First things first, I must confess that I have never read Bram Stoker's Dracula, nor have I seen the movie. You must also know that I only know very little of who Mina Murray is. I know she and Dracula have always been linked together but as to the nature of their relationship - that was a mystery to me... "was" being the key word since this book did clarify that.
Told through Mina's perspective, we learn of the dark stranger who has been a key figure in many of her dreams since childhood. We also get glimpses into Mina's upbringing and lifestyle now as a woman. Throughout the story you meet various characters - that while I'm not familiar with, I have come to learn that they are well-known within the classic vampire lore - Jonathan Harker, journalist Kate Reed, Lucy Westenra and even Dr. Seward and the infamous Dr. Von Helsinger who run a creepy asylum together. Count Vladimir Drakulya (a/k/a Dracula) is not as present as I would have liked. He does create great ambiance for the story though. He is a figure that although not physically present for much of the story, he is crucial to it and much of what shapes Mina's thoughts. If you've read Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian, you'll be able to relate.
Some things you may or may not know about this book - Ms. Essex does a great job of describing the relationship between Mina and Dracula, you really get a grasp for the appeal she holds over him. Not to mention you can tell she did her homework with her details to the time frame the story is set in. Notwithstanding its Victorian setting, and although she does abide by the restraints woman had to adhere to at the time, Mina is a strong-willed woman, she's passionate and brave. I really liked that she was not fragile and delicate as some related stories may lead you to believe... a wilting flower, if you may. She stood her ground when it came to her beliefs. The more (ahem) sexual scenes were graphic and well ... on the passionate side (if you catch my drift). The scenes in the asylum were downright horrifying and even nightmare inducing. It's not that great of an idea to read this late into the night or while home alone. If you're like me you'll be scared out of your wits by anything that goes bump in the night.
I did have a few complaints though - I thought the first half of the book would never end. It dragged for me for a few hundred pages - luckily I did stick it out and it eventually picked up. I thought there were a lot of filler pages and even whole areas that could have just been edited out (that whole near-rape scene at the beginning - what was that about?) The parts that really kept me interested revolved around the asylum scenes - and I was mostly terrified reading these.
All in all, this will definitely appeal to historical fiction fans as well as to those who love classic Dracula lore... It is fast- paced (once you are half-way through), with many a twist and turn. Sadly, for me it just didn't work - and I'm truly saddened to say that because I really wanted to like it.