Book Review: Dracula in Love by Karen Essex

Title: Dracula in Love
Author: Karen Essex
Genre: Historical fiction, paranormal fiction
Publisher: Doubleday
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Source: ARC from the publisher
First line: Everyone has a secret life.

Mina Murray has seen and heard strange things ever since she was a child. Her ability was enough to make her father think she was a changeling, a faerie child. Sent to a boarding school for girls, Mina rejects her gifts and becomes a mannered young lady, eventually teaching other young girls how to survive in cultured society. When the handsome young solicitor Jonathan Harker proposes, Mina’s dream of having a normal family seems about to come true. She is determined to ignore the seductive man she sees in her dreams, whose voice she hears calling to her.

When Jonathan leaves on extended business, Mina visits her friend Lucy, and discovers that Lucy has become enthralled by the charismatic Morris Quince, in spite of her mother’s desire that she become engaged to Lord Arthur Goldalming. As Mina becomes more and more concerned about her friend, she meets an old sailor who tells her some of the legends of the area, legends of the dead rising again, of spirit beings who drain the life-force of their victims.

Mina receives a telegram that her fiance has been committed to a hospital after being found wandering in the countryside, suffering from a brain fever. What Mina discovers when she hears the full details of Jonathan’s experiences will lead her even deeper into a world of dark desires, supernatural gifts, and an eternal love affair.

I really wanted to love this book. I have been a fan of Karen Essex’s historical fiction since I read Stealing Athena a couple of years ago, and then Leonardo’s Swans confirmed my opinion that she is a writer who values strong female characters and well-researched historical settings, and can write some gorgeously descriptive prose. The books also tend to be a bit racy, but nothing that made me quit reading – although my mom did put Leonardo’s Swans aside as too descriptive for her taste.

Reading these previous Essex novels in no way prepared me for the sensual and erotic book that is Dracula in Love. I know that I may be in the minority in this, but I prefer more left to the imagination when it comes to love scenes. I understand that this less-descriptive way of writing would not have fit the framework of Essex’s novel, in which she explores the way normal female sexual appetites were often attributed to mental illness, and treated as such with horrific methods. Her gift of research and describing historical details comes through most strongly in the scenes in a mental institution, scenes that vividly showed the inhumane and gruesome treatment methods employed by psychiatrists.

I definitely wanted to know how the story turned out, how Count Drakulya and Mina would eventually find each other, and what the result would be for her marriage to Jonathan. The story was enthralling – just as the Count is to Mina – but by the fourth or fifth graphic sex scene it all became a bit much for me. It seemed as if the book’s viewpoint is that denying one’s sexual nature in any way is a result of an old-fashioned, Victorian mentality. As a Christian, I am one who believes that the idea of purity before marriage and fidelity within marriage are good things, and that giving in to every single impulse of one’s sexual nature leads to negative consequences that are far-reaching. I know, however, that many of you will not share these viewpoints and therefore may not be bothered in the same way I was when reading this novel.

Ms. Essex does write beautifully, and while this novel was not one I loved, she remains one of my favorite authors of historical fiction, and I will continue to seek out her work, as I believe that the extremely erotic nature of this book was a result of the story she was telling, and not a writing style that she always employs.

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17 Responses to Book Review: Dracula in Love by Karen Essex

  1. Serena
    Twitter: SavvyVerseWit

    I received this book within the last couple of weeks, but haven’t had a chance to read it yet. Thanks for the honest review. Graphic sex scenes don’t bother me too much, but it depends on their purpose and role in the overall story.
    .-= Serena´s last blog ..8th Confession by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro audio =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Serena – I know that a lot of people have loved it – and she is such a remarkable writer. It was a hard book to review!

  2. carol
    Twitter: carolsnotebook

    I have this one sitting on my shelf. Thanks for the review; it kind of prepares me for the story, if that makes sense. I’m still looking forward to reading it.

  3. I don’t think this one is for me – thanks for your review.

  4. Amy says:

    I have this one on my shelf too. I’m not sure what to think of it so I’ve put it off a bit. Thanks for the review.
    .-= Amy´s last blog ..The Divine Sacrifice =-.

  5. Sandy
    Twitter: youvegottaread

    I have the same values as you, and while graphic sexuality doesn’t bother me all that much if it serves a purpose, it can be overdone. Sounds like this one probably stepped over the line.
    .-= Sandy´s last blog ..This Body of Death – Elizabeth George audio =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Sandy – well, the line thing is so subjective, right? I mean, it crossed my line, but may not bother others. It was so hard to write this review, because I have truly loved Karen’s other books and have e-mailed with her a bit, and she’s a lovely woman. I hope the book does well for her.

  6. Kathleen says:

    I’m not sure this one would be for me either.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Kathleen – good thing there is such a variety in the book world, huh?

  7. Darlene says:

    This one is on my wishlist. I’d love to read it. I think the cover is great as well. I’m not much for the graphic sex-normally I’ll just zip over it if it’s too much for my liking.

  8. heidenkind says:

    Hm, well it still sounds worth a try, definitely. I’m not a huge fan of erotica, either, but if the story’s good I’ll read anything.
    .-= heidenkind´s last blog ..What Are Your 3 Favorite Genres =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Tasha – it is a good story and very well-written, so you will probably like it. 🙂

  9. Pingback: BOOKS AND MOVIES » The Sunday Salon – August 8, 2010 (the “July reading wrap-up” edition)