I recently received a review copy of Dracula in Love by Karen Essex, the latest in a long line of Dracula reimaginings (such as last year’s Dracula: The Undead.) What sets it apart from The Undead (which I loathed) is that Essex has a purpose in turning the original tale on its head–that is, demonstrating the powerlessness of women in Victorian society and the lengths men would go to suppress them further. The way Stoker and his novel are worked in subtly (as compared to how Stoker’s grand-nephew did it) makes it all the more believable.
I wouldn’t recommend the book to all vampire fans, as it’s really not a vampire book except for some bloodletting. For fans of traditional Gothic horror and mystery, on the other hand, it is well-suited. The crimes are grisly, yet grounded in reality and the science of the 19th century.
The writing, for me, struggled at times, most notably when describing sexual events and feelings in the vague language of proper Victorian society. Likewise, I wished Mina’s character could have been stronger and more proactive, within that society’s confines as well as in her emergence into the supernatural world. Like many heroines she seemed to be subject only to male wills until her final decision between lovers is made. I’m not a big romance reader, so maybe that’s common, but I felt it detracted from the overall thrust of the novel.
Overall, I felt it was better as a paranormal romance with some familiar Dracula names than as a true Dracula-inspired story.