Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-06-050562-1
Historical Romance, 2003
Miss Eleanor Tennant is not a happy woman. As a firm believer in Rational Behavior, she is not happy when her niece Belinda chooses to follow the advice of the local agony aunt, a Busybody, to “follow her heart” instead of listening to wise Aunt Eleanor here. She learns that the Busybody may just be Lady Westover. She charges to that house, only to learn that the son, Simon, is the Busybody, not the mother. Blackmailing him into coming back with her to tell Belinda to listen to Auntie, she realizes that she is too late. Belinda is gone! She has eloped!
Simon writes for The Ladies’ Fashionable Cabinet, where his awful poetry and unabashedly progressive views of women’s right to choose and love freely are given free rein to float in a morass of bad prose. He has to help Eleanor because he doesn’t want his co-writers and publisher to be exposed as guys and hence be disgraced forever. He’s sort of like those liberal dipsticks in college who keep going on and on about East Timor or Afghanistan from the comforts of their air-conditioned rooms and the bottom of their Starbucks foam cups. Of course, he and Eleanor fall in love.
Candice Hern tries to inject something new in Once a Dreamer by having hero Simon Westover as the dreamy romantic one and Eleanor Tennant as the cynical one. Alas, both characters behave in ways that, well, doesn’t inject much originality to the premise. The plot twists are predictable, as are the decisions and thought processes of the main characters. In the end, I’m quite amused that the author has to resort to the hero doing some “manly” pugilism to win the heroine’s attention or that the heroine, despite all her blather to the contrary, ends up behaving just like a stereotypical Regency-era heroine.
Once a Dreamer is a pleasant read, although the main characters’ heavy-handed posturing (her stubbornness and bossiness, his bombastic speech and poetry) can be trying on my nerves at times. It meanders along pleasantly, bubbling lazily along, to conclude in the typical happy ending. A pretty readable if ho-hum book, this one.