In My Wildest Dreams
This book has a really great story in it, not a good story, a great one. So why the grade? Unfortunately the book has a big problem. I’m going to tell you the story and you can guess what the problem is.
Celeste, a tomboyish gardener’s daughter grows up on a wealthy estate. There are two boys who are the sons of the owners. One, Throckmorton, is stogy and responsible. The second, Ellery, is handsome and a terrible flirt. As a child Celeste falls in love with Ellery. As he grows up, Ellery becomes a playboy, or rake. He barely notices that Celeste is infatuated with him.
When she becomes a young lady, Celeste is sent to Paris to learn to become a governess. Paris changes Celeste and when she returns she is stunningly beautiful and sophisticated, so much so that when Ellery bumps into her at the train station he fails to recognize her. Ellery offers her a ride home and is confused when Celeste tells him her address is on his estate. Celeste is delighted with the joke, which is “too much fun” to stop.
Ellery is so captivated that he invites Celeste to a party that night. The house “was made for parties.” Unfortunately he has forgotten that the party in question is his own engagement party where he is announcing his betrothal to Hyacinth, the daughter of a wealthy man about to complete a huge business deal with his brother. Ellery tells Thockmorton, his older brother, that he intends to pursue Celeste. Thockmorton is alarmed. This will kill his business deal. At that very party, Thockmorton tries to pay off Celeste and send her back to Paris. Failing this, he decides to pursue her himself to keep her away from Ellery.
Have you guessed the problem? Author Christina Dodd has written a great story here. Unfortunately she did not find it “in her wildest dreams.” She saw it at the movies, twice. Both times it was called Sabrina.
Nowadays writers often use stories found elsewhere to inspire new ones. It is safe to assume that Christina Dodd knew full well that the readers of this book would have seen Sabrina and I am not accusing anybody here of plagiarism. Nevertheless, In My Wildest Dreams disturbed me greatly. Usually writers who are inspired by an older story change significant factors which change the old story into a new a different one. In My Wildest Dreams has a number of new details, but it is not a different story.
Usually at this point in the review, an AAR reviewer describes the heroine and the hero. In this review it hardly seems necessary because most of the readers of this review have met them played by none other than Audrey Hepburn, Julia Ormond, Harrison Ford and Humphrey Bogart. Celeste is Sabrina. There are no significant differences other than the fact that she is a Victorian English governess and not a chef or an assistant on a fashion magazine. If you have seen the movie, you know that she is beautiful and innocent with only the veneer of sophistication that Paris has given her. Like the hero played by Humphrey Bogart and Harrison Ford, Throckmorton is a stogy, duty bound man who resents the role that his irresponsible playboy brother has put him in. He falls in love with Celeste, even as he is scheming to send her back to Paris.
Ironically the biggest differences between Sabrina and In My Wildest Dreams detract from, rather than enhance the story. Celeste and Throckmorton engage in what used to be called heavy petting, and then sex. During the heavy petting section of the book Celeste is still bent on marrying Ellery, a situation which becomes disturbing after a certain point. Then Celeste and Throckmorton have sex. Of course the two are simply overcome with passion, but given Throckmorton’s plans to ship Celeste off, I found this offputting. Also, the younger brother Ellery becomes a rather unsavory character. Rather than being a childish, fickle man (as in the movie) he is a careless father who ignores the little girl he fathered out of wedlock. There is an espionage subplot that is so routine it adds very little to the story.
If you have seen Sabrina, comparisons with the movie are unavoidable and In My Wildest Dreams comes up very short. I usually enjoy Christina Dodd’s books, especially her recent Rules of Surrender. This one I would pass up.