Florence Marryat, the daughter of the novelist Captain Frederick Marryat, was born in Brighton, Sussex on 9 July 1833. One of eleven children, Marryat was educated at home using her father's extensive library after her parents legal separated when she was six. She married her first husband, Thomas Ross Church, in 1854 but after a period of separation they divorced in 1879 with Church citing his wife's adultery in the legal proceedings. Later that same year Marryat married her second husband, Francis Lean, but this similarly ended in separation in 1881.
It was during the period of separation from her first husband that Marryat began her literary career. Published in 1865, Marryat's first novel, Love's Conflict, was written in 1863 while she was nursing her children with scarlet fever. Despite the novel's limited success, the publication of Too Good for Him and Woman Against Woman during the same year helped make Marryat a recognisable figure in the literary world. A prolific writer for the remainder of her life, Marryat published continuously from 1865 to her death in 1899 to produce a total of 68 novels. During her lifetime Marryat's novels sold successfully not just in Britain but also in Europe and America where she negotiated contracts with foreign publishing houses. She also edited London Society from 1872 to 1876, recognising like many other Victorian women novelists the advantages of having her own magazine to promote her work. Later in life Marryat enjoyed a career as an actress after doctors suggested she stop writing for her health. It was during this period, in the fourteen years preceding her death, that Marryat finally found happiness with the actor, Herbert McPherson.
Elaine Showalter argues that Marryat's 1870s novels are examples of 'transitional literature' because they offer a 'genuinely radical protest against marriage and women's economic oppression, although still in the framework of feminine conventions that demanded the erring heroine's destruction'. For the majority, Marryat's novels end conventionally with the female protagonists punished for their transgression. However, in The Prey of the Gods (1871), Marryat's rewriting of Ellen Wood's more well-known novel, East Lynne (1861), Marryat constructs a happy ending for the rebellious heroine, suggesting her to be a more subversive writer than she is typically given credit for. Marryat's later fiction demonstrates a preoccupation with spiritualism. After her conversion to Roman Catholicism, Marryat explored her experience with séances in There is No Death (1891) and its sequel, The Spirit World (1894) as well as fictional works including The Strange Transfiguration of Hannah Stubbs (1896).
Despite her reputation and high literary production during her lifetime, as the Times in their obituary predicted, Marryat slipped from public consciousness after her death. Although the scholarly revival of Marryat novels was initially slow, her work has gained in notoriety over the last few decades as the canon has begun to be reassessed. Nevertheless, given the sheer volume of novels Marryat produced, there is still much to be (re)discovered about this important Victorian author.
Published the same year as Bram Stoker's Dracula, Blood of the Vampire was somewhat overshadowed. Although there are some similarities with Dracula, Marryat's female vampire drains her victim's life-force , rather than their blood. Miss Harriet Brandt, daughter of a mad scientist and a mixed-race voodoo priestess, comes of age and leaves her home in Jamaica to travel to Europe. Beautiful and talented, Harriet gains the affections of many of the men and women she meets and a bright future seems assured for her. However, there is something strange about Harriet. Everyone she gets close to seems to sicken or die. Marryat's novel engages with key debates of the period including race, women's rights, heredity, the occult and Spiritualism. Marryat's 'vampire' represents both the racial 'other' and the New Woman of the period, both of whom were considered threats to fin-de-siècle society.