by Lisa Kleypas, historical (2000)
Avon, $6.99, ISBN 0-380-80231-7
Lisa Kleypas' latest dip into Touched By An Angel territory is much more superior than her last book. It is a slow, nice romance between a (very wealthy) merchant named Zachary Taylor and widow Lady Holly Taylor. Minimal suspense is present, and instead Where Dreams Begin is a story of healing.
After all, Holly loves her late husband dearly, and she is still grief-stricken after all this time. That's sweet, and I must say it's a great change from the usual my-dead-husband-beats-me-and-treats-me-like-dung drama. To woo Holly, Zach hires her to teach his sister and mother to dance and behave like good lil' biddies in polite society. That way, Zach have a family and a wife that can gain him his stature among the Ton as well as add to his prestige.
Of course, Where Dreams Begin doesn't stray from the formula at all. Rakish rogue meets proper widow and slowly melts her inhibitions, while she clings on to memories of dead hubby, afraid of losing control and exposing herself to pain and grief all over again. Oh, can love - and lots of money in his bank account - triumph?
Now, Ms Kleypas is a good writer. There are some scenes that leave me breathless, such as the first kiss between Zach and Holly (ooh!). Or Holly's realization that she must let go of her past, a scene right out of some sugary melodrama that will usually have me snorting, but I sigh and my eyes go misty this time. Unfortunately, I also can't help wishing that Holly is less of such a perfect starch, or Zach isn't so secure or powerful. Both people so invincible when it comes to facing the world, apart from one or two token superficial "weaknesses" on her part, it's just a matter of time before she takes off her clothes and party.
And since there's little surprise apart from the - well, if I reveal it, will it be a spoiler? Okay, I'll just say Where Dreams Begin can easily be a less risky distant cousin of Mary Jo Putney's One Perfect Rose when it comes to letting go of the past. Few ghosts mar Zach's supersensitive, super stoic, super strong, super secure facade - which will be nice if things don't always go so smoothly his way. When things go smoothly, including Holly's falling into place in his Grand Schemes, Where Dreams Begin skirts very close to being a boring read. A happy ending in a rich, perfect - if a lil' gaudy (but I trust Holly's impeccable taste would fix that) - bungalow in London is more of a foregone conclusion than a nice reward for these two people.
Still, it did arouse some emotions from me. If it's a little less of a Touched By An Angel drama mama, if Holly and Zach aren't so perfect in all the right ways, I might have a genuine keeper on my hands. Stories of letting go and finding love the second time around can be cathartic, but the sugar has to be toned down a little.
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
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