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.
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.