Dracula in Love Review
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Once upon a time, novels about vampires were horror stories—the stories of vicious creatures who sucked the blood of the living. Now, however, thanks to the popularity of Stephenie Meyer and her Twilight Saga, they’ve been turned into sappy romances, with vampires controlling their blood-sucking urges to become devoted, passionate (and just slightly dangerous) lovers. It seems that no vampire story is sacred—not even the one that started it all.

In Dracula in Love, author Karen Essex takes Bram Stoker’s Dracula and turns it on its head, claiming to tell Mina Murray’s real story. As the title suggests, it’s an immortal love story—about a love so passionate that an immortal being eagerly awaits each new lifetime with the woman he loves.

Mina has always been different. She has dreams that are strangely real—and she sometimes wakes to find herself wandering outside in the middle of the night. But as her marriage to Jonathan Harker approaches, the dreams are becoming more frequent and more erotic. And, in them, she often sees the same dark and mysterious man.

When Jonathan leaves London for work in Styria, Mina goes on vacation with her friend, Lucy, who is also about to be married. But Mina isn’t the only one who’s keeping a dark secret. She may be having improper dreams, but Lucy’s secret is real—and shockingly scandalous.

When Lucy’s secret is exposed, her reputation and her life are both in danger. But Mina is too busy trying to nurse her ailing new husband—who was found wandering Styria, raving like a madman—to help her friend.

Dracula in Love reworks the classic vampire story so the point that human men are now the real villains—instead of the blood-sucking monsters. In a note at the end of the book, Essex comments on the extreme sexism of Stoker’s novel, explaining that it’s often regarded as a cautionary tale, warning against the emancipation and sexual awakening of women at the end of the 19th century. In her retelling of the story, she then takes this theory and exaggerates it to the extreme, depicting the male characters (aside from the worldly American) as manipulative and controlling, expecting their women to be pure and submissive. Any woman who does anything that’s considered masculine or even sexual is regarded as insane. These women are then sent to the asylum, where the chauvinistic monster, Dr. Von Helsinger, tortures them while conducting his own evil experiments.

Essex takes her retelling very seriously—so seriously, in fact, that she continually beats her readers over the head with this new, modern viewpoint. There’s absolutely no subtlety about it—and it all feels too deliberate and preachy.

At the same time, the story also borrows heavily (and rather obviously) from the Twilight Saga—from the vampires’ luminous skin and super-human speed to the count’s hesitation to turn Mina, no matter how much she begs for it. The tone, too, is more like Twilight : schmaltzy and melodramatic instead of dark and gothic.

Though Twihards might enjoy the vampire romance and steamy sensuality of Dracula in Love, fans of classic literature and gothic horror will be disappointed—and probably even horrified—by its preachy, watered-down rehashing of Bram Stoker’s haunting thriller.

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