Hunting Prince Dracula
Hunting Prince Dracula is the second in the Stalking Jack the Ripper series by Kerri Maniscalco. In this installment, Audrey Rose Wadsworth and Thomas Cresswell return, this time to attend a prestigious Romanian forensics college. They struggle to learn the ropes, Audrey much more so since she has to deal with the institutional sexism of men in the Victorian era. They must also uncover the identity of a killer stalking the halls of the college, killing villagers and students alike, and stirring up superstitions of Dracula returned from the dead.
I really loved the more open examination of gender roles in the Victorian age. Of course, this was touched upon in the first book—a female medical examiner was practically unheard of—but now Maniscalco goes further and talks about the oppression of sexuality as well. The Victorian ideal of the Angel in the House is one that contributed a great deal to the misery and mental illness of women throughout the era. Maniscalco also creates two lesbian characters, which is a delightful, if minor talking point of the book. Gender identity and sexual orientation are discussions that need to happen a lot more in historical fiction, because these are not binary states, nor are they issues that have only recently been identified. These have always been part of the human condition, and it is excellent when authors address them.
The action and romance of the book will undoubtedly appeal to the YA crowd it is marketed towards, and those really are tremendous fun. Audrey and Thomas have plenty of tension, romantic and otherwise, and the novel’s pacing is quick. The action takes off right away and is mostly consistent throughout. A couple of places in the middle slogged a bit, but overall, this is a strong second novel.