Monday, July 27, 2009

Review: Dream a Little Dream

Title: Dream a Little Dream
Author: Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Chicago Stars/Loosely connected
Published: February 1998

From the back cover ~

A Desperate Young Mother

Rachel Stone's bad luck has taken a turn for the worse. With an empty wallet, a car's that's spilling smoke, and a five-year-old son to support, she's come home to a town that hates her. But this determined young widow with a scandalous past has learned how to be a fighter. And she'll do anything to keep her child safe—even take on. . .

A Man With No Heart

Gabe Bonner wants to be left alone, especially by the beautiful outcast who's invaded his property. She has a ton of attitude, a talent for trouble, and a child who brings back bad memories. Yet Rachel's feisty spirit might just be heaven-sent to save a tough, stubborn man.

Dare To Dream

Welcome to Salvation, North Carolina—where a man who's forgotten what tenderness means meets a woman with nothing to lose. here two endearing lovers will set off on a funny, touching journey of the heart. . .to a place where dreams just might come true.

Dream a Little Dream is technically not part of SEP's Chicago Stars series but it does tell the story of Gabe Bonner, brother to Cal Bonner the hero of Nobody's Baby But Mine, book 3 in the series. I've been wanting to read Gabe's story ever since I finished NBBM. I was taking a break from my J. D. Robb audio books and spotted DaLD at the library. I thought it would be a nice change from Eve and Roarke. Since I hadn't found the time to read it, I would listen instead. It turned out I don't spend near enough time in the car as I thought. Friday night I found myself looking through my bookcase for my copy of DaLD because I couldn't wait until Saturday to listen to it in the car. Even though I had other books I should have been reading I couldn't put it down. Finished it last night. I'm not one to cry much while reading, a tear or two will occasionally leak through but this time... yeah, more than a few leaked out. Phillips can pull a reader into the story and make you care about what happens to the characters. To feel empathy for people who only exist on pages in a book is a powerful thing.

Rachel Stone aka the Widow Snopes is such a dynamic heroine. She's had a string of bad luck ever since her marriage to the Reverend Snopes. It started with him controlling and using her as an excuse for his greed and ended with his death and her humiliation and loss of her home. Since she was last in Salvation she has worked any job she could to support herself and her five year old son Edward. She never planned to come back to Salvation but fate has brought her back and practically dropped her at Gabe Bonner's doorstep. One thing that I really admired about Rachel is that she is a proud woman but she didn't let her pride get in the way of doing what she had to do to take care of her son. Her tenacity and sheer determination were tempered by her love and patience for Edward. Her patience for Gabe however was in short supply. Their banter was just perfect. Rachel didn't coddle Gabe but used sarcastic remarks to get a rise out of him. When she found out about the tragedy of what had happened to him she still didn't coddle him but tried to get him to care about something, anything.

At first Gabe is a difficult character to know. When we meet Gabe he's in the process of fixing up the local drive-in. He has a short supply of words and rarely shows any emotions. If he does show an emotion it's irritation at having his imposed reclusiveness disturbed. He makes it very clear to Rachel and her son that he doesn't want them around. He reluctantly agrees to hire her after trying to get rid of her by paying her off. He hires her on the condition that it's only temporary until he finds someone else and her son can not come to work with her. Gabe was a very reluctant hero. He had pulled away from life and was going through the motions but not really living. He comes across as a harsh man and doesn't want to be helped, just left alone. His only reason to keep going is his family - his brothers and his parents. If it wasn't for them he would have simply given up. Gabe didn't want to care about Rachel let alone be attracted to her but he could only fight it for so long. ~

She should have appeared ridiculous. The ragged paint-smeared dress hung on her thin frame, and her big, cumbersome shoes looked obscene against such small, trim ankles. But she held herself with a ferocious dignity, and he was drawn to her by something so elemental - maybe the pain that lived in his bones - that he couldn't fight it any longer. He wanted her as he hadn't wanted anything except death since he'd lost his family.

He didn't remember moving, but the next thing he knew, she was in his arms and he felt her body beneath his palms. She was thin and frail, but not broken the way he was. He wanted to protect her and fuck her and comfort her and destroy her all at once. The chaos of his emotions coiled around his pain, deepening the agony. page 106

I love this scene. The words show so much of what Gabe has been through and what he's still going through. I loved watching Gabe become more than just a shell of a man and actually start to care about the world around him. Rachel was the person who brought him out of that shell and gave him something to care about. SEP does a wonderful job of showing how these two broken and damaged characters come to rely on each other and themselves to really live again for themselves. Gabe was going through the motions and Rachel was living for her son, Edward. By the end they had both learned to enjoy life and each other.

I have three kids and while I love my kids I'm not always fond of kids in romance novels. IMO it takes a truly gifted author to write a child into a romance and have the child part of the story rather than a prop. The characters of Edward and to a lesser extent Cal's baby Rosie, were not only well written but Edward played an essential role in Rachel and Gabe's relationship. Sometimes when a child is written in a romance they tend to disappear. They're at the beginning and the reader is told/shown what a good parent the hero/heroine is and then the romance starts and the child disappears sometimes never to be heard from until the epilogue. This bugs the heck out of me because I keep wondering where's the kid? Who's watching the kid while the h/h are getting all hot and heavy? Thankfully that didn't happen here and Edward was still Rachel's primary focus. I felt the story showed a very realistic look at what it's like to be a single mom with minimal to no resources. There were times when my heart just broke for Rachel and everything she went through.

There is a secondary romance with Ethan, Gabe's younger brother, throughout the book that I also thoroughly enjoyed. It was funny and refreshing to have these two characters who thought they knew each other so well find out there were still some surprises left for them. Also, it was fun to see Cal and his wife Jane from NBBM again and revisit with them. Cal's character was needed to show how much these Bonner men care for each other, to the point of making complete idiots of themselves. :) The Bonner men are strong, caring males and their women are strong, determined women who don't let the men push them around.

To sum it up, I loved this book! It made me laugh, cry and even pissed me off a bit at some of the characters. It may have some flaws but for me they were minuet. The fact that this started out as an audio "read" and ended up as a "can't stop til you're finished" read says so much about what's inside. Susan Elizabeth Phillips and all of her wonderful books can be found here.

Rating: A+


  1. Leslie, this is my favorite SEP book to date... I'm so glad you enjoyed it too! I loved Rachel as a heroine. SEP did a wonderful job with her AND with Gabe and Edward.

    I remember reading another book at the same time with a similar plot and there was NO comparison. None! I was spoiled!

    Lovely review! Thank you.

  2. You're welcome Hils :) This is my favorite too!

    I was surprised at how much I liked Edward's character and his interactions with Gabe aka butthead. LOL

  3. Another book to add to my Wishlist! *sigh* I really liked Match Me If You Can (with a few caveats - I hated the heroine's family). I do have some of her other books on my TBR. Maybe I should hurry and try those ones out.

    Also - I nominated you for a Kreativ Blogger award on my blog! Thanks for being such an awesome reviewer!

  4. Yay!! Awesome review and I am so glad you enjoyed it. It reminds me how I need to finish reading the rest of this series or at least more of SEP's books. She really is a wonderful author.

  5. AnimeJune ~ thanks a bunch for the award. :) Definitely give those on your TBR pile a try.

    Jill ~ I still have a few of SEP's book to look forward to. :)

  6. Hmmm, not a fan of SEP, but heard a lot about this one... Should I, should I not? LOL :P

    Good review Leslie :)

  7. nath ~ you don't like SEP? Why nath why??? LOL I'm really not sure what to tell you. I'm still nervous about you and the Thurman books. :)

  8. I think this one is my favourite SEP books of all the ones I've read. I loved Rachel and her gumption after everything she had been through. And Gabe made a pretty good hero after he got past his prickliness :)

  9. Kristie - Gabe was prickly wasn't he. :) I think Rachel and Gabe are one of my favorite couples.

  10. Yeah, not a fan of SEP. I don't know why... just that her books aren't working for me ^_^; Ah well, it's life.

  11. You're making me want to do a re-read. So many other people claim to love NBBM or H,T, but for me the best book in her Stars series (or Bonner bros series, I guess) is this one.

    I just loved how raw Gabe was, and how strong Rachel was in comparison. Excellent story.

    You're so right about Edward. I loved how he was a key character and not just a placeholder.

  12. Holly ~ Gabe was raw. Excellent word for him!

    This one and Natural Born Charmer are my two favorites. I haven't read Heaven, Texas yet. It's waiting on the TBR pile. :)