Apr 15, 12
I own a copy
** spoiler alert **
I was offered a publisher's proof book in exchange for a review of Love Dreams.
The book is well formatted with attractive covers. I found only a few errors, one of which could be chalked up to poetic license. The other two should have been picked up by the author or certainly, by the editor or proofreader. So for this reason, I have to rate it 4 stars. There is a lot going on in this story, which is along the lines of a Lifetime movie, in which case, I'd rate it B.
With the insignificant aside, all in all it was a good book, especially for a first novel. It's obviously intended for a mature audience and geared toward Harlequin readers. However, it's more involving and a lot longer (and sexier) than any Harlequin I've read. At times, the story reads like a romcom, but not as lighthearted as some. Keeping tempo, the author swings back and forth, in and out of situations, some chapters being cliffhangers until later in the book. Still, it's smooth and easy to follow. None of the characters are cardboard or cookie cutter.
The story begins with an engaging hospital emergency room scene. From there it slides into the first meeting of Michael and Sienna. Their meeting is so sweet and descriptive, I could almost feel the breeze blowing through his hair – see the passion on his face – the shock on hers.
Michael is an ex-army he-man struggling to cope with physical challenges. He's not one for self-pity, (never weepy just angry at times) and although falling into resignation (denial perhaps?), he wants out of the chair so he can pursue the woman of his dreams, a beautiful but terribly damaged Sienna.
Michael is extremely masculine and runway-model handsome, which means nothing to him. It's as if he's never seen his reflection in a mirror, and doesn't realize how damn seductive he is! I instantly fell in love with him. He's compassionate and down to earth. Although Sienna finds him attractive, the last thing she's looking for is another man. Her mission in this book seems to be to heal her wounds, because other than being miserable, she doesn't seem to do much more than have tantalizingly sexy dreams, horrific nightmares and realistic night terrors. Still, she's the driving force for Michael's character and the role of good friend, Bonnie. Sienna brings out the best in both of them.
After the first explosive meeting of Michael and Sienna, the book lacks steam for a few chapters while we're gathering background information, which some readers might find interesting. I didn't. Still there were some passionate flashbacks and dreams to carry those chapters. During Michael and Sienna's next meeting, the story picks up and paces nicely from there. At that point, all of the other elements begin to unfold.
WARNING: MAY BE A SPOILER
I would have been happier if the two lovers had spent more time together, but it may have been the author's intention to draw out the longing (and there was plenty in this book) leading into a mouthwatering chapter containing foreplay that flowed naturally into a boiling act of love. The love scenes are bold but tasteful, with the characters performing intimate things many do behind bedroom doors. They did nothing unusual or kinky, but the intensity pulled me right in. Valentine has a way of making a reader feel things. I could almost taste the Reuben sandwiches they had for lunch, LOL! Very artful writing.
Prior to the final sex scene, however, we follow them on a roller coaster. Because of insecurities, Michael finds it difficult to act on his overwhelming emotions, almost letting Sienna slip into the arms of his adversary, a rich, older doctor who treats her like a queen. But he's so arrogant, she can't stand him. So why does she fly off to London with him? I don't know, but if not for London, we'd miss out on some vital info clarifying the doctor's motives, and Sienna might not have thawed out. London was quite sensual, but not in the way one might expect. I hesitate to continue as I don't want to expose the entire plot.
Sienna is easily spooked and is kind of like a delicate flower, blowing in the wind with no real direction. Bonnie wants only what she feels is best for Sienna – and kind of pushes her into things such as seeing a psychic and taking the trip to London. Sienna and Bonnie have a past that bonds them, so I can understand Sienna, the weaker character, taking Bonnie's advice, even if it's against her better judgment.
There's glitz and glamor during the trip. And later there's a carnival back in Connecticut where Michael and Sienna almost get together and the heat's turned up, but once again, fate and Dr. Trainer interfere, making this a hit and miss love affair, (sometimes aggravating). Much of the remaining plot is cleverly divided, somewhat like a soap opera, making it more than your average romance novel. There were a couple of surprises at the end that I did not see coming.
Things I liked:
The author added thoughtful extras such as music or movies to a few scenes, ramping up emotion. The autos used in scenes helped define the characters. It was a cool touch.
Aunt Tessa was a hoot, especially in her vintage Eldorado, sporting a 60's bouffant hairdo. I have an aunt with the same crabby attitude, so maybe that's why I felt for her.
Sienna was human and klutzy. She wasn't 'wonder woman', although there were times I'd have liked her to show a bit more hutzpah.
Michael: Is there such a man? I think this was a “Sienna” quote somewhere in the book. Is he too good to be true? Probably. But if I'm reading a fictional romance, I want a sensitive, gorgeous guy. Hell, why not in real life, as well?
Bonnie added humor, at times seeming outrageous. I can visualize friends behaving this way, giggly-silly at times, still the dialogue was natural and intelligent. These comical scenes felt realistic and broke the tension in a good way.
Leo is a typical teen, aggressive and somewhat mouthy. He's to Michael what Bonnie is to Sienna, pushy and know-it-all. Still, likeable, helping to move the story forward (sometimes comically.)
I loved the scene in the psychic's house and Rob's so called “visitations”. This aspect added a creepiness.
What I didn't like:
OMG, Sienna. Open your mouth and put up your dukes! I can understand she's scarred by an abusive relationship, and the experience could produce either a hateful man-eater or push someone into a shell. But she behaved like such a victim, which sometimes annoyed me. The flashbacks were vivid and gripping, explaining why, but get over it already.
I would recommend this book to readers who desire a lengthy, in-depth read, and are willing to take the time to get into a story that some may consider a slow starter. The characters are well developed and believable. The settings spring to life. The plot is strong and plentiful. I found Love Dreams to be an all around enjoyable read. There are many books out there, but this one's worth a second look.