Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas


Like Red Lily (NR), I sat down to read this book out of duty. Reading Kleypas’ backlist is one item on my TBR list—and Dreaming of You is a title I hadn’t yet read. Simple.

Just because I knew I would hate it, is no reason to scratch it off my list, right? Wrong. That would have been like polishing my kitchen counter to a gleam, only to find an errant crumb smack in the middle of it. I wouldn’t survive it.

How did I know I would hate it? Two reasons. First, its hero, Derek Craven, was introduced as a secondary character in Then Came You, a Kleypas title I read over what were the worst few days of my life. Through no fault of its own, I will forever associate that book, those characters to that time. Second, I’m craving power and competency in my heroes right now. Derek Craven is a hero from the wrong side of the tracks—uneducated, disdained by society’s powerful upper crust and firmly rooted in the seamier—criminal--side of London life. I doubted his world would be one in which I would feel safe.

I was very, very wrong.

Derek Craven is one of the most powerful men I’ve ever read. And Dreaming Of You is the most compelling—shattering—book I’ve read from Kleypas thus far.

Blurb:

She stood at danger's threshold -- then love beckoned her in.

In the shelter of her country cottage, Sara Fielding puts pen to paper to create dreams. But curiosity has enticed the prim, well-bred gentlewoman out of her safe haven -- and into Derek Craven's dangerous world.

A handsome, tough and tenacious Cockney, he rose from poverty to become lord of London's most exclusive gambling house -- a struggle that has left Derek Craven fabulously wealthy, but hardened and suspicious. And now duty demands he allow Sara Fielding into his world -- with her impeccable manners and her infuriating innocence. But here, in a perilous shadow-realm of ever-shifting fortunes, even a proper "mouse" can be transformed into a breathtaking enchantress -- and a world-weary gambler can be shaken to his cynical core by the power of passion...and the promise of love.

That blurb doesn’t do the book justice. Sara is a published—highly successful—author. And she writes of prostitution, not dreams. The popularity of her novels combined with her open regard for every form of life—aristocrat to whore—gains her entry and acceptance everywhere. I always enjoy watching every character but the hero fall in love with the heroine first. I like the jealousy that results and the subsequent warring efforts—by all—to protect the heroine.

In this case, Sara’s seamless acceptance into Derek’s world only heightens the threat she poses to him. He does not want her there and feels no duty to allow her to use his gambling house to research her next novel. His minions feel otherwise and simply do as they please. Another enjoyment—watching subordinates rule the roost. Humor almost always abounds in these scenarios and they lend a certain insight into the hero’s character.

Derek Craven. Difficult to put into words how this character came to life for me. Kleypas infuses him with such magnetism, you cannot look away. He is a man of few words, yet he communicates—he emotes—with such power it is almost palpable for the reader. I felt Craven’s grip on my senses in every single scene in which he appears.

He is quite a powerful presence.

But he is the one character least in power throughout this story.

That is what sets Dreaming Of You apart from every other historical romance I’ve ever enjoyed. In this story, Kleypas gives all of the power to Sara, the heroine. And in Derek, she gives us a hero so wrenchingly vulnerable, we are afraid of him. Afraid of how he might react to that vulnerability—a weakness and a threat in his eyes.

Watching him come undone is the whole point. And frankly, I thought Kleypas a genius for the way she placed Derek in the readers’ hands—with as much care as she did in giving him to Sara. Caring for him was emotionally painful, a little frightening and powerfully rewarding. Perhaps not entirely safe, but rewarding nonetheless.

Read this book.

12 comments:

  1. Great review Jen! So insightful. Derek is so often named as Lisa Kleypas' favorite hero. And once you read thwe book it's so easy to see why. For me, it's a toss-up between him and Nick Gentry, from Worth Any Price. Another tortured Kleypas hero. I sure wish she still wrote her books like this.

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  2. lol I'll have to refer Kristie over to this post. DOY is definitely not your average historical.

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  3. Kristie's already seen it *grin* But I'm at work and had to close quickly before I had a chance to comment.
    What a wonderful review and I am so glad you enjoyed this book.
    I started this whole thing a bit tongue in cheek when I realized Nicole had never read this book. For some reason I assumed everyone had - but yet still in a semi-serious way. DOY is probably my favourite all time book - and we are talking many, many, many books. But when I read a review like this - or Nicoles - well, it just makes me feel good. I read it years ago and it seems like there is another generation of readers out there since I read it and I just love the fact that they are finding this book now too.

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  4. Lisa Kleypas, she is one of my favorite historical romance writers. Have every book she has written, but the first two. I just finished Devil in Winter, 3rd in the Wallflower series. Cant wait for Scandel in Spring, Daisy's story. It is due out august this yr.
    If you like 1800 English history , she can write them and deliver each time. But Loved Evie's story
    with St Vincent, a love struggle.

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  5. You made Kristie a very happy book pimp.

    And, I agree this is a must read for romance readers.

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  6. Lori gets the credit--or blame *g*--for introducing me to Kleypas. I'd say I'm at least halfway through Kleypas' backlist now and am so happy she did.

    As Lori is also responsible for a bazillion other books on my TBR list, I've learned to cover my ears and sing when she is talking. I can't take anymore. *G*

    Kristie's never-ending evangelism of Dreaming of You kept it top of mind, that's for sure. And of course now I know what the hell she was talking about. No question--you HAVE to read this book.

    I see that most are into Devil In Winter now. I've got It Happened One Autumn in line before it. Sigh. Work. Work. Work.

    Thanks for all of your comments. Dreaming of You is clearly near and dear to romance readers.

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  7. Whoops. You guys may want to kick me out of the club. I really can't stand hystericals ... I mean historicals of any kind. I stick to contemporaries. Maybe Jen can work on convincing me? Just got Midnight Rose. Made the library order it. Am I going to get in trouble by adding it to the shelves???? Oh yeah, one more mean comment. I don't like books set in England either. I've noticed, though, that lots of so-called Chick Lit is set there (Bridgette Jones' influence?) and that the main audience for Chick Lit is 30ish. Comments?

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  8. libtrek: LOL we all have different tastes so if historicals aren't your thing - that's fine *chuckle* Although may I say - there are historicals and then there is Dreaming of You. Different kettle of fish altogether.

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  9. LOLOL - so true, Kristie. There are a few that totally stand apart from the others. DOY is definitely one of them. I have read a few others that stand out for me as well. Worth any Price (also by Kleypas) and England's Perfect Hero by Suzanne Enoch (the 3rd in the Lessons in Love trilogy) are two that come to mind right away - head and shoulders above the rest.

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  10. Great review, Jennifer. I've just finished Then Came You and am reading DOY (see, Kristie, another fan sold). I love most of Kleypas' works (except Stranger in My Arms).

    Lori, Nick Gentry is one of my favourite heroes, he's up there with Madeline Hunter's David de Abyndon (he appears in several of her medievals - By Arrangement is the best IMO). And WAP is one of my fave Kleypas novels, besides Someone to watch Over Me (also featuring another Runner).

    I'd like to recommend The Devil You Know by Liz Carlyle if you gals have not not read it.

    Now, back to DOY ...

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  11. Just read DOY and could not put it down. I've been reading historical romance novels for years, and have become a little cynical...until I read this one. Loved, loved, loved Derek and had to see how others felt. Enjoyed everyone's insight a lot and I'm glad I'm not alone out there!!! She just hit the nail on the head with this character-the anti-hero-what a pleasant surprise!

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Have you read it? What do you think?

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