Dracula in Love
by Karen Essex
Doubleday (August 10, 2010)
The red-haired Irish writer (aka Bram Stoker) had it all wrong when he wrote his turgid tale of a vampire aristocrat.
From Mina Harker's perspective, her relationship with Dracula brought with it an alternate reality. Although certain characters have the same or similar names as found in Stoker, the "true story" is quite different. It is instead an exquisite timeless tale of love and passion. Mina, while engaged to solicitor Jonathan Harker, has recurring visions of a lover very familiar to her although her memories are so hazy she cannot identify him. He carries her to a world in a place and time not connected to our own and begs her to remember the endless years they have had together. Often he appears in the real world as a protector when she finds herself in danger. Always he is an incredibly attractive and powerful presence.
For those who have read Bram Stoker's Dracula you know that Jonathan was sent to the Castle where he eventually becomes the Count's prisoner. Not exactly true the reader and Mina discover. In Mina's account she receives a note, unsigned but with very familiar handwriting, that of her dream lover, telling her of Jonathan's whereabouts. He's been ill and is confined to a small hospital in Gratz. Mina travels there and finds Jonathan suffering from psychic wounds he is loath to talk about or remember.
He finally confesses to Mina the truth about the luxurious life at the Count's home and the passionate nights spent with Dracula's enchanting and beautiful nieces. Then, without warning, he finds himself wandering fields not knowing where he is or even who he is until someone finds him and brings him to the hospital where the doctors and nurses endeavor to bring him back to health. All the darkness and foreboding of Stoker's Castle Dracula is nonexistent.
Familiar characters such as Lucy, Arthur Holmwood and Dr John Seward are present, so are Morris Quince and Dr. Von Helsinger - names similar to those used by Stoker. In Essex' novel their personalities and agendas differ in the extreme. Additionally there is Kate Reed, a friend of Mina's and Lucy's and a strong minded reporter. The three women attended school together. Mina stayed on after graduation as a teacher, a job she loved. One of the reasons Mina writes her story is to have the truth available, if only for her children, in case they should ever come across the hack novel of the red-haired Irishman.
What comes across quite strongly, other than the expected story, is the limited life choices of upper class Victorian women, and their treatment as lesser beings. At one point Mina suffers greatly at the hands of all the men around her including Jonathan, simply because as a female she cannot be expected to know what is best for her. It is Dracula who finds and saves her.
Last month Syrie James published Dracula, My Love which is also written from Mina's point of view. In this instance Mina wishes to add her experiences to Stoker's tale by writing her own secret journal. The basic plot is followed, characters retain their same qualities but Mina, who is never fully comes to life in Stoker's hands, has much more influence on events due to her secret forbidden romance with Dracula.
Read a REVIEW of Dracula, My Love
I received an ARC copy of each book through Library Journal