August 29th, 2010
It was but a few hours ago that I finished Dracula In Love by the woman of Independent Means, Miss (Mrs?) Karen Essex. The novel attempts to tell the story of the vampire Dracula's infamous visit to the Native Shores of England through the eyes of Wilhemina Harker, née Murray. Although Mina has the untested love of solidly middle-class and unimaginative Jonathan Harker, Esq., she becomes Enraptured by the dubious pleasures of the Flesh after Count Dracula lures her into his toothsome clutches. Her bestie, Lucy, also becomes embroiled in a Scandalous Affair with a Bold American Gentleman.
Reader, I have come across much disappointment in ye olde bloggosphere in regards to this book, and I regret to say that I share these intrepid reviewers' opinion. This novel is a mess and completely unsuccessful as a Romance or Vampire novel. It adds nothing to the myth of Dracula and often comes off as cheesy when it's trying to be spooky.
The largest difficulty for the book are the characters. Mina is completely uninteresting. Although she has Frequent Visions, she chooses to ignore them and marry Jonathan like a Proper Young Lady. This would be bad enough. But she never changes into a properly wicked woman, and thus remains a complete Yawnfest. Even after His Lordship Count Dracula appears and saves her from the evil Victorian Menfolk.
Speaking of--as we know, in many Victorian (and modern) novels, women are portrayed as archetypes of either being sweet and innocent, or sexually voracious and Dangerous. Although perhaps trying to overcorrect this, Essex has committed the opposite but equal sin of presenting the male characters in the book in just such a fashion. To wit, Jonathan, who is sweet and Innocent before he leaves for Austria (Austria, really? Let's just suck all the exoticism out of that trip) and becomes quite Dangerous and Untrustworthy after he returns, having experienced the lamias' fellatious acts performed upon his Person. But 'tis not just Jonathan with whom Mina must be Concerned--every male character is this book is some sort of threat, except for the old gentleman at the Cemetery, who will not be banging anything other than Heaven's Door any time soon. Morris Quince and The Count are both sexually voracious (or so we are led to believe--actually the Count seems quite normal in his sexual appetites, unless you count the Blood) and of questionable character, while the other male characters repress their sexuality but are arguably of a more immediate Threat.
And this leads me to the biggest disappointment in the novel, Dracula Himself. Lamest. Dracula. Ever! He isn't even present for the first two-thirds of the book, and when he did appear in Full Force, I had to cheer. Yet it quickly became apparent that this Dracula was being played by Sensitive Alpha Male, having left Dangerous Alpha Male in, I don't know, the Land of the Little People, perhaps. The poor gentleman puts on a good show, but he is totally whipped by a woman who repeatedly rejects him to be a Proper Young Lady. What kind of relationship is this, anyway? It's time to move on, brother.
There was one good part of the novel, however--when Mina and Jonathan stay at Lindenwood Asylum, where Doctors Seward and Von Helsinger reside. This section of the novel was genuinely creepy and for a good fifty pages I thought the author was doing something interesting with the tale of Lucy and Mina and had a genuine Idea rolling around in her head. In fact, the entire novel would have been better if it had been centered around those chapters. But Alas, it was not to be.
Dear Reader, I know so many of us love the vampires. Particularly The Vampire of all the vampires, his royal countiness himself, Dracula. But it's my firm believe that Ms. Essex doesn't know vampires from pixies and has little insight into Dracula's appeal. She should stick to straight historical novels next time and I'm sure she will be more successful.
With sincerity, and many thanks to Carrie from Books and Movies for sending me this book,
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