Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-7245-7
Contemporary Romance, 2002
If this book isn’t trying too hard to be a nondescript, indistinguishable “A Neurotic Heroine, a Millionaire Hero, and Three Dotty Old Coots and Some Wacky Antics, Ha-Ha-Ha!” contemporary romance, it would have been a better story. Filled with unnecessarily wacky speeches and antics by old people that apparently lose all sense of restraint once they hit middle age, and with even an appearance by a ghost, Dreaming of You soon drowns in its own cacophony and comes off as a trying-too-hard wannabe.
Magnolia “Maggie” Mayfair is a heroine that could have been assembled in a RWA workshop. She believes that a woman only loves once, and having been burned by an ex she almost married, she now decides to swear off men forever. This is like saying that just because you bought a chocolate bar that had outlived its shelf life, you will never eat chocolate again because you can only eat chocolate once in your life. Pathetic. And at the grand old age of – how old is she anyway? – anyway, Maggie is feeling rather horny so maybe she should try – maybe – some “lust” experiment a little.
Like I said, a Made-in-RWA heroine, that’s our Maggie.
Our hero Nick Gerard is a much better character, even if he’s just as much a Made-in-Jayne-Ann-Krentz’s-Basement wannabe. A millionaire by 23 and a jaded dude today, he is feeling ill-used by his opportunist family members and literally ill as well. He decides to take some anonymous refuge from the corporate world by moving in for a few weeks at the New Orleans apartment block he is planning to sell off anyway.
Maggie and the three dotty freaks that are her neighbors also live here (they rent the apartment and in Maggie’s case, a store as well), and they are trying to create ghostly effects and other hee-la-ree-oos wacky antics to scare off prospective buyers. Is Nick a spy or an ally? Hmm. Then the Crazy Old Fortune Teller Broad foresees Maggie and Nick being destined lovers or something, and immediately and most unsubtly tells each other how sexually aroused the other person is around him or her. What happened to good manners?
Then again, we are talking about four tenants who adamantly refuse to move from the apartments they are renting, so it’s not as if they have complete right to sabotage the landlord the way they do here. And we are talking about four tenants who treat outsiders like enemies until they sniff around and find out that he’s one of “them”. And these are the people who spy on the new neighbor at all time, in the name of “dotty and fun comedy moments”.
The thing is, Nick is a nice hero. His family troubles and his change of heart makes him a rather appealing hero. Maggie, when she’s not forced into quacking or jumping through stupid hoops to demonstrate her dubious “virtue” (read: sexual inexperience), can be quite human and even likable at times. But for too long the authors are making Maggie acting like a flustered caricature, using the three old people and the ghost and enough bad seance to convert a new age practitioner into the Harlequin cult, and creating ridiculous scenes of old people behaving badly and speaking crudely to bring on the funnies.
When it could have been grand, Dreaming of You looks as if it has been cobbled together by Vietnamese illegal immigrants slaving away in the sweatshop located in the author’s basement. It will do Dixie Kane much good if she takes a deep breath, let the humor flow unforced, and let those two young ones fall in love without throwing so many ridiculous situations in their paths. Go with the flow, people, feel the flow, that’s the way to live.