by Christina Dodd, historical (2001)
Avon, $6.99, ISBN 0-380-81962-7
I've heard rumbles that In My Wildest Dreams may be a bit too faithful a retelling of that movie Sabrina, take your pick of the original Audrey Hepburn/Humphrey Bogart pairing or the lackluster Julia Ormond/Harrison Ford remake. Still, I find In My Wildest Dreams more readable when it is treading down the familiar Sabrina path in its first few chapters. When Ms Dodd introduces a spy angle and other familiar but un-Sabrina-ish elements, the story loses me.
I know, I know, I should be praising innovation and saying how much I adore the spy/governess-makes-big subplots, but I just can't. Things don't gel well in this story.
Oh, and this book is part of the Governess Brides series. Just so you know.
Anyway, on to the story. Our Sabrina-wannabe is governess Celeste Milford, fresh from the Distinguished Academy (see the Rules books, any one of them) and later Paris, is back in the Throckmortons' lives. When she was a little girl and just the gardener's daughter, she had - and still has - eyes only for Ellery Throckmorton, the younger playboy, carefree Throckmorton brothers. Gerrick, the elder brother who's a superspy when he's not playing the grouchy, alpha mule hero (TM Christina Dodd style), is not happy at all by this shocking turn of events that may endanger his business dealings (and oh yeah, family name and standing too, et cetera). That chit has to go back to Paris and out of their lives! Never mind that she is good with the girls (both his and his brother's, and not from the same woman, of course) - she has to go.
Ellery is not so reluctant to marry Celeste, so Gerrick decides that he must seduce her from Ellery and then send her packing. Hmm, I don't really see why they can't just sack the governess, but hey, if that happens, Audrey Hepburn would have one less movie on her Brilliant Career listing and this book will be only 100 pages long. Soon the story gets moving from familiar territory - those of you who have seen Sabrina 100 times or more can wake up now - when our heroine discovers that Gerrick's secretary is a spy and everything plunges into some intrigue subplot that never feels as if it is part of the story. I can overlook that if the relationship between Gerrick and Celeste isn't so lackluster. These two don't deviate from the Sabrina movie characters, and in a way, they don't even come close to the already underwritten characters of the movie. Gerrick and Celeste are flat, and if I haven't watched the movie and applied some of the characteristics and personalities of the movie characters into this story's main characters, I think Gerrick and Celeste will be even flatter.
Ellery is a more interesting character, more well-rounded in his flaws and all, but as the story progresses, his character becomes more unsavory, maybe to make his cardboard big brother come off smelling like roses. Still, he and his Hyacinth pretty much steal the show from our Cardboard Twosome.
I know, it is not fair to compare a book to a movie. Or is it? In My Wildest Dreams has an unusual dilemma in its hands. When it tries so hard to keep the flavors of the movie, the reader may stop seeing it as a Christina Dodd story and more of a remake. When it tries to break away from the formula of the movie, it only exposes its own inadequacy and weaknesses, such as how it relies more than it would like to admit on the reader's knowing and applying what she loves of the movie Sabrina into the story to keep it going. With or without the movie Sabrina, In My Wildest Dreams has pretty much only one leg to stand on.
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