by Syrie James, historical/fantasy (2010)
Avon, $14.99, ISBN 978-0-06-192303-6
Dracula, My Love ultimately confuses me as to what exactly the author Syrie James's intention was when she set out to write this book. Is this a feminist reinterpretation of Bram Stoker's naughty horror romp?
As you can probably predict, this one is another take on the Dracula tale, from Wilhelmina Harker's point of view. Ms James believes that there are some loose ends and gaps in the original story that she can attempt to fill, and therefore, she has Mina write some "secret" journals that were never published before... until now. Of course, the title of this book gives the secret away: Dracula is Mina's lover. She desires him. He treats her like a woman and listens to her, as opposed to Jonathan Harker who has more traditional views about her role in his life. Dracula even knows the works of Mina's beloved philosophers.
And in this book, Ms James allows enough to let any reader believe that Dracula may be lying to Mina about his true colors, but since this story is from Mina's point of view, we see her rhapsodizing about Dracula as a misunderstood gentleman who only feeds on lifestock, helps the people living in his estate back in Transylvania, and more. Seriously, that guy could have been the byproduct of any sparkling emo vampire romance out there in the market. And there lies the problem: Dracula is not interesting or sexy when he's being a misunderstood woobie. He's just bland and he's almost asexual to the point that we may as well cast Zac Efron to play him in the movie adaptation of this book.
But more importantly, the story ends up sending mixed signals. I'm supposed to believe that Mina finds something that makes her feel like a whole person with Dracula, but at the same time, we have a heroine who cheerfully betrays the man she has promised to marry with some stranger she has just met. What is this? Eat, Suck Blood, Love? It is bad enough that Dracula comes off as a wussy wimp sighing like a lovelorn kid over some surly-faced frigid woman, but it is worse when I find it more easy to sympathize with Jonathan whose only crime is to not be Dracula.
But it is the worst when Mina comes off not as a strong-willed woman but a wishy-washy woman whose emotions are swayed by the presence of the man she is with. When she is with Dracula, Mina is going on and on about what an amazing hunk he is and how she wants to eat every inch of that undead ghoul up. But when she is with Jonathan, she will curse herself for betraying Jonathan and be filled with guilt. Then Dracula shows up again and Mina will immediately change her song to "Take me now! Shag me now! Woo-hoo!"
Ultimately, because Mina is such a wishy-washy heroine, it is hard to see her as a strong heroine who experiences some kind of sexual awakening with Dracula. She's just flaky. It doesn't help that Mina ultimately betrays Dracula's affection and runs back to Jonathan - this is not a spoiler, as we all know what happens in the original story - over some flimsy excuse. If the author wanted Mina to be some kind of feminist subversion of a female character in a classic story, she should have gone all the way and had Mina choose Dracula over Jonathan. Only then can I get a clear message about choosing someone who cherishes you for who you are instead of what you are and having the courage to take charge of your own life instead of letting social norms dictate your future for you. As it is, Mina's actions in that penultimate moment only confirms that she is the ultimate flake unworthy of the affections bestowed on her by two men.
Dracula, My Love is not a bad book, mind you. It's a very well-written book with some nice insights provided into the lives of both Jonathan and Mina. However, there is much suspense to be had here as the story is very faithful in ways that matter to Bram Stoker's original story. The heroine's inconsistent fidelity only confuses the message the author is trying to send. And yes, I think I prefer the amoral monster of a Count Dracula to this bizarre gentlemanly version of the famous vampire.
This book at Amazon.com
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