Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Dracula in Love, by Karen Essex: a review

Dracula in LoveDracula in Love by Karen Essex
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I wanted too much from this book.  I wanted rich descriptive passages that made me feel like I was in Victorian England. I wanted strong characterization. I wanted Mina to be as strong a character as she's been written elsewhere. Most of all, I wanted a vampire story. Sadly, Dracula in Love was none of these things.

It was erotic. I'll grant you that.  However, I felt that Essex's choice to narrow the scope of her Victoriana to the extreme sexism and rigidity of the day did a great disservice to the era, as well as her characters.

I also found the way in which Mina Murray-Harker, the central character, went from being the primary moving force of the narrative in the first half to more or less being along for the ride, and a long winded ride at that, grated on my nerves. Possibly the most irritating part of this story was the way that the last quarter of the novel was posed as a journey of self discovery, but was entirely led by her lover, who was baiting her and manipulating her.  So disappointed on that level.

Of course, I didn't put it down, because I do generally enjoy a good erotic vampire story, and I had high hopes for the story saving itself. Again, I was sadly disappointed.

So why the two stars, you ask? There are passages within the novel that are so well written that it compels the reader to look for the next one. There are moments when Essex gets out of her own way and lets the reader see glimmers of what this book could have been if she'd been willing to write something longer, deeper, and possibly to risk having the readers dislike her heroes a bit more.  It could have been so much more, and the moments where Essex's creative voice shines through the prattle about foul humors, irregular menstruation, and a woman's proper place, they were pure gold.

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