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Dracula, My Love (I’m On a Roll With Vampires)

September 12, 2010

Ah … Dracula. The vampire who held his English solicitor, Jonathan Harker, hostage in his Transylvanian castle and preyed on innocent virgins, imbibing their blood. The eerie, unforgettable villain of Bram Stoker’s Victorian classic and a staggering number of film adaptations. Legends about revenants who drink human blood seem to span across many times and cultures. The Victorian versions of these stories ooze subliminal sexuality. In an era when some respectable folk covered piano legs, so it wouldn’t remind people of the curves of a woman’s legs and provoke untoward thoughts, perhaps it was easier to write about fanged undead preying on virginal girls that it was to discuss actual sex.

These stories glean a lot of power from their deep folkloric roots and from the subliminal sexuality. Today vampire stories have dumped the subliminal aspect — the vamp-sex is right out there. This defuses the tales a bit, but they are still great fun.


Dracula My Love: The Secret Journals of Mina Harker by Syrie James
Published by Avon A, July 20, 2010

Syrie James’s Dracula My Love is a faithful adaptation of Stoker’s Dracula with some different twists. James tells the story from Mina’s perspective, adding feminist sensibilities as we see Mina struggling with the confining conventions of Victorian England. James also fills in many of the gaps in Stoker’s novel. In Dracula, we learn little about the vampire himself, we don’t know what his origins are, and it is largely a mystery why he pursues Mina. In an interview, James has said she was both intrigued and frustrated with the gaps in Stoker’s brilliant novel. In filling them in, she’s created a story that is both familiar and new.

Mina is an intelligent, loyal, passionate young woman, guided by her religious faith and the conventions of her time. She is torn between her passions, and her growing attraction to a mysterious stranger, and her loyalty to her fiancee, the staid, hard-working Jonathan Harker. Mina is an orphan, so she also longs to know who her parents were and understand her own identity.

I was deeply drawn to all three characters. Mina is, for the most part, a rich, believable character. I really liked Jonathan, who is tender and affectionate, and I could see that he, too, struggles with the rigid gender expectations of his time. I was intrigued by Dracula, an immortal who has used the centuries at his disposal to pursue a broad self-education in literature, history, and the arts but is agonizingly lonely. He struggles against the evil side of his nature, and despite his overwhelming desire and the impressive powers at his disposal, he wants Mina to come to him of her own free will. I could understand why Mina was torn between Jonathan, with whom she has love, deep friendship, and a shared history, and Dracula, who encourages her to seek freedom and independence  and awakens her sexuality.

The original Dracula, if memory serves, derives much of its power from the shadowy gaps in the story. We don’t completely know who Dracula is, and the unknown keeps us off-balance — it’s creepy and terrifying. By imaginatively filling in the gaps, giving Mina and Dracula a detailed story of their own, James loses some of that eerie, mysterious quality. On the other hand, she gains interesting characters and an absorbing paranormal historical novel that blends Victorian manners with modern sensibilities. Both novels are just as riveting, in very different ways.

Dracula, My Love is rich with literary references, and it touches on some of the important discussions of the day, such as the publication of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of the Species. It is likely to appeal to readers of intelligent historical fiction as well as fans of all things bloody and paranormal. And James is a terrific storyteller; I found this novel delightfully fun and difficult to put down.

Read More Reviews: Bookalicious; Linus’s Blanket — and be sure to check out her recipe for plum tarts; Best Fantasy Stories; Bitten by Books; Eclectic/Eccentric

Reading Now:

Dracula in Love by Karen Essex
Doubleday; 1 edition (August 10, 2010)

This is a similar novel, that promises to be just as much fun. And I have it on good authority that the sex scenes are smokin’ hot — sweet! 🙂

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. September 12, 2010 2:40 pm

    I’m in the mood for vampires too – especially the storyline of Dracula as told from Mina’s point of view. I will give this one a go–

  2. September 12, 2010 3:00 pm

    I am reading my first book about Dracula right now–The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova. I am loving it so far.

    • September 12, 2010 9:50 pm

      That’s an interesting novel, though I didn’t love it as much as others have. I am looking forward to hearing what you think.

  3. September 12, 2010 4:03 pm

    I adored this book, so I’m glad to see you enjoyed it as well. Reading it right after reading the original was absolutely fascinating because I could really see how well James integrated the original into her retelling; things meshed really well.

  4. September 13, 2010 10:50 pm

    I read Stoker’s book a few years ago. My daughter had looked up Mina’s name (short for Wilhemina) and found out the name meant warrior woman, which was appropriate for her strong character, while Lucy (light) was the more idealized woman, the one everyone wanted to marry. I’ll have to take a look at Dracula, My Love.

    Peace and Laughter!

  5. September 14, 2010 5:44 am

    Thank you so much for your wonderful review of my novel, DRACULA, MY LOVE. It made my day! I hope you and your readers will stop by my website at http://www.syriejames.com, leave me a message, and consider signing up for my newsletter to learn about my upcoming books. My next novel, NOCTURNE (due out in February in time for Valentine’s Day), is also a haunting story of forbidden romance… that features a vampire. I admit I fell madly in love with him!
    All best,
    Syrie James

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