Dracula in Love by Karen Essex
Anchor, 2011, 384 pages
Ughhhhh. I can’t believe I’m writing this review. Okay, so here’s the thing – I don’t read a lot of trashy romance novels. And I name them as such with the utmost respect and objectivity. Like, I enjoy plenty of other trashy things, like puns and terrible memes and crappy romantic comedies. Trashy romance novels have never really been my thing, but I’ve always appreciated them as an important piece of human (American?) culture and, yes, feminism. I won’t get into the weeds on why I feel trashy romance novels (TRNs) can be the epitome of feminism. I’m sure there’s plenty of literature on the topic for you to explore and this particular post is not about the intersection of TRNs and feminism. Sorry.
I tell you all this because, when I picked up Dracula in Love, I certainly expected some elements of the TRN, but didn’t really get the sense that was about all it would be. And, yeah, okay, you could make the argument that the book is more than a TRN. In fact, the author’s afterword says as much. Karen Essex took the time to write out this really rather well-done piece on how the book is a critical look at Victorian prudishness and the feminist sexual revolution and such. And, sure, if you read the novel with that in mind and with the intent of finding such content, you could probably pull out a good deal of passages that will agree with that argument. But, let’s face it, like myself, most readers will pick this up for a fun read and never get to the higher-level capital-P Point the author was (apparently) trying to make. The fact that the author tries to impose this meaning (after having done so either poorly or too subtly in the book itself) bothers me.
But also, the book. The book itself. So much of it is a deficient attempt at mimicking Victorian language, culture, and so on (but, yes, still with a feminist twist(?)) and it just goes on. Dracula in Love, despite the title, is not really about Dracula at all. Dracula’s presence isn’t a real force in the book until two-thirds or so through it. The majority of the book follows Mina and Jonathan Harker, both of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Mina, the woman in which Dracula is supposedly in love with, has her teaching job and her friends (who, frankly, are infinitely more interesting than she is), and her fiancé-turned-husband. But as it turns out, she also has a history which Dracula is all too happy to share with her.
There are simply too many things going on in this novel, particularly as things start to make sense (or, pretend to). Too many relations, too many explanations, too many characters, and, in the overly-flowery pretend-style of Victorian literature, too many words. And maybe that’s part of the point: excess.
It got to the point where I skimmed much of the book. The flailing about and wandering paths away from the central story weren’t enough to keep me engaged. Every turn of the page, I was rolling my eyes.
But, I want to reiterate – if trashy romance novels are your thing, this might be right up your alley. And I hold no judgment there. Again, please, tease me mercilessly for my love of trashy romcoms or Silly Bandz. I don’t mind. But I think I’ll be more careful next time I pick up anything that even resembles the TRN.
❤💔 out of ❤❤❤❤❤