Turn-of-the-century romance featuring Bram Stoker, tightly woven and superbly researched by Roberts (Morning’s Gate, 1992, etc.).
So you thought Dracula was an old Transylvanian count invented out of thin air? Here, he has as well a touch of Walt Whitman, Tennyson, and a bit of a knotty and bright-eyed fisherman, Old Uncle Thaddeus Sterne, who impresses Stoker during his visit to Whitby, a fishing village where Sterne seems a living monument to fisherfolks’ integrity. Stoker is fleeing his job as business manager of London’s Lyceum Theatre, as well his employer/best friend/nemesis, Sir Henry Irving, England’s greatest living actor, who happens to be gay. Although Stoker is married, Irving’s eye takes on a glint around his business associate of 30 years. As a way of getting free of Sir Henry’s influence, Stoker takes up writing novels and casts Irving as the Transylvanian count responsible for the unsolved Whitechapel murders attributed to Jack the Ripper. All this is background to the story of the youthful love affair of 39-year-old widow Marie Lindsey. While she now runs her late husband’s shipping business in London, Marie was formerly Damaris Sterne of Whitby, who when orphaned as a teenager went to work without wages as a housemaid in the Firth household, where grizzled fisherman Marcus Firth secretly committed incest with his two very young daughters. Then Damaris, who also had a paying job modeling for a gay photographer (porn-loving), met up with Stoker, 20 years her senior, and their heated love affair climaxed with her determined loss of her virginity in an empty abbey that, of course, later reappears in Stoker’s vampire novel. They parted and went their separate ways, ever longing to rekindle the past.
A top-grade historical, with richly evoked textures of daily life and fugitive moods.