Dracula in Love by Karen Essex – Book Review

Dracula in Love by Karen Essex
Published by Doubleday, an imprint of Random House

As a maligned and psychologically abused child, Mina Murray has only ever wanted from her adult life is normalcy. She renounced her strange ways after being sent to boarding school and now it seems she may have achieved the normalcy she has always desired; not only has she had success as a teacher at her former boarding school, she is now engaged to the handsome young solicitor, Jonathan Harker. All is not as it seems with Mina, however. She has been dreaming incredibly sensual dreams, all of which involve a handsome, mysterious stranger, who Mina is certain she has seen somewhere before.

“Dracula” is a literary classic, but it is written entirely from the point of view of the men in the story. “Dracula in Love” is Karen Essex’s response to Stoker opus, told entirely from Mina’s point of view. Instead of remaining a cardboard cutout of the apex of Victorian womanhood, Essex’s Mina is a fully fleshed hotblooded woman. She yearns not only for the normalcy of marriage, but for the intimacies that accompany it. And even being engaged doesn’t keep her for lusting after her erotic dreams.

When people think about “Dracula,” they often forget just how much Stoker’s masterpiece is about sex, because it is disguised for Victorian sensibilities. But really, vampire myths are sex central: the penetration, the exchanging of bodily fluids. What I really appreciated about “Dracula in Love” is that Essex acknowledged how much the story was about sex and incorporated it into her story, without being needlessly salacious and graphic. It was really a very fine line to walk and people who are sensitive to sex in their novels may think that she’s taken it slightly too far, but I thought she achieved a very good balance.

A delightful re-imagining of “Dracula” and vampire lore with a strong female perspective. I loved Essex’s take on the vampire mythology as well. Highly recommended.

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