Dracula in Love
Karen Essex
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Buy *Dracula in Love* by Karen Essex online

Dracula in Love
Karen Essex
384 pages
July 2011
rated 3 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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Click here to read reviewer Karri Watson's take on Dracula in Love.

Karen Essex’s grand and atmospheric but uneven tale thrusts readers into the 1890s as immortal beings watch over men and a disembodied voice of deep timbre and sensuous growls comes laden with promises of love, slithering deep into Mina Murray’s dreams. When Mina is rescued on the banks of the Thames, there is no explanation she can possibly give for how she came to wander out of doors in the middle of the night and to have been nearly raped by a stranger just before dawn.

Employed at Miss Hadley’s School for Young Ladies to teach reading, etiquette and decorum to girls, Mina recalls episodes of a mysterious and disturbing nature, the vivid memories rushing back even as she prepares to embark on a new life with handsome Jonathan Harker. With Jonathan's open mind and his broad way of thinking, it's pretty clear that love above fortune with him will be a positive part of Mina's future.

When Mina accompanies her best friend, Kate Reed, on an assignment to the home of Godfrey and Louise Gummler, husband and wife spiritualists and photographers, Mina spies the image of a man in elegant evening clothes staring directly at her. His eyes, deep set and haunted, produce an icy feeling that crawls up Mina's spine, through her head and into her eyes. A sudden blackness wells up inside of her. Her wicked, desperate desires - so long ignored - are now in danger of becoming unbound.

In the quaint town of Whitby on the Yorkshire Coast, Mina stays with Lucy and Lucy's mother, Mrs. Westenra, there learning from an ancient whaler about the spirits who can bring themselves back to life by stealing the blood of a young woman. Indeed, Lucy seems to be fading away before Mina’s very eyes, her skin “as thin as tracing paper.” Lucy’s passions for dashing Morris Quince do little to alleviate the pattern of purple bruises and wound marks stippled against the cream white of her neck and chest. A monster in Whitby is casting his evil intent toward genteel ladies.

In Essex’s unique interpretation of the Dracula legend, dreams of terrible, lurid things that no woman should do haunt Lucy as she fades into death before Mina’s eyes. Jonathan, whom Mina thought should be her salvation, is subsumed into the mystery. Fearing for his safety, Mina travels to Styria, desperate for answers to explain the strange chain of events begun this past summer. Mina, filled with thoughts of vindicating Lucy, is blindsided by doctors at a local asylum who begin to thwart her at every turn. Her private passions seen as a danger to herself and to all of womanhood, only Mina’s spiritual lover can save her, coming to her in dreams through "the rivers of time."

While Essex vividly reinvents Stoker’s tale with Mina's added spiritual and sexual epiphanies, her Count Dracula comes across as a bit tepid and uninteresting. Viewed through the prism of blurred lenses, the vampire's immortal desires are merely a footnote to a convoluted backstory where blood houses the soul and where a secret, ancient brotherhood seeks to discover the key to everlasting life.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Michael Leonard, 2010

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