After falling in love with Carmilla the webseries, I finally decided to read the original novel by J. Sheridan Le Fanu. I was expecting it would be a lot of labyrinthine Victorian prose or Dracula-esque fear of/male-gaze at women’s sexuality. It’s actually a novella, and the prose, aside from some outdated turns of phrase, is easy to read.
I shall begin by describing her. She was slender, and wonderfully graceful. Except that her movements were languid-very languid- indeed, there was nothing in her appearance to indicate an invalid. Her complexion was rich and brilliant; her features were small and beautifully formed; her eyes large, dark, and lustrous; her hair was quite wonderful, I never saw hair so magnificently thick and long when it was down about her shoulders; I have often placed my hands under it, and laughed with wonder at its weight. It was exquisitely fine and soft, and in colour a rich very dark brown, with something of gold. I loved to let it down, tumbling with its own weight, as, in her room, she lay back in her chair talking in her sweet low voice, I used to fold and braid it, and spread it out and play with it. Heavens! If I had but known all! (pp. 57-8, Overdrive ebook)
I’m sure Carm and Laura are just gal-palling it up all over Austria–
She used to place her pretty arms about my neck, draw me to her, and laying her cheek to mine, murmur with her lips near my ear, “Dearest, your little heart is wounded; think me not cruel because I obey the irresistible law of my strength and weakness; if your dear heart is wounded, my wild heart bleeds with yours. In the rapture of my enormous humiliation I live in your warm life, and you shall die-die, sweetly die-into mine. I cannot help it; as I draw near to you, you, in your turn, will draw near to others, and learn the rapture of that cruelty, which yet is love; so, for a while, seek to know no more of me and mine, but trust me with all your loving spirit.”
And when she had spoken such a rhapsody, she would press me more closely in her trembling embrace, and her lips in soft kisses gently glow upon my cheek. (62-3)
You know, just Victorian lady friends–
Sometimes after an hour of apathy, my strange and beautiful companion would take my hand and hold it with a fond pressure, renewed again and again; blushing softly, gazing in my face with languid and burning eyes, and breathing so fast that her dress rose and fell with the tumultuous respiration. It was like the ardour of a lover; it embarrassed me; it was hateful and yet over-powering; and with gloating eyes she drew me to her, and her hot lips travelled along my cheek in kisses; and she would whisper, almost in sobs, “You are mine, you shall be mine, you and I are one for ever.” Then she has thrown herself back in her chair, with her small hands over her eyes, leaving me trembling. (64)
This book is basically the anti-Marnie. Whereas Marnie sets you up for ghostly queer feels and yanks the carpet from beneath your dainty little feet, Carmilla is about as subtle as an overturned carriage dashed upon the roots of a tree outside a castle in Styria.
As for the series, Perry and LaFontaine, the floor dons in the web series, were originally Mme. Perrodon and Mlle. la Fontaine, Laura’s governesses.
Available at your local library, sff.net, or wherever lovely fiction about vampire girlfriends is sold.
Contains vampires, clueless parents, unwanted attention, paranormal romance, a slew of reviews who will refer to this as “lesbian vampires” when “queer lady vampires” or “Victorian vampire ‘live-in gal pals'” is more accurate because the B and Q in LGBTQIA aren’t fracking silent, dammit.