Dreaming of You
When I finished Dreaming of You, I sat down to write my review and couldn’t think of a single good thing to say about the book. I couldn’t think of a single bad thing to say about it, either. It’s that kind of book – inoffensive, bland, and ordinary. In other words, utterly average.
Nicholas Gerard inherited an historic building from his grandfather in New Orleans’ French Quarter. He’s trying to sell it, but his tenants are a tenacious bunch who have come up with a number of schemes to scare off potential buyers, including rigging up a “ghost.” He heads to Louisiana with the goal of catching them in the act. Unfortunately, he’s also coming down with a bad case of pneumonia. When he gets to the house, he finds that his tenants are actually pretty nice, since they are willing to take care of him while he recuperates.
Nick conceals his identity as the landlord and pretends to be a novelist so he can catch the tenants scaring away buyers. He soon begins to fall for one of the tenants, Magnolia (Maggie) Mayfair, who bluntly explains that she’s looking for a no-strings-attached affair. (Maggie is not the most subtle heroine you’ll ever run across.) Nick, who’s so marriage-shy he can’t say the word “wife” without stuttering to a halt, doesn’t think Maggie seems like the no-strings-attached type (partly because she has a college degree in home economics), so he turns her down.
It’s never clear exactly why Nick is so afraid of marriage. Yes, his father has had innumerable ill-fated marriages, but why must romance heroes always make all their decisions based on their parents’ lives? Maggie, on the other hand, has every reason to fear commitment – she was engaged to a man for four years, and broke off the engagement when she discovered he was having affairs with six other women. (No, that’s not a typo. I said six.) Maggie has decided that commitment is not for her, either, and that a casual affair would be fun. But Maggie has always wanted to be a cookie-baking, minivan-driving mom (hence the home economics degree) and she eventually discovers Nick was right – she’s not the casual sex type.
The growing relationship between Nick and Maggie is actually kind of sweet, but it gets buried under a landslide of flimsy plot devices. The tenants gradually begin to believe Nick is a famous mystery author named Norton Graves, based on the fact that their initials are the same and that Graves is staying somewhere in Louisiana. (The plot starts to stretch a little thin at this point.) So, they reason, if he’s a rich author and they suck up to him, he might buy the building for them. (Come on, do reasonable people think this way? By this point the plot is stretched so far it’s transparent.) But Maggie is dismayed – if they try to use Nick this way, he’ll believe she’s seducing him so he’ll buy the building! (SNAP! That’s the sound of the plot breaking from the stress of being stretched so far. Or perhaps it’s the reader’s credence snapping.) The tenants eventually realize they were wrong and that Nick can’t possibly be Norton Graves, but the damage is done. When Nick discovers what the tenants briefly believed, he naturally decides they never really liked him, and Maggie never really liked him either, and he goes into a classic romantic hero sulk.
This book never really rises above the ordinary, either in plotting or characterization. There’s the requisite cast of “zany” characters, who don’t really become more than cardboard cutouts, and also fail rather badly at being zany. We have the Professor (I couldn’t stop myself from singing the theme from Gilligan’s Island every time he showed up); the female fmpersonator; and the turbaned, psychic Tarot card reader. These people function as Maggie’s “family,” thus helping to move the plot along, but they just aren’t the successful comic relief they are evidently intended to be. At the most, they’re mildly likable.
Maggie herself has an interesting career – she sells exotic masks. Aside from that, however, she seems more like a Southern cliche than a real person, given that she’s named Magnolia, says, “Oh, my lordy me” on a regular basis, and cooks turkey gumbo. But apparently either the author or the editor was afraid of appearing to stereotype Southerners, as we’re informed Maggie is originally from Minnesota. Uh-huh, I just bet Magnolia is a really common name in St. Paul. Oh, my lordy me.
The paranormal subplot, which at first is very slight, grows gradually stronger until it takes over most of the last third of the book. Even so, I wouldn’t describe this book as a paranormal, but rather as a contemporary with some paranormal elements. The setting is an integral part of the book and seems well-researched enough; in fact, the author’s note indicates Kane lived in the French Quarter for five years.
If you like New Orleans settings, and are interested in paranormal plots, you might want to give Dreaming of You a try. It’s not the greatest romance ever written, but it’s not the worst, either. The characters are likable but unremarkable, and the plot meanders down well-worn paths, only occasionally becoming totally unbelievable. In short, the C rating I gave the book says it all.