Tomorrow, my good friend Karen Essex's latest novel, DRACULA IN LOVE, hits the stores! In celebration of its release, here's my review of this sumptuous and passionate interpretation of the immortal love story (this review first appeared on Loaded Questions):
Dracula Gets Sexy
He’s the enigmatic stranger in the black cape, a shape-shifting outcast who has given rise to some of literature’s - and Hollywood’s - most iconic imagery. When it was published in 1897, Bram Stoker’s Dracula was a critically acclaimed horror story; it did not send the shockwaves it should have through Victorian morality, excavating the repressed sexuality and decay of a fading empire while exalting the era's misogynistic flair. However, in subsequent years, as it garnered international bestselling status, Dracula began to reveal itself as a cautionary tale of unbridled desire.
Now, 113 years later, bestselling author Karen Essex, known for her lush prose and portraits of powerful women in Leonardo’s Swans, Stealing Athena, and a double-volume look at the quintessential femme fatale, Kleopatra and Pharaoh, takes on the Count in Dracula in Love. It’s a bold move. While Dracula has been revisited several times and in various incarnations, not all have been successful; and many of us have firm ideas of who he is, and, more importantly, who he is not. Nevertheless, Ms Essex serves up a sensual, unabashedly romantic approach to the fanged one, telling the tale through the voice of Mina herself, whose love affair with Dracula has become a byword for eternal obsession.
Building on framework established by Stoker, Essex vividly presents the true Victorian world inhabited by these characters—a world where a fledgling emancipation movement collides with the barbaric treatment of those deemed sexually neurotic; where marriage is still the ultimate goal for a woman; and virtue is prized more than fulfillment. While most of Stoker’s cast is present, they’ve been reshaped, with Lucy paying a terrifying price for her extra-betrothal liaison and Van Helsing as a righteous physician engaged in lethal experimentation. The Count takes his time before he appears, seen only in tantalizing glimpses; by then, Mina’s engaging, increasingly paranoid voice has captured our imagination, as she struggles to survive both her own recurring nightmares and a budding awareness that just beyond her tightly corseted existence lurks a tangled labyrinth of feral secrets.
Dracula in Love is not a standard vampire tale and purists may take issue with Ms Essex’s mythology-inspired take on the legend; however, for those who yearn for something more than adolescents pining over immortal boyfriends, this is the antidote—a luscious paean to forbidden longing.
To learn more about Karen Essex and her work, and to participate in the resurrection of our favorite Count, please visit Karen's website.