St Martin’s Press, $6.99, ISBN 0-312-99484-2
Contemporary Romance, 2004
“The problem, Bradley, is that I’m Las Vegas and you’re… well, you’re Reno. I’m bright lights on the marquee, miles of glitz and glamor, the Luxor and the Bellagio all rolled into one. Poor little Reno just can’t keep up.”
What on earth?
Thus begins the start of my problems with Dream On: it tries so hard to be funny but I am just not amused. In fact, the hero’s mother and the heroine come off as… well, let’s just say that they need help, period. Bradley Nelson, whose dreams of being a country superstar are collapsing thanks to a flop debut and his contract getting canceled subsequently, is dumped by his girlfriend for being a Reno. Or something. What can he do but to run to Mommy, right? Mommy, however, is running in the opposite direction – Harriet the casino worker has learned that her bosses are up to no good and after taking three million dollars with her, she is on the run. Bullets fly, marring the touching reunion, and forcing Brad and his mother to hit the road in Harriet’s Winnebago. A woman in a gorilla suit, who has witnessed Brad’s unceremonious dumping, is dragged along for the ride, while Mom explains to Brad that she wants to take the money to the IRS office in Philadelphia and present it to her ex-boss.
This woman is Delphine Armstrong, who uses her excuse of never belonging anywhere, boo-hoo-hoo, to act crazy. She will tell all sorts of fibs so that she will be accepted by everyone and she has her sights pegged on marrying Brad and having Harriet as her mother-in-law. Only a romance heroine will want to marry a failed country singer and have for a mother-in-law a woman on the run with bullets spraying at her hindquarters. Meanwhile, when they are not making out or getting down in “What on earth? Aren’t they supposed to be running for their lives?” situations, Brad realizes that Delphine is a great muse for his singing.
I don’t have problems with a heroine that lies, and under other circumstances, a chronic liar would make an interesting heroine. Unfortunately, Ms Brandt tries too hard to be wacky and over-the-top that Delphine comes off as a too-stupid, wretched, and deeply delusional dingbat. Harriet is lucky that Delphine is around to make her come off as relatively sane in comparison. Brad has his charms but more often than not, he’s lost in the unfunny wacky antics going on here.
The problem with comedy is that what some readers will find funny, others will not. In this case, the best I can say here is that Dream On has plenty of crazy women behaving in bizarre manners, plenty of wacky cornball scenes, and over-the-top one liners. None of them work with me, although other readers might enjoy them. Everything depends on the author’s skill and the sharpness of her wit, I guess. Colleen Collins, for example, writes screwball adventures that work for me because her wit always gets me. Some of her books are more over-the-top than Dream On but I enjoyed them better than this book. Ms Brandt, on the other hand, comes off across as trying very hard but unfortunately missing the bullseye constantly in this book. To be honest, I find this book horrendously nerve-grating at places.