Sunday, August 1, 2010

LQ Book Review: Karen Essex's "Dracula in Love"

We are very pleased to share the following book review with you, written by bestselling author C.W. Gortner, a friend of the site. Along with this interview comes the announcement that I will be doing an interview with the author of the below reviewed book, Dracula in Love, Karen Essex. Karen has had a rich career, adapting screen plays by authors such as Anne Rice, has written bestselling historical fiction novels (Stealing Athena, Leonardo's Swans) as well as influential biographies of important historical figures (Kleopatra, Pharaoh) If you have questions or suggestions for topics that you'd like me to touch on when interviewing Karen please feel free to click comment and share them or email me directly if you'd rather do it privately.

I am also happy to announce today that in addition to the upcoming interview with Karen Essex I will also be conducting my second interview with C.W. Gortner, the friend and skilled historical fiction author who has held nothing back about how much he enjoys Dracula in Love. Gortner and I last spoke around the release of his novel of the mad Spanish Queen, Juana la Loca. This time we'll discuss his latest novel, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici

Dracula Gets Sexy 
by C.W. Gortner
He’s the enigmatic stranger in the black cape, a shape-shifting outcast who has given rise to some of literature’s - and Hollywood’s - most iconic imagery.  When it was published in 1897, Bram Stoker’s Dracula was a critically acclaimed horror story; it did not send the shockwaves it should have through Victorian morality, excavating the repressed sexuality and decay of a fading empire while exalting the era's misogynistic flair. However, in subsequent years, as it garnered international bestselling status, Dracula began to reveal itself as a cautionary tale of unbridled desire.
Now, 113 years later, bestselling author Karen Essex, known for her lush prose and portraits of powerful women in Leonardo’s SwansStealing Athena, and a double-volume look at the quintessential femme fatale, Kleopatra and Pharaoh, takes on the Count in Dracula in Love. It’s a bold move. While Dracula has been revisited several times and in various incarnations, not all have been successful; and many of us have firm ideas of who he is, and, more importantly, who he is not. Nevertheless, Ms Essex serves up a sensual, unabashedly romantic approach to the fanged one, telling the tale through the voice of Mina herself, whose love affair with Dracula has become a byword for eternal obsession.
A first edition copy of Stoker's Dracula, initially published in 1897.
Building on framework established by Stoker, Essex vividly presents the true Victorian world inhabited by these characters—a world where a fledgling emancipation movement collides with the barbaric treatment of those deemed sexually neurotic; where marriage is still the ultimate goal for a woman; and virtue is prized more than fulfillment. While most of Stoker’s cast is present, they’ve been reshaped, with Lucy paying a terrifying price for her extra-betrothal liaison and Van Helsing as a righteous physician engaged in lethal experimentation. The Count takes his time before he appears, seen only in tantalizing glimpses; by then, Mina’s engaging, increasingly paranoid voice has captured our imagination, as she struggles to survive both her own recurring nightmares and a budding awareness that just beyond her tightly corseted existence lurks a tangled labyrinth of feral secrets.
Dracula in Love is not a standard vampire tale and purists may take issue with Ms Essex’s mythology-inspired take on the legend; however, for those who yearn for something more than adolescents pining over immortal boyfriends, this is the antidote—a luscious paean to forbidden longing.
- C.W. Gortner is the author of The Confessions of Catherine de Medici and The Last Queen. Visit him at

Keywords: Karen Essex, Stealing Athena, Leonardo's Swans, Kleopatra, Pharoah, historical fiction, Victorian England, C.W. Gortner, The Last Queen, Juana la Loca, Tudor history, English historical fiction,  Confessions of Catherine de Medici, The Secret Lion, Van Helsing


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