Thursday, 26 May 2022

Reluctant Immortals by Gwendolyn Kiste



For fans of Mexican Gothic, from three-time Bram Stoker Award–winning author Gwendolyn Kiste comes a novel inspired by the untold stories of forgotten women in classic literature--from Lucy Westenra, a victim of Stoker’s Dracula, and Bertha Mason, from Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre--as they band together to combat the toxic men bent on destroying their lives, set against the backdrop of the Summer of Love, Haight-Ashbury, 1967.


Reluctant Immortals is a historical horror novel that looks at two men of classic literature, Dracula and Mr. Rochester, and the two women who survived them, Bertha and Lucy, who are now undead immortals residing in Los Angeles in 1967 when Dracula and Rochester make a shocking return in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco.

Combining elements of historical and gothic fiction with a modern perspective, in a tale of love and betrayal and coercion, Reluctant Immortals is the lyrical and harrowing journey of two women from classic literature as they bravely claim their own destiny in a man’s world.


In Gwendolyn Kiste's latest epic tale we are taken to Hollywood in 1967,  the city that lures people in looking to make their dreams come true but ultimately never finding what it was they so desperately wanted. Lucy has been living quietly amongst the living with her friend Bee but when the first wolves turn up she knows her quiet existence is about to be ripped apart...

There's something really magical about Kiste's prose that really pulls you in from the first sentence. She always creates this haunted  atmospheric stories dripping in gothic, the characters lives and situations are bleak and desperate but despite that there's a beauty there waiting to be found. If you're not familiar with Kiste's other books, such as Boneset and Feathers, Pretty Marys in a Row and Rust Maidens,  I urge you now to address that!

Kiste picks up from where two tales ended over a hundred years ago yet despite the time difference this is a story which is still so relevant to the modern day. Even today women are still plagued by powerful men. Are we still as trapped as the women who lived before us? Probably. Even in this day victims particularly women still do not have a voice of their won or a way to fight back. 

But Reluctant Immortals has a bite, in this tale the women weakened from centuries of running and hiding decide to fight back. There's something so strong and yet so delicate about the main character, Lucy Westenra. For centuries she has kept the curse of Dracula away from the world of the living but there are always those who will do anything for power. She realises that no one will save her, she has to do it all herself. People don't see the world as she does. When others look at Dracula they don't see a monster but a charming handsome man who promises to make their dreams come true.

I was so excited to receive ad advance reading copy of Reluctant immortals as I'm a huge fan of Gwendolyn Kiste's work. I've loved everything she's written and also Jane Eyre and Dracula are two books that I love to read over and over again. These are such classic tales and yet Kiste has created something really new from them. I loved the idea of Lucy Westenra teaming up with Bee, the mad woman in the attic from Jane Eyre, the first wife of Mr Rochester. This book has really made me look at the novel of Jane Eyre in such a new way that I'm dying to read it again with this new take on it.

I managed to read this so quickly as like I said Kiste's prose really pulls you in from the first sentence and the experience was thrilling. You get to know Lucy so well that you feel like you have known her for years. The world building was really beautiful. I really felt  the contrast with Lucy living in the late 60's summer of love but yet she is so trapped  unable to live her life in the way she dreamed of. 

The pace of this tale picks up and soon becomes impossible to put down. What I love about Kiste's tales is that you can never guess where the story is going to go next as Kiste is a master of ripping up much loved tropes and classic cliches and making something really new out of them. This is definitely a book I will be reading again!



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