiar to those that loved the book, Dracula, but there are also different characters involved. Kate Reed, Mina's journalistic friend and even Bram Stoker himself join the cast. These characters are necessary to place our main characters within both familiar and unfamiliar territory within the book.
This book is also not just about vampires and myth. It also holds some very real and historic issues of women of that day. Karen Essex makes it clear that the danger Mina and her female comrades face are not with preternatural "demons" but at the very hands of mortal men, some who had promised protection. Also, I found that it also speaks a bit (although lightly) about the power that was stripped away from women in some of the old traditions and religious practices. Mina rediscovers these myths and find them alive in England, but very watered down and misunderstood. Some of the myths even used as diagnosis in the "scientific" practices of Dr. Stewart and Dr. Van Helsing. I found this part to be historically accurate as well as interesting.
All in all I do give this book 4 stars. I had to take away a star because of the ending. It just didn't make sense to me. In fact, I feel that the ending could make some people not completely enjoy the book. However, taking it as a whole and not just an ending, I'd have to say that the book was well written and I really enjoyed the way she was able to add elements as well as change what we thought we knew about Dracula himself.
Posted August 27, 2010
I got chills reading this book. Karen really knows how to weave a story and keep a reader engaged. Dracula in Love is an instant hit and will be loved by readers for years to come.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 18, 2010
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In DRACULA IN LOVE, Karen Essex has given readers a Gothic adventure of a very well known character and put a new spin on it. Taking the characters from the classic Bram Stoker Dracula novel, she has used extensive research to write a seductive and beautifully crafted new version from a totally different point of view-that of the female, Mina Murray. In Stoker's novel, Mina Murray is the traditionally proper Victorian fiancé of Dracula's lawyer, Jonathan Harker, and Mina becomes the innocent target of the Count's evil act of revenge when he seduces her.
As Essex has the story told from Mina's point of view, it takes on the feel of historical fiction with Mina being anything but naive as she was in the original tale. Instead, she is a young women haunted by visions and dreams that leave her confused yet eerily fascinated. The nighttime escapades have her drawn to someone she is afraid of, but also desires, and this creature seems to know her inner most wishes and fears.
Mina is a strong main character, as expertly portrayed by Essex, and that immediately drew me to her. She looks for answers to her nightmares by visiting an insane asylum where she comes in contact with Von Helsinger, a unsavory doctor who is experimenting with blood transfusions. He also happens to be fascinated with the feasibility that vampires exist. Other characters are introduced as we learn more about Mina including Jonathan Harker, already mentioned, as well as Lucy Westerna and journalist, Kate Reed. Kate again adding to the theme of strong women during the period when they were rarely written about.
Of course, Count Vladimir Drakulya is there but isn't a strong physical presence until later in the story when Mira has had dealings with Dr. Von Helsinger and the evil Dr. Seward in the asylum. I found that the asylum section had the most shocking and horror filled scenes in the book. Count Drakulya seemed to be a more contemporary, tolerant, and stable personality in contrast to the other males. Essex clearly made the connection between Drakulya and Mina very powerful.
First to admit, not one who is on the vampire, book reading band wagon, my relationship to all things vampire comes from the Bram Stoker Dracula. I enjoyed the alluring, fast moving plot that Karen Essex has written and this rather lengthy book seemed to go by in a flash. I found myself drawn to it, much like Mina to Dracula, and unable to tear myself away. The extensive research that Essex put into this book built for me a time and place, as well as characters, that I could fully believe in and relate to. It also made me wonder how many other classic characters could be presented from another point of view like this and hope some astute writer, like Karen Essex, may try their hand at it.
On the back of the book one review reads "if you read only one more vampire novel, let it be this one". I say if you read only one more literary novel, let it be this one. Dracula in love is a masterpiece .Not only does it turn the classic tale on its head, at times it reads much better than the original. This is more than a love story, more than a vampire tale; it is a realistic look into the attitudes and social norms of Victorian England and the treatment of women in love.
In this retelling Lucy is not a victim of a monster, rather she is a victim of a passionate love affair. When she is caught with "bruising" on her neck (what we would call hickies) the men assume she has been assaulted by a mad man. It never occurs to them she has been out with her lover. Scared to reveal the truth Lucy makes up a story about being attacked by a fiend, only her mother suspects the truth and is shamed by her daughter's behavior. The poor girl ends up in an asylum along with other women who are thought to suffer from a type of hysteria. Though my copy is an ARC I am compelled to share this quote by the doctor who is overseeing the treatment of women like Lucy. Here he explains to Mina what is wrong with an older woman she has just met:
"Vivienne is what is known as an erotopath, a sexually preoccupied woman who becomes obsessed with one man, in this case, the lover who she recast in her imagination as the fairy prince".The erotopath generally becomes an annoying menace to the man, and he rejects her. The rejection drives the woman to nymphomania, which is a disorder in women who have abnormal sexual desires".
Yes, this was the attitude of Victorian England and continued into the 1950s. Essex uses this as her backdrop to her story. Honestly I was not even sure there was a vampire in this book until he shows up to save Mina from those who are trying to save her from her self.
After I finished the book I found myself wishing this was an original story, as I want Essex to be hailed as a master storyteller. I hope others see what she has done; taken a classic and used it to write an amazing novel that sheds light on the oppressive attitudes of Victorian England and how "modern medicine' hurt, rather than helped women. This is one of my favorite books of the year and I hope many others find it just as entertaining. I recommend this if you cannot get enough of vampire love stories, if you are interested in Victorian England and if you really like literary novels. Hell, I just highly recommend this book to everyone.