Once Upon A Dream
The premise for Once Upon a Dream has much more potential than the book actually delivers. Still, even though it falls a short in places, the characters are charming, the storyline intriguing, and the hero is handsome and capable without being macho. The only villain in this tale, is time.
In two weeks, reclusive Robin Wise will turn 30 – if she lives that long. All the women in her family back to her great-great-grandmother have died between the ages of 29 and 30, so Robin figures if she can just stay out of harm’s way, in her house, in bed, she may just live to see 31. But when her handsome new neighbor’s obnoxious cat crosses paths with her feisty dog, Robin is drawn outside and soon into the arms of the man of her dreams – literally.
Alex Simon is a professor of botany and entomology (buds and bugs) and finds himself intrigued by the lovely, yet seldom-seen woman next door. After his fiancée dumped him, Alex emigrated from England to be with his sister, Carin, and young nephew, Ty, in order to provide them with emotional support after the death of Carin’s husband. Both Alex’s ex and his overbearing mum did major numbers on his self-esteem, so Alex is hesitant to get involved again romantically until Robin’s sweetness and vulnerability call out to him and he longs to answer.
Adding to Robin’s agoraphobia is her Uncle Ethan, a man who has warned Robin about the curse (while trying to find a way to break it) all of her life. Her mother-substitute, Millie, condemns Uncle E for his scare tactics, even while she loves the old nuisance in spite of herself. These are two secondary characters who should have been given more depth and came across as ill-suited as a result.
An elusive blue butterfly, yellow roses, a sword, a western novel, a ring, and a series of progressively revealing dreams that both Alex and Robin unknowingly share, all combine to bring these two shy people together. Each dream reveals a little more about the curse and it’s possible origins, but there are a lot of loose ends and some things are not explained at all.
For a man with a PhD in entomology, Alex sure doesn’t know very much about butterflies. Robin is what I’d call Heroine Lite: there’s not much to her than what we are given. No real depth, but then, the whole book is done with a pretty light touch. While there is some sexual tension here, it doesn’t really sizzle. And, Ms. Archer makes a too common mistake – telling and not showing. The reader might be drawn into the story much more deeply if we experienced some of the events we were only told about afterward.
Once Upon a Dream is difficult to quantify because it’s not a bad book at all, it just fell short for a variety of small reasons. Still, I think this author is one to watch simply because her characters are sweet and her hero very likable. As an example, Alex wears glasses. When it’s time to see Robin naked, he has to put his glasses back on to appreciate the view. Because Robin also wears glasses, we get an image of two naked people wearing only glasses, grinning at each other in appreciation. It was a sweet/funny scene and one of the reasons I feel Ms. Archer may be an author to keep an eye on.