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Dreaming of You

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Book reviewed by Cheryl Sneed

This classic is one of my top favorite romance novels of all time. I do an annual reread of Derek's story, who is such a wonderfully tortured and sexy hero that he makes my toes curl just to think of him. I found that writing this review was much trickier than I thought it would be. I mean, how do you differentiate between a really wonderful book, and a book that makes you utter a wistful sigh just to think about it? I don't know. Let's see how I do.

Derek Craven was literally born in the gutter and raised in a brothel. His sordid climb to the top has seen him working as a climbing boy, a dockworker, a resurrection man (digging up fresh corpses for medical students), a prostitute, and eventually the owner of an exclusive gambling hall and one of the richest men in England. He is a legendary figure, equally admired, envied and feared. Now that he has gained everything in life he'd ever wanted, he finds that he has nothing left for which to strive. His cynicism has reached new levels and he is just going through the motions, dead inside. Until he meets Sara.

Sara Fielding, beloved daughter of elderly parents, small town gal with a slow-moving almost-fiance is also an author of some note. Though she loves her home, she has always felt restless; she is an observer, always feeling a bit apart from the rest of the world. This longing for adventure shows through in her novels, as her subject matter – prostitution, alienation, tragedy – is not that of your average lady writer. Her new novel will feature gambling, so she is in London to do research.

She meets Derek when she rescues him from knife-wielding attackers by shooting one of them. (She is fairly idealistic, but she's also realistic and knows to carry a pistol in her reticule when venturing into unsavory parts of London alone). They become better acquainted when Sara is allowed to tour his famous gambling hall and interview his employees for her research for several weeks.

Derek is intrigued by her, by her beauty, her kindness, her industry, and her intelligence. Everyone in the place falls for her, as does Derek, though he fights it every step of the way. He is determined to protect her from himself. Sara in turn, is as fascinated by Derek. He is unlike anyone she's ever met. His complexity, his many faces, and her admiration of what it took for him to achieve his present situation captivate her. Not to mention an acute awareness of his physical presence. Sara's recklessness comes to the fore when she attends a masked ball at the gambling hall. She longs to be someone else for one night – someone who might steal a kiss from Derek.

Well, they go much further than a kiss that evening, but while Derek is obsessed with Sara, he is also obsessed with keeping her from the harm a relationship with him would cause her. Derek feels that his past actions put him beyond redemption. There is a wonderful scene where he exposes all his past sins to Sara in an effort to make her understand how completely unworthy he is of her care. He knows he is not husband and father material, and is convinced that he would destroy not only her innocence, but also her spirit if he were to act on his love for her. He is completely undone when he receives not condemnation, but acceptance. Sara is a woman who knows what she wants. And she wants Derek. Well, who wouldn't?

And all this only takes us up to p. 180! There are many obstacles on the road to Derek and Sara's Happy Ending; a road littered with guilt and torment and humor and longing and tears and hot sex. This is a practically perfect novel and Sara and Derek are characters who come alive on the page and take over your imagination long after you close the book. While Sara is a terrific creation, it is Derek that makes my heart go pitter-pat. He is incredibly vulnerable beneath his tough guy exterior, he is so desperately in need of love, and so sure that keeping away from Sara is the only honorable thing he's ever done in his life, that you just want to cuddle him and say, "There, there, baby. Tell Auntie Cheryl all about it" And then of course, those maternal feelings go away and you just want to ravish him. Or, at least I want to…

Dreaming of You has just been reprinted with a new cover (and a new price, unfortunately). If you haven't read this book, Go get it! I promise you won't be sorry. Ah, Derek… *sigh*

Reviewed by Cheryl Sneed, October 23, 2003

NicoleDreaming of You - Lisa Kleypas2004-05-12
I generally don't pipe in on websites, but I have to say that Derek Craven, from Dreaming of You, is the single most overpowering character in any book I have ever read. He was a minor character in Then Came You, and he was so interesting... I knew he would make a great main character and was ecstatic to find his story available. His sorrow is so palpable, yet he is so devastatingly desirable.... WOW! Lisa Kleypas does such a fabulous job bringing characters to life! I have read maybe 150 (or so) novels in the past couple of years (mostly, if not all, historical romance), but I know there are so many more to be read. If you know of other books with such a compelling set of characters I would love to know about it. I am always looking for more books!
 
CherylRecommendations2004-05-12
Hi Nicole, and welcome to Rakehell! I've got a couple of recommendations for you, books with compelling, complex leads - hopefully you haven't read them yet!

  • Adele Ashworth - Winter Garden. Out of print, but well worth the effort to find it
  • Judith Ivory - Untie My Heart, The Proposition
  • Liz Carlyle - anything by her is wonderful
  • Connie Brockway - All Through the Night
  • Loretta Chase - Lord of Scoundrels
  • Laura Kinsale - Flowers from the Storm
  • Mary Jo Putney's Fallen Angels series
  • Gayle Wilson - My Lady Dare

All of these are meaty, angsty, sexy books. Enjoy!

 
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“A classic novel of the Ultimate Tortured Hero is reprinted. ”

October 2003, 405 pages
Publisher: Avon
ISBN: 038077352X

Back Cover Blurb:

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 promises of love.

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