Ship Of Dreams
by Brenda Hiatt, historical (2000)
Harper, $5.99, ISBN 0-06-101380-3


James Cameron, eat your heart out. Brenda Hiatt has come up with her own Titanic adventure featuring star-crossed lovers and grand, exciting shipwreck troubles. Ship Of Dreams takes place aboard the Sonora, not exactly the large T ship, and what a fine, romantic voyage it is. And best of all, the hero isn't a pipsqueak androgynous blonde that dies in the end. Della Gilliland may be in trouble, but she is no wimpy teary-eyed ivy vine. A feisty survivor who makes no apologies for trying to survive, she has been doing everything from scavenging scraps to selling overpriced goods at the mining encampment where she was born to survive. Her latest venture, selling harmless tonics, er "medicine", comes to a screeching halt when a patient dies after taking her tonic.

She suspects that the death is due to the medicine of the local doctor, for her own concoction was nothing more than some fancy vanilla drink. However, the nasty scum is rich and influential, and he is encouraging the locals to go ugly on her. What is a feisty heroine to do? Pack her bags and flee to the nearest port.

While trying to hide from the authorities, she barges into stuffy businessman Kent Bradford's life, introducing herself as his wife to the befuddled Kent and his colleagues. Kent isn't too happy at his sudden nuptials, though his body temperature hits the boiling point at the sight of her. She tells him that hey, maybe they can pass her off as a hoax, and she'll then buy a ticket at third class for herself. No harm done, right? Can we be friends?

No way, he tells her. She has just been introduced as his wife to some of the men he is trying to court to invest in his ailing shipping venture. The last thing he needed is they taking him not too seriously. A wife Della is, a wife she has better pretend to be until they reach New York!

Only, of course, things can get pretty boring and lonely in the confines of a ship.

I do adore the fact that these two characters are friends as well as lovers. They talk before foreplay, and it is so easy and wonderful to see each falling for the other. Why not? They are just so nice together. Sexual tension is so thick one would need a chainsaw to cut through. Kent may start up stuffy, but with Della, he learns to loosen up and realize how boring his prim and proper life is. And Della, how could she not fall for such a wonderful, charming rogue? And how could he not fall for a woman whose strong spirit never let her down even after life dealt her so many bad cards?

I sit back happily and watch these two talk, court each other, and finally get schmoozing. They are so nuts about each other, to heck with class disparity, let the clothes fall! They believe that all this is only temporary, but you know how messy emotions can be. Soon he can't let her go, and she can't jump ship off Panama. How delightful!

Then there's the dramatic shipwreck. Lots of You jump, I jump drama that have me at the edge of my seat. But I must say that things plod at the chapters following that, and then Della did a Martyr For Love act that has me gritting my teeth in annoyance. Lots of brownie points are deducted for that dumb doormat imitation act.

Otherwise, Ship Of Dreams is one titanic adventure of love, passion, adventure, and who can forget the hot, hot below-deck activities? And best of all, no cheesy dialog and a grand happy ending. Ship Of Dreams is simply a delightful story.

Rating: 88


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