Syrie James, author of two straight historical novels, dips her toes into the paranormal pool with Dracula, My Love. Using Bram Stoker’s classic novel Dracula as a framework, James tells the story from the point of view of Mina Harker, and adds a twist: What if Mina wasn’t just ensorcelled by Dracula, but truly loved him?
I figured this would be a hard sell for me. The popular view of the vampire has changed throughout time, from the ravenous monsters of folklore to the seductive villains of nineteenth-century fiction to the romantic heroes and antiheroes of the last few decades. But Mina in love with Dracula? The man who killed her best friend? I wondered how Syrie James would get me past this issue.
The answer is really clever. James makes excellent use of a plot point in Dracula that always did ring false to me as a modern reader. The Count has explanations for all the other crimes he’s accused of, too. Which, if any, of his stories are true? Much is left for readers to decide for themselves.
By deciding to remain faithful to Bram Stoker’s original, Syrie James sets herself a difficult task. The well-known plotline of Dracula and the prescribed gender roles of the Victorian period give Mina a limited range of actions. There’s only a certain extent to which she can drive the plot. Yet if she’s to carry a novel for over 400 pages, she needs to do things. James strikes an effective balance between the bones of Stoker’s story and the need to make Mina a dynamic character. Many of her actions, by necessity, go unseen by the men around her. But James gives her Mina plenty of opportunities to affect events behind the scenes, and also gives her the compelling emotional dilemma of being torn between two men she loves in different ways.
Dracula, My Love imitates the prose style of a 19th-century novel. This means sometimes the dialogue feels stilted and a little too expository, compared to what readers today are used to. This hampered my reading at first, but when I thought about it, it helped convey the sense of reading a long-lost, rediscovered manuscript from the period. The book is also a little melodramatic in places, but Dracula and melodrama do go well together!
Overall, Dracula, My Love is a fun, engrossing novel that will keep you turning pages to learn what will happen next and what twists Syrie James will add to the original. It’s not a short book, but it moves quickly and never feels long. I recommend it to vampire fans and to fans of “from the female perspective” retellings of literary classics.