I am back! Well, I have been home for a week, but the pain has kept me from the computer. I tried last week to catch up with those of you who I follow, but the pain stopped me from commenting and fully participating in the blogging world. I am hopeful by the end of this week I will back to my normal self.
I did manage to finish a few books while recuperating. I have a small pile of books waiting to be reviewed, this being my favorite. Dracula in Love by Karen Essex was one of those surprise gems we reviewers find once in a great while. Books like this are why I take the time to review books, really it why I keep reading. So here it is dear Reader, my first review since my surgery.
Before I begin I must make it clear that I received this book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. I found this title on Shelf Awareness and want to thank Karen Essex for sending it to me.
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.
I'm a writer, lifelong bibliophile ,and researcher. I hold a Bachelors in Humanities & History and a Master's in Humanities. When I'm not reading or talking about Shakespeare or history, you can usually find me in the garden discussing science or politics with my cat.
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4 thoughts on “Dracula in Love. A must read for everyone”
Welcome back Sari! So happy you are back safe and sound from surgery! Please take care of yourself– when the doctors say it will take six months to fully recover from surgery, they mean it. this book sounds interesting– I've always found the way woman were treated in the victorian era for normal sexual appetites interesting to read about and disturbing. The doctors used to manually stimulate the women as treatment— hmmm. Just who was the pervert anyway!? I will keep an eye out for this book. Sounds fabulous!
Thanks Lesa,Yes, i agree the treatment was disturbing. I did not want to give anything away but a question that is asked in the book is who should women really be afraid of? The book comes out in August. I hope it is a hit.
This book will keep you at the edge of your seat quite literally and figuratively. I thought it was a great read and Karen Essex portrayal of Mina as a sensual woman battling with societal views of woman and her own inner thinking and works is brilliant. I loved it!
I, too, was struck intensely by just how real the scenes depicting medical practices of the day were. It is rare that I react so viscerally to a book, even when I am wrapped up completely in one. At times, I was literally squirming- either in anticipation at the madness to come, or from the descriptions of the procedures, as well as the vivid depictions of Victorian male condescension and patronization of the female characters.Another thing you just touched on in your review that I found quite interesting was the new take on the mythology surrounding the creation and characteristics of vampires. Although there are lines clearly drawn to what I tend to think vampires should be, for all intents and purposes, Karen Essex's vampires do not look like any I have ever seen before, and it's a truly fascinating thing. She touches on other phenomenon as well, weaving local ghost stories, mystical occult practices, and faerie tales throughout the book.Dracula in Love did a fantastic job of turning traditional vampire archetypes on their head as well as delving deep into the realms of concrete Victorian history. There are powerful questions raised about gender roles as well. Anyone interested in any of these topics -or just interested in a spellbinding tale- should not miss out.For more information on the book and the author click here.