Desert Isle Keeper
More Than You Dreamed
How do you combine Hollywood, the South, a movie very like Gone With The Wind, a mystery and a romance? Those are a lot of ingredients to combine in a novel, but Kathleen Gilles Seidel makes the mix shine in More than You Dreamed.
The heroine, Jill Casler, has just inherited a huge sum from her recently deceased Hollywood director father and doesn’t know what to do next. One day, a man who looks just like the star of her father’s first big picture from forty years ago shows up on her doorstep. No, this isn’t a time travel. The man is Doug Ringling, a distant relative of hers, who was also related to that movie star, Phillip Wayland, a star who died years ago but whom Jill had always adored. The part Phillip played in Jill’s father’s movie is as recognizable to the women of More than You Dreamed as Clark Gable playing Rhett Butler is to us. Doug has come to see Jill because there are a lot of questions cropping up about her father’s most famous movie, questions that could cast a scandalous shadow on his memory.
Jill takes a trip to Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley where Doug is from. Shendandoah is also where all of her other relatives live. She’s never met them because her father’s bitter divorce from his first wife created a long-lived estrangement. Some of the people from her father’s first movie, filmed in the Shendoah Valley, are still alive. As Doug and Jill start investigating the truth about the movie, a Civil War romance, I was worried that this was going to turn into just another murder mystery. To my infinite relief, Seidel had more creativity in her than to fall back on a shopworn concept. Instead, she presents a picture of Doug and Jill’s entire family and each of its members. Only through fully understanding their families will Doug and Jill be led to a print of another version of the film – a print that will answer all their questions.
The romance between Doug and Jill is as engrossing as the mystery. Jill is in a long-term therapy group as she struggles to build a life for herself. Doug has just lost his job in college basketball coaching because of a scandal at the school. Additionally, Doug needs Jill to lose her infatuation with Phillip Wayland before commiting to her. He’s had enough problems with women identifying him with his dead movie star relation.
There is a considerable cultural difference for Jill between living in the Shenandoah Valley with a huge number of cousins and her former life living in impersonal Hollywood. She adapts to it and starts to make a life for herself in Virginia. She also finds out many of the secrets her father kept from her. The transformation of Jill’s life and the sleuthing Jill and Doug do with the two versions of the film create an engrossing story, one which I found riveting from the start. And the contrast between Hollywood and the South was an added bonus.
Kathleen Gilles Seidel is not one of those authors who seem to write the same book over and over with only a change of character names to differentiate between them. Seidel’s books differ greatly from one another. What they have in common is great plotting and character development in a story that always touches your heart. The characters themselves, however, are located in different states, in different careers, and are of differing ages in each book. This author never gets into a rut and I love that about her. You will too.