The audiobook of The Impaler’s Wife by Autumn Bardot has been a delight to listen to. I have had the great fortune to savour this book in audio format and would like to first express my appreciation on the professionalism of the narrator, the great delivery and performance and what sounds to me – as someone not skilled in Eastern European languages – as probably a native or close to native pronunciation of names and words or phrases that were expressed in those languages.
I am not sure what I expected but this book exceeded all my expectations and preconceptions. To start out with, I have to say that I have not had any historical knowledge prior to reading this book of Prince Dracula whom I have only known of in the context of fictional vampire stories, originally penned by Bram Stoker.
I have been assured by my Romanian friend, none other than the amazing internationally renowned book blogger The Magic Book Corner, I asked for a recommendation on a historical novel on that wider area that the author has kept closely to historical facts in her narrative. The main characters of Vlad Dracula and his wife Ilona both go through an inner and outer transformation and development in an arc that is both relatable and impressive, in both their positive and negative personality traits, as is human nature in the face of violence, betrayal, war and infliction of pain and torture all being part of daily life.
Vlad Dracula was called “The Impaler” because he left entire fields full of impaled men, women and children. He had learned this form of torturous execution by the very person he had dedicated his life battling against, the cruel sultan he had been a captive of in his youth, and made an artform of it. Although this sounds very cruel, he has at the same time been a great scholar and a leader devoted to the wellbeing of his people.
When he meets Ilona, he is at first intended to marry her sister but he prefers the darker Ilona, both in colouring and in character. At this time, Ilona does not yet suspect the existence of this darker side of her nature herself, although we are given hints as clues to what is to come. At that time, she enjoys battling her wit against Dracula in light banter, trying to impress him. But as time goes on and she lives with this troubled and traumatised, also cruel and genius husband, she is schooled further in the arts of diplomacy and strategy but also through factors that include parts of her husband’s nature, the environment she constantly finds herself in, the people she is surrounded with, and her obsession with her husband’s sexuality and the pleasure it gives her.
She finds herself slowly stepping out of her comfort zone and thus, discovering and embracing her darker side. Their sexual practices, explicitly described, grow over time more into what would be in modern times classified as BDSM. This may also be the reason why some have nicknamed this book “50 Shades of Romania”, but however explicitly these scenes are described, they are not meant to sexually arouse the reader but serve to further impress upon him Ilona’s and Vlad’s relationship becoming closer, rawer, more honest and darker in their love, devotion and sexuality. These scenes are written with a view to character development and giving the reader an insight into the psychological aspects of Ilona and her husband and their relationship with each other, they are not designed to sexually arouse the reader as is the focus of explicit scenes in romance novels.
In this way, first driven by her fear to lose her husband’s interest, Ilona discovers her love for pain, power and punishment, both in terms of sexuality but also in dishing it out to other people. On the few occasions she exerts blatant verbal or physical violence against others, she finds pleasure in the deed and is almost surprised by it, yet embraces this aspect of her own character without much hesitation.
I have listened to probably most of the chapters twice. Not because I was confused and unable to follow the plot but because I was so moved by the beauty and eloquence of the narrative that I felt the need to revisit and savour it one more time. Throughout the book, the arc of Ilona’s character development, as well as that of her husband, are exceptionally outlined, deep in psychological details and cleverly written in the most singularly unique style that has given me pleasure, both in the language used, as well as the intricacies of the development of the plot and the characters. I absolutely loved it!
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About Autumn Bardot
Autumn Bardot is the author of stories about fearless women and dangerous passions. She writes historical fiction, historical erotica, and contemporary fantasy. Her 4-book urban fantasy series is written under the pen name LZ Marie.
Autumn is hosting two different workshops at the 2021 Historical Novel Society conference. She’s a regular on library panels, was a guest on several national podcasts, and has an article on writing erotica in booksbywomen.org.
She’s a wife, mom, grandma, and teacher. Because that doesn’t keep her busy enough, she has a YouTube channel and podcast for new writers with lots of writing tips, author tools, and inspiration.
Autumn writes best at home in her sunny Southern California backyard and while vacationing at the beach. She bakes great chocolate chip cookies, drinks too much coffee, buys too many shoes, and loves to write stories about courageous but flawed women who succeed despite the odds. And she always spices it with a healthy dollop of romance!