In 1847 the novel The Lady of the Camellias was published and became a sensation. It was written by Alexandre Dumas fils the son of the celebrated author of The Three Musketeers, but that wasn't the only thing that made it a bestseller.
The younger Dumas had had an affair with Marie Duplessis – a recently deceased courtesan known for her delicate beauty and her love of a camellias. In those days courtesans or “grandes horizontals” (literally “great horizontals”) were the “it” girls – sexy, ambitious adventuresses who ignored the rules of polite society. Therir favors were for sale, but only at premium prices. Their homes were salons where the most prominent artists, politicians and other movers and shakers might meet, but never bring their wives or other respectable women. This was the “demimonde” – the glamorous “half-world” spoken about in whispers.
So naturally everyone wanted to read the book.
How much of it was true? Dumas insisted that many conversations were word-for-word, but he also admitted he hadn't loved Marie as his fictional counterpart loved her fictional counterpart. Certainly, Marie left little evidence that Alexandre, or Adet as she called him, was the big love of her life. Then again, she left few letters and no diaries, and often told different versions of events to different people.
In the novel, Marguerite gives up her livelihood for Armand Duval, and then she gives up Armand, even though it breaks her heart and probably hastens her death. The reason? His father asks her to in order to save his family from scandal. In reality, Marie would have been unlikely to give in to such a request, and Alexandre's father was certainly not the type to be concerned about propriety, but the story of the redeemed prostitute who sacrifices her very life for love became a classic.
Dumas turned his novel into the play we know as Camille. The play became the basis for the opera La Traviata. In the opera, the characters names were changed, but in both versions, the main character's name is also the name of a flower. Marie's birth name was Rose Alphonsine. (“A rose by any other name” as Shakespeare said.)
The film we are most likely to know and remember, is the 1936 movie starring Greta Garbo. That's the one that's been parodied numerous times including by Carol Burnett, and in a1970s stage version performed with the heroine played by drag queen.
Marie's legend (as interpretted by Dumas) continues to hold us.
It was the basis in 2001 for Moulin Rouge, and in Pretty Woman – another story about a big-hearted prostitute – the opera that Edward takes Vivian to see is, of course, La Traviata.
But we still only have Alexandre's fictional side of things. What would the “real” Marie have thought about the story? Would she have found the whole gold-hearted-hooker-willing-to-give-up-riches-for-love silly? Would she have been angry with Alexandre for exploiting her? Or amused? And how would Marie – an opera fan – have felt about becoming Violetta – possibly the most coveted soprano role of all, in a work that is always being performed somewhere?
When I decided to revive Duplessis as a very modern vampire, undead and on the loose in New York City, those were questions I wanted to answer. My aim was not to write La Traviata with Vampires. I wanted to tell a woman's story from her point of view, to create a character who would be young forever, but would have trouble moving on from her past and escaping the myth created by an ex-boyfriend. I would write Marie's version.
Is there a lot of sex and blood in Blood Diva? Sure, it's a sexy, vampire story and if that offends, it's not for you. But let's be honest, sex was always at the heart of the tale, and so was that red stuff Camille kept coughing up.
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Number of pages: approx 450.
Word Count: 120,000
The 19th century's most infamous party-girl is undead and on the loose in the Big Apple.
When 23 year-old Parisian courtesan, Marie Duplessis succumbed to consumption in 1847, Charles Dickens showed up for the funeral and reported the city mourned as though Joan of Arc had fallen. Marie was not only a celebrity in in her own right, but her list of lovers included Franz Liszt – the first international music superstar, and Alexandre Dumas fils, son of the creator of The Three Musketeers. Dumas fils wrote the novel The Lady of the Camellias based on their time together. The book became a play, and the play became the opera La Traviata. Later came the film versions, and the legend never died.
But what if when offered the chance for eternal life and youth, Marie grabbed it, even when the price was the regular death of mortals at her lovely hand?
In 2014, Marie wonders if perhaps nearly two centuries of murder, mayhem, and debauchery is enough, especially when she falls hard for a rising star she believes may be the reincarnation of the only man she ever truly loved. But is it too late for her to change? Can a soul be redeemed like a diamond necklace in hock? And even if it can, have men evolved since the 1800′s? Or does a girl’s past still mark her?
Blood Diva is a sometimes humorous, often dark and erotic look at sex, celebrity, love, death, destiny, and the arts of both self-invention and seduction. It’s a story that asks a simple question – Can a one hundred ninety year-old demimondaine find happiness in 21st century Brooklyn without regular infusions of fresh blood?
About the Author:
VM Gautier is a pseudonym. This is not the author's first book, but it is his or her first book in this genre. You haven't heard of him or her.
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