If you think you know Bram Stoker’s Dracula inside out, think again. In Karen Essex’s dark, sensual retelling entitled Dracula in Love, she presents a drastically altered version of the story which contributed to the genesis of a whole sub-genre of vampire tales. In the original novel, very little information is provided about Mina Murray; Karen Essex fleshes out Mina’s character and gives her a strong, feminine voice. Through Mina’s eyes, the reader witnesses a very different take of what occurred between Jonathan, Mina, and Count Dracula (renamed Drakulya in Essex’s tale), as well as Lucy Westenra and her various suitors.
Like Stoker’s Dracula, Essex’s Dracula in Love is an epistolary novel. Many themes from Stoker’s vision of Gothic horror are also very apparent in Essex’s retelling, especially women’s roles in Victorian England. It’s been a few years since I read Dracula, and I found it very helpful to read through a detailed summary of the novel before beginning Dracula in Love. Readers who wish to evaluate Essex’s work on its own merit should probably shy away from re-reading Dracula or a summary of it until after completing Dracula in Love.
There are some scenes in Dracula in Love that I believe were entirely unique to this retelling. Because Lucy has an insatiable appetite for sex, she is considered to be mad. At the insistence of her betrothed, Arthur Holmwood, Lucy is admitted into an insane asylum headed by Dr. Von Helsinger. His unethical “treatments” are ultimately the cause of Lucy’s death. Later on, Mina herself undergoes the same terrifying therapy at Jonathan’s request. These scenes are not for the faint of heart, and were truly disturbing to read. Every treatment these women were subjected to (with the exception of the drinking of blood) were really practiced during the Victorian period.
[amazonify]0385528914[/amazonify]Enough things stayed true to the original in Dracula in Love, so it will not ruin the ending of the novel to tell you that in this version Mina also chooses Jonathan over the Count. In Dracula I much preferred Jonathan to the Count, but in Essex’s version I despised Jonathan and nearly all of the male characters. I found myself disappointed that Mina did not choose the Count over Jonathan, who was mostly boring and lacked character, as I’m sure was the author’s intention.
Dracula in Love was in some ways more enjoyable for me than the original Dracula, but I think overall I still prefer Stoker’s version. Don’t be fooled that Dracula in Love has been labeled as “the novel for Twilight’s grown-up fans”; there is quite a bit of eroticism and sensual language that I think some Twilight fans would not appreciate. Hardcore vampire lovers might also be disappointed that Dracula doesn’t even appear until the very last section of the novel.
Jennifer graduated from the University of Utah with a BA in English. She occasionally dabbles with her own fiction writing, particularly with the Young Adult and Paranormal genres. She currently resides in Utah with her husband and daughter.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Doubleday. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.