Signet, $6.99, ISBN 0-451-21215-0
Historical Romance, 2004
First off, I’d better warn people that this book doesn’t stand alone if you haven’t read any other books in the author’s Scottish Dream trilogy. As often is in the case of romance trilogies, this isn’t because there is a story arc that readers need to read from the beginning to understand. No, it’s because the characters from previous books cram up the pages, distract from the main couple, and clutter up the story with subplots galore. People who keep writing in to tell me that is absolutely nothing wrong with the romance genre, they love everything, and the current series fad is good because they love catching up with characters from previous books will probably change their Pollyanna theme song if there are more books like Dreams of Destiny released to clutter further the market.
Gwenyth Douglas has a secret life: she writes popular pirate adventure stories under a pseudonym. When she inherits his uncle’s properties with a stipulation that she gets married first and there is no scandal attach to her name, she panics when someone starts blackmailing her about her secret career. She thinks that she has no choice but to marry Allan Ardmore, her friend, so that the she can get her paws on the monies before scandal breaks out. Alas, Gwen’s mother frowns on the match so those two decide to elope to Gretna Green.
Meanwhile, David Pennington, Gwen’s neighbor, is back in Scotland after a sojourn in the military (what’s a romance nowadays without a soldier hero, right?) and he decides to stop those two from eloping by sticking close to Gwen. Soon he decides that Gwen is better off married to him, even when he makes it clear to Gwen that she must stop writing and listen to hubby dearest at all times when they are married. Being a man, he doesn’t understand why when Gwen doesn’t jump in joy at his proposal. Gwen unfortunately has been in love with David since forever so the author doesn’t make it easy for her to cling on to what little she has in terms of principles.
But poor Allan is soon left forgotten in Gretna Green however when the couple’s story takes a backseat to the Morality Lesson of the Dead Slut tale. See, Emma, the dead Slut, was murdered. Gwen inherits the goodies from Emma’s father and David is the brother of the man married to Emma. Emma’s melodrama of manners unfurls through the italicized reminiscences of David’s cousin Walter Truscott. Good heavens, what a twisted family. Emma’s story is a typical story of a slut gone haywire, nothing new there, and the mystery behind her death along with other subplots overwhelm the story that Alan and the blackmail plot are neglected until the author bring them back late in the story for a tidy, too-convenient closure.
I don’t know what the author is trying to do here. There is too much clutter in this story. Emma’s mystery may be enjoyable if it isn’t buried under the clutter. Gwen and David end up as underdeveloped secondary characters in this story, playing second fiddles to the external plots that threaten to bury all traces of coherence in this story. There is just too much things and too many players running around the place in Dreams of Destiny, and the result is a very busy story that tries to tackle so many things at one time only to fall flat on its face.