Audiobook Review: Dracula in Love by Karen Essex

Karen Essex is, as far as I can tell, an author noted for the incredibly well-recreated periods of her historical fiction novels. After reading (ahem, listening to) Dracula in Love, I'm surprised the historical fiction aspect of these novels has been impressed on anyone's minds, as the rather explicit sex scenes pretty much dominate one's imagination - and memory - of the book.

I suppose it's unfair to judge an author's previous works based on only the one, so from here on out I will keep my comments limited to just the one.

Essex' latest novel, Dracula in Love, retells the "true" story of Dracula from the perspective of Ms. Mina Murray, orphan, schoolteacher, proper British lady, sleepwalker, and Dracula's love interest. Essex cleverly works in several appearances of a "red-headed gentleman," whom we can only assume must be Bram Stoker, who is perverting the facts and the story to create the tale we still read today. But Mina's story - one of love and loss, misunderstanding and madness, otherwordly powers and the very human Count Dracula - is, we are told, the accurate version of events, transcribed by Mina herself to set the record straight for her children, if not for the greater reading public.

By carefully twisting the plot elements presented by Stoker, Essex has, in fact, successfully recreated the story of Dracula. While the early pages of the book closely mirror that of Stoker's original story, the plots quickly diverge, yet never far enough apart that one fails to see Essex' inspiration in her telling. And, as other readers before me have noted, Essex is a master at historical (romantic) fiction; she captures the details of Victorian England near perfectly; relates the culture and speech of the time as accurately as one who had been there; and even details the fashions and dress of the time as one who is well-studied in the era might.

Despite all of this - a gripping plot, a masterful reworking of given storylines, and a well-researched account of a time period - the end result fills like little more than a romance novel. Why, you ask? Well, I am no prude - I love a good steamy scene as much as the next reader - but the sheer mass of erotic content in Dracula in Love sadly overshadows the otherwise well-done novel.

Bottom line: Perhaps I might not have been so disturbed by the erotic nature of Essex' work if the book had not been recommended to me by my 15-year-old sister, but as it stands, the novel was ultimately discomforting. Still, Dracula in Love is a well-told, engaging retelling of the popular Dracula story, perhaps most appreciated by those already familiar with Stoker's work, but still promising to be enjoyed by lovers of historical fiction, supernatural and yes, pure romance novels.

A note on the audio: Read by Bianca Amato, the audiobook of Dracula in Love is, like the novel, well-done, as well as well-read. Amato's voice is clear and easy to understand, and for a long novel - nearly 13 hours - rarely, if ever, unintelligible.

1 comment

  1. The same goes for swearing. I am no prude when it comes to coarse language, but a little goes a long way.


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