By Gwendolyn Kiste
Publication Date: August 23, 2022
What can I say about this book? I wish I’d written it? My imagination doesn’t stretch that far; the mix of characters and time period was amazing and something I doubt I ever would have come up with.
Reluctant Immortals is a Gothic-inspired story set in Hollywood and Haight Ashbury during the summer of love in 1967. It follows Lucy Westenra, Bram Stoker’s almost-forgotten victim, and Bertha (Bee) Mason, the first wife of Mr. Rochester, forced to live and die in the attic in Jane Eyre as they navigate the relatively modern world as immortals. Both women have spent the past one hundred plus years running from the men/monsters who doomed them. Lucy literally fights every day to keep Dracula from returning and Bee lives in dread that Rochester will find her.
The two manage well enough until the day that Jane Eyre turns up on their doorstep and inadvertently sets Dracula free. Now Lucy and Bee must travel to San Francisco to confront both of the men who made them immortal but forgotten victims and perhaps reclaim their rightful place among the remembered.
While their lives could certainly be considered depressing in the first part of the book, it sets the stage for the theme of this novel – that both women are victims, barely getting by, while the men who doomed them are remembered and celebrated. It’s a strong theme of marginalized women reclaiming their lives and it pops up often. Sometimes too often. After the first four or five mentions, I’d pretty much gotten it but perhaps the author doesn’t want anyone to forget it.
However, that’s probably the only critical thing I have to say about this novel. The settings are fantastic, the characters are oh so flawed but relatable, and there are so many cool elements to the vampiric Lucy that I hadn’t seen explored before. I also appreciated the treatment of Rochester, Bee, and Jane since I’m not as familiar with that novel as I am with Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
Watch for the “Chekhov’s gun” moment near the end – Dracula’s demise didn’t come about in the way I was expecting (sorry for the spoiler but I think it’s a given), but it was certainly well earned.
I hesitated before requesting this ARC, wondering if it would fall too far into the “horror” genre, but I don’t think it did and it was a fascinating read watching these characters interact in a world they were never meant to be in.
4/5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Thank you to NetGalley and Gallery Books for providing the ARC ebook. I’ve left my review honestly and voluntarily.
Until next time, thank you for visiting.