Desert Isle Keeper

Dream Man (#51 on our Top 100 Romances List)

Linda Howard

An AAR Top 100 Romance

originally published on April 16, 1998

So, I’m reading Dream Man, and my husband idly says to me, “Say, how’s your book?”

With cool deliberation, I lift a brow and raise my glassy and dilated gaze, and say in a voice both low and menacing, “Go away. Take the kids to your mom’s. Feed yourself. Or starve. I don’t care. Go to bed. Wait up. Don’t wait up. I don’t care. Leave me alone.”

“That good, huh?” he says, reaching for his car keys and the kids’ coats.

Yikes, yes! that good.

Marlie Keen is a pretty young woman who has led a nightmare life. Born with the “gift” of psychic ability, she has been sought after for years by the authorities to help them solve crimes. But a diabolical and shattering incident has neutralized her clairvoyance, so for six years her mind has been free of the intrusive thoughts of others’ – until the night a vision so overpoweringly evil overtakes her, she realizes her mind is, once again, subject to the forces of a killer. Her visions are so intense, she is incapacitated for hours afterward, leaving her traumatized and vulnerable. She sees every detail of the crime through the murderer’s eyes, but is helpless to intervene. Having been labeled everything from genius to charlatan, Marlie resists going to the police, yet knows she must – for the psychotic killer is clever, and her knowledge is the only lead the authorities will have.

Orlando detective Dane Hollister, my vote for The Manliest Man Alive Ever, is the hero you love-to-hate-to-love. Tall, broad-shouldered, muscular, imperious, and sexy (and he knows it), Dane thinks Marlie is not only a sham, but may actually be the killer – for Marlie has described every detail of the gory murder scene that Dane and his devastatingly charming partner, Alex Trammell, have been assigned to investigate.

It’s mutual hate-at-first-sight as Dane listens to Marlie’s seemingly absurd story, then verbally assaults her with accusations of fraud. But Marlie flings it right back in his face. This lady has dealt with jerks like him for years, and she’s not about to give him an inch. The problem is, Dane is so intensely attracted to Marlie, the minute he meets her, he gets an . . . I mean, he becomes . . . uh, his interest perks up, and stays up for the entire 341 pages. The sexual tension is pulse-pounding and the love scenes are beyond hot. As Dane and Marlie dance around each other while trying to resist their nearly debilitating mutual attraction, Dane begins to believe Marlie is innocent. A trip to a psychic research center fills in all the gaps on her horrific, and lonely past, and Dane forms a plan – one that requires he literally move in with Marlie for her own protection.

Desire pulsed in his loins; he couldn’t be around her and not want her. But stronger than desire was the need to hold her close and protect her, from the horrors within as well as those without.

Oh yes.

Marlie’s abilities are genuine. She is mentally linked with an “escalating serial killer” – a guy as creepy, crawly, slimy, and perverted a madman as ever there was, and one who is careful to murder without leaving a trace of evidence behind. Once he knows Marlie exists . . . Linda Howard has created an explosive, tense, riveting, sexually-charged, emotionally devastating, mesmerizing story of love and murder that, once you pick it up, you will be hard-pressed to put down. The characters are very well defined in terms of personality, background, motivations, experiences . . . it’s all here. Ms. Howard has done an outstanding job.

Warning – I’ve used some adjectives in this review that should be taken at full value. This book is not for the squeamish. It is rough, it is graphic, it is violent. It is sizzling and it is fascinating. I didn’t know any of this when I opened the cover. However, once I began, the story drew me in like a whirlpool, and I could not, did not want to, climb out. It was harrowing! It was great! Yikes!

Buy Dream Man:

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Book Details

Reviewer :      Marianne Stillings

Grade :     A

Sensuality :      Hot

Book Type :     

Review Tags :     

Recent Comments


  1. Dabney Grinnan
    Dabney Grinnan November 18, 2017 at 10:03 pm - Reply

    Yet another classic I’ve not read. Is this Howard at her best?

    • Maryann November 19, 2017 at 7:48 am - Reply

      I read all of Linda Howards early books…I started to be less enthralled around the time CRY NO MORE came out…however…her two VERY best mainstream novels are…SON OF THE MORNING and NOW YOU SEE HER….I always pictured a younger Julia Roberts playing the role of Sweeney.

      • Blackjack
        Blackjack November 19, 2017 at 10:42 pm - Reply

        Now You See Her is I think the only older Howard book still on my TBR list, and I have read good things about it.

  2. Blackjack
    Blackjack November 18, 2017 at 11:32 pm - Reply

    Rereading this book in 2017, it definitely feels dated and did not hold up that well for me. The psychic stuff feels pretty hokey, for one thing. I don’t like the insta-lust Dane feels for Marlie in their first meeting or the constant erection he has for the entire novel. I’m sure his libido is meant to be sexy, but I find it a bit off-putting and even kind of icky at times, such as when he’s interrogating her and threatening to jail her. Dane is also nearly a caricature of the alpha male and at times I unintentionally find the representation funny. He bullies his way into Marlie’s life despite her protests. He uses his knowledge and experience about sex to teach her the joys of it, knowing she’s a sexual assault survivor, because he apparently knows what’s best for her. I’m also not sure it’s technically ethical for a police officer to become the lover of a suspect/later witness. Finally, and here is where I really feel disgruntled with the book, he decides late in the book to use Marlie as a decoy to entice a serial killer to come after her, knowing her past trauma and all without telling her or seeking her permission to use her, and in the process he puts her life in danger. Yes, she is temporarily angry with him, and sure, she survives the attempt on her life. But apparently the sex is just too good and it’s a romance novel, so problem papered over in a matter of a few pages. It’s a steamy read for those who want that, but it’s definitely a problematic book.

    • Chrisreader November 19, 2017 at 7:08 pm - Reply

      This one didn’t hold up for me as well on reread (I remembered it as being amongst my favorite romance books years ago) but I still enjoyed it. He’s a bossy, pushy “alpha”for lack of a better word and when I was younger I apparently liked that much more than I do now.

      Regarding the ethics, I have noticed for years if real people acted in any way like book, TV or movie professionals do they would be fired, disbarred and likely arrested. Dane was pretty obnoxious at times, but he never reached Guy Rouillard levels for me. I have to say in terms of the suspense it is one romantic suspense that genuinely scared me.

  3. LeeF November 18, 2017 at 11:56 pm - Reply

    Oh, for Pete’s sake- can’t we just enjoy the book for what it is? Time period/dated/psychic stuff/whatever?

    • Blackjack
      Blackjack November 19, 2017 at 1:08 am - Reply

      No, I don’t enjoy this book for what it is, but I did like it years ago according to my Goodreads account. Revisiting it years though is eye opening. However, the forums are here for everyone to post their honest thoughts on a book, right?

      • Dabney Grinnan
        Dabney Grinnan November 19, 2017 at 9:33 am - Reply

        Yes…. and…using words like problematic combined with phrases like “those who want that” are kinda shaming. I don’t think that’s what you’re getting it but I can see how it might make other readers uncomfortable if they do indeed enjoy a book. Maybe we could shoot for more “I” language.

        • Blackjack
          Blackjack November 19, 2017 at 4:11 pm - Reply

          Dabney, I said the book did not work for me while rereading in my very first sentence when I used the first first pronoun “me,,” and since it is my review only, it’s already implied that these are my thoughts.

          I also said that this book is a steamy read for those who like that sort of thing because lots of readers do and Linda Howard’s older romances definitely fit that category. That’s why AAR includes a “steam rating.” See the Sensuality Rating: Hot above in what you just reposted? The sexy nature of Dream Man didn’t bother me at all, and even if it did, that would be my issue, not others. Otherwise, I found lots problematic as I stated above.

          • Dabney Grinnan
            Dabney Grinnan November 19, 2017 at 10:11 pm

            I read your comment–and similar ones elsewhere–carefully. It’s clear that you find the way many romances, especially older ones, handle consent deeply problematic. That’s fine–you make cogent arguments. That said, I think we’ll have freer discussions at AAR if we make sure we’re never shaming anyone for enjoying works we may find unenjoyable. I would just ask that you parse your words with care and with the goal that no one should ever feel ashamed for the books they enjoy.

  4. Lisa Fernandes
    Lisa Fernandes November 19, 2017 at 4:17 am - Reply

    This is one of the very few Howards that lingers on my keeper shelf. I agree that it’s very 80stastic and Dane reads like a David Addison/Sonny Crockett crossbreeding project gone awry, but I liked the plot.

  5. bungluna November 19, 2017 at 9:26 am - Reply

    While I agree with everything Blackjack said, I still love this one. I take it out once a year and reread it with gusto.

    • Chrisreader November 19, 2017 at 6:48 pm - Reply

      This used to be one of my favorite Howard books but on a reread a couple of years ago it definitely slipped down my list. I think when I was younger I enjoyed bossy alpha heroes more, and now that I am older I just imagine telling them off when they go off the rails. That being said, I did still enjoy it and probably will continue to in the future. Maybe it’s like Motorcycle Man for me in that I could not get up in a court of law and defend WHY I enjoy it, but I just do. There are books that I read and think “Wow I’d like that heroine’s life” and ones that I just enjoy without wanting that wish fulfillment/place swapping fantasy and this is one of the latter. I’d never want to live Marlie’s life but I enjoy the excitement of it second hand.

  6. Chris booklover
    Chris booklover November 19, 2017 at 8:30 pm - Reply

    I enjoyed this book, although it is not a personal favorite in the way that Open Season, Kill and Tell and the Mackenzie series are.

  7. Blackjack
    Blackjack November 19, 2017 at 10:36 pm - Reply

    No, Dabney, I have not shamed any person in my posts, and my writings here are only about the content of what is in a book. Yes, consent in romance literature is a genuinely controversial topic, perhaps now more than ever, but the conversations are limited to the issue itself and does not extend into speculation or insinuations about readers per se, nor should it ever. It also does not bother me if someone loves a book I don’t or vice versa. And if a reader does not enjoy reading critiques of books they like, I think it’s fine to skip those posts and read reviews that are more in accordance with their own personal tastes. I personally do enjoy reading thoughts that conflict with my interpretation of a work of fiction and it doesn’t offend me. Now back to discussing the actual books.

  8. Lola November 19, 2017 at 11:52 pm - Reply

    Just an FYI and a WTF- I read this long ago and thought I might like to give it a second look. I went to Amazon- the Kindle book is $9.49? What is up with that price?

    • Lola November 19, 2017 at 11:55 pm - Reply

      Sorry- needed to add, I scrolled through her other books on Amazon and they are mostly (excepting her new as-yet-unreleased book at $12.99) in the $4.99 to $7.99 range. Outliers are lower, not higher. Maybe a glitch? I love Linda Howard so I am casting zero aspersions.

      • Dabney Grinnan
        Dabney Grinnan November 20, 2017 at 8:51 am - Reply

        Some of her books go on sale but her big older sellers do not.

    • Chrisreader November 20, 2017 at 9:20 pm - Reply

      I’m pretty sure the price is why I had to fall back on my dusty old paperback for the reread. Every now and then one of her older more favored books will go on sale (as I have a few in ebook format) but her publisher must find they sell pretty well even at the higher prices because I don’t think I’ve ever seen Dream Man on sale or I would have added it to my collection.

      I’ve become 100% pro-digital over the years especially after seeing how badly my paperbacks have deteriorated despite being used pretty gently and kept out of the sun. They are still falling apart and I love being able to carry huge amounts of my books around in my pocket.

  9. Susan/DC November 22, 2017 at 3:25 pm - Reply

    I didn’t care for Dane even when I first read the book more than 10 years ago, and I found Marlie something of a cipher. However, and quite perversely, I found the villain to be one of the most interesting characters I’d read in a while, and I usually hate the portrayal of the villain in romantic suspense. This guy was totally creepy and scary, but somehow compelling. I liked how Linda Howard allows us to narrow in on the killer’s identity, and I loved the scene where a woman — completely unknowingly — saves herself from becoming his next victim.

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