Dracula In Love, by Karen Essex – Book Review

Orphaned at a young age and possessing a troubled history of otherworldly visitations, sleepwalking and dubious Irish heritage, Mina Murray has risen to become a respected governess, engaged to an up and coming solicitor, Jonathan Harker.  She expects to love this one man for the rest of her life and anticipates raising a family with him.  When a handsome stranger makes unexplained appearances wherever she goes, Mina discovers the world she thought she knew is not what she assumed.

Vampire stories and re-imaginings of the Dracula mythology have taken a prominent place in today’s literature. Having already read one such re-telling of the epic vampire story, it was hard for me to read another within a short time span.  I put off reading Dracula in Love, Karen Essex’ re-working of the classic tale from Mina’s perspective, until I could read it as its own project and not in comparison to anything else. It’s unfortunate that it took me so long to clear the lingering Dracula cobwebs because Essex’s rendering is thus far my favorite of the vampire tales, excepting the original, which I still have’t read.

I loved how Essex opens up the story to include the flavor and issues of the day. Through Mina’s friend, the invented character Kate Reed, Essex explores women beginning to assert themselves, seeking places in the work force, and challenging sexual stereotypes which have kept them at the physical, financial and emotional mercy of men.  She also touches upon the spiritualism movement, in full swing  at the time, preying upon the grief-stricken families.  Mina’s position as a governess in an all female institution which teaches its students old school charm and manners, puts her in conflict with herself – her feelings of what constitutes good breeding and decorum war with the curiosity calling her to more fully explore her world and the ardent awakening of her body and desires.

As much as this is a novel exploring the origins of vampire lore, the possibilities that could have spawned such creatures and their tenuous relationships with human beings, it is also about the nature of the relationships between men and women, the powerlessness that being a woman can engender, and the dangers faced by women at the hands those who would seek to exploit the weakness of their position as well as those who mean well but cause harm.  I liked that Mina had to delve into her own history in order to find her power, and to navigate the complexities of choosing between two men who support the needs of different aspects of herself.  Essex’ writing is of the quality that can be embraced and sunken into, and I liked that with the exception a few characters, each thought of themselves as the hero in another’s story, or at least not always the villain.  Far from being out off by the mythologies and fairytales Essex posits, I was intrigued by their incorporation into Mina’s story.

This was my first foray into Essex’s work and it won’t be my last.  I have a habit of collecting books by authors whose novels sound fascinating – the ones I think I will enjoy.  I am  happy that I have at least two others of hers on my shelf, and I look forward to having the opportunity to read them.

Read More Reviews At: Hist-Fic ChickThat’s What She ReadJust Book Reading –  Laughing Stars

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 September, One Of The Most Bookish Times Of The Year

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  1. This sounds lovely! I have never been a vampire fan, though this caught my attention. Maybe it’s worth it if it’s exploring other psychological veins, outside of the normal paranormal. ;O)

  2. I think on this book more than any other that I’ve read about recently, the opinions have been completely bi-polar! All negative and positives fully supported! You’ve written a great review here though, and you make me want to read it.

  3. I have this one to read — and a few others by Essex. I’ve good things about her and am glad to learn from you that her praise is warranted.

  4. I read this one, and I just didn’t care for it. I’m glad you liked it though! I do like vampire books and was hoping for more about Dracula in this book I guess.

  5. I have this one on the wish list, but after reading Dracula, My Love and Dracula proper, I’ve been rather uninterested in picking it up. Looks like I really should.

  6. I won this book in a giveaway and haven’t picked it up yet! I’m excited to read it — I love the Dracula story so much, that I always get worried when there is a retelling or a different version/perspective of it. But sounds like this one came through — thank goodness!!

  7. I’d really like to read this one! I keep hearing such wonderful things. I’m happy you say you haven’t read the original Dracula, because I haven’t either.

  8. I love “Dracula” by Bram Stoker as a masterpiece of horror and love, i have always been keen on vampire/folk tales .I recently read this re-telling by Karen Essex whom I havent heard of before. I was pretty disappointed by the overall result. Although i liked the additional characters (Kate Reed)to add veracity and perspective to ilustrate Mina’s dilemmas about being a woman, not coming from money and the challenges that women had to endure in a time where making a good marriage was the ultimate goal. I totally disapprove this version where the author through the character of Mina punishes Van Helsing, ultimate antihero of the original story line and other male characters. In this book, Mina is the ultimate victim but also the one with the power to decide and make or end her own happiness/suffering but she decides to give up eternity in hopes of the traditional decision. Where does the feminism invocate by Mina and Kate ends but if she ultimately decides to give up her powers to be just a “regular” person? I dont think the story makes sense as the author really cant change the ending of Bram Stoker original book so it ended up being a futile exercise of fantasy with the same result. Not impressed at all.