Thank you, Saga Press, for a copy of Reluctant Immortals in return for an honest review.

I have a soft spot in my heart for the classics and even some adaptations of my favorite classics. But something that has always been either a hit or miss for me was using classic characters in new and unique stories. I was simultaneously drawn to and worried over Gwendolyn Kiste’s Reluctant Immortals for this exact reason. The story takes place in 1967 San Francisco and follows Lucy Westenra, a victim in Bram Stoker‘s Dracula and Bertha Mason, the first wife of Edward Rochester from Charlotte Brontë‘s Jane Eyre. The two women are now immortals and have banded together to combat the toxic men bent on destroying their lives.

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I would love to report that I loved this book. Kiste has a unique way of telling stories, and her writing was beautiful to dive into. Neither Lucy nor Bee are the main characters in their original novels, but they still impact the overall story. And within Reluctant Immortals, we see these forgotten characters come to life. In chapter one, Lucy shares, “There are tales about Rochester and Dracula, books and movies, ones where bee and I have been mostly written out, deleted from our own story, our own lives.” The two main leads have lived for a long time and are still haunted by their past. It’s rewarding watching them overcome the obstacles placed before them.

Reluctant Immortals is listed as Gothic Horror, similar to the two original novels it pulls from. And while I would have liked the story to feel a bit darker and more traditional, it heavily features gothic themes. It’s these themes that help carry the novel forward at a fast but exciting pace. And this is where Kiste’s writing really shines through. There is never the feeling of the story being rushed, but it doesn’t waste time overexplaining or on details that don’t continue to move the narrative forward. It also lends well to the twists and turns that help create this fantastic adventure.

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Underneath the supernatural, gothic horror found within Reluctant Immortals is a story of two women looking to tell their own stories after being overshadowed for years by men. Lucy and Bee lean on each other to work towards gaining agency over their lives and free themselves of the trauma caused by Dracula and Rochester. This story could have been told without the use of these two forgotten women, but following their story has made it better.

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