While certainly not an aristocrat, Sara Fielding was raised as a gentlewoman. Her prim, proper exterior hides a young woman who longs for adventure and she takes her flights of fancy through her writing endeavors. As a famous novelist, she prides herself on making her stories as authentic as possible. Needing to learn the ins and outs of gambling halls, she travels from her quiet little village to the bustling streets of London, looking to do research. One night, as she's lurking in a rough part of the city, Sara chances to see a man being attacked. Using the small pistol she carries for protection, she bravely chases one of the footpads away, while accidentally killing the other. Much to her surprise, she finds that the surly man whose life she just saved is none other than the most notorious gambling hall owner in England.
Derek Craven was an orphan who, through sheer ambition, rose from poverty to become one of the richest men in the country. He owns a veritable empire that's frequented by society's elite and caters to all their vices. When Sara asks permission to do research at Craven's, Derek is none too eager to allow the little country "mouse" into his world. But when the club manager goes behind his back to allow her entrance as thanks for saving his boss, Derek simply watches her from a distance. Sara is nothing like the women he usually goes for, but he can't deny that her understated beauty and sweet innocence are beguiling. He soon discovers a passion lurking beneath her primness, as well. But Derek has never allowed any woman to get close to him. Despite his wealth, his dark past has jaded him in ways that make him feel unworthy of a creature of goodness and light like Sara, so he pushes her away. However, when one of Derek's spurned former paramours develops a jealous obsession for him and begins stirring up trouble, placing Sara in her cross-hairs, Derek may finally come to realize just how much Sara has come to mean to him.
Dreaming of You is one of Lisa Kleypas's most beloved titles and one I've been looking forward to reading for a while. I can see why so many readers love it, as it certainly didn't disappoint. It's the story of two people who couldn't be more different if they tried, but somehow they fit together like two pieces of a puzzle. The main thing they seem to have in common is that neither comes from aristocratic stock, which is rather unique to the Regency romance sub-genre. Derek is a cynical, ambitious man who has literally clawed his way up from the bottom and would do almost anything to never return to the gutter where he was born. Yet all the money in the world can't buy him happiness. Sara is anything but the type of woman he typically goes for, but her sweetness and light inspire loyalty and fidelity in a man who generally doesn't trust women and has never believed he could feel that way about one. I loved how these two came together and fell in love despite the odds and how they adore each other unconditionally. Derek's jealous former paramour adds a bit of intrigue and suspense, but the story is mostly about how these two very different characters find love with one another and how Derek overcomes a lifetime devoid of love to discover that he really does have a heart underneath the jaded exterior. It was a great read and one that I definitely recommend.
Derek is a man who has known little kindness or gentleness in his life. Born in a drainpipe to a prostitute who abandoned him at birth, he never knew his parents and was partially raised by other prostitutes. But when he was old enough to begin working, which was at a very young age, he did. He's done all manner of things in his life, many of which were just the other side of the law, but all along he dreamed of getting out of the gutter and becoming a wealthy man. His ambitions took him to all sorts of places respectable men don't go, but over time, he built an empire and amassed a fortune as the owner of the premier gambling hall in London. He lives to gain more wealth, but no matter how much he owns, it's never been enough. Something was always missing from his life. When Sara saves his life one night and then asks to be allowed into his world to do research for her next book, Derek dares not get too close to her. She makes him feels things he's never felt before and although he'd never admit it, that scares him. He wants her more than he's ever wanted anything in his life, and yet he's all too aware that he isn't good enough for her. Derek is a pretty intense alpha male who tends to push Sara away, fearing that he'll ruin her with his jaded past. Although he can sometimes be a bit harsh, there's always a vulnerability lurking beneath the outward reserve, while the facade of the confident, cynical club owner covers for the broken little boy inside who's never experienced unconditional love. Derek is definitely a man tormented by the demons of his past and a lifetime of hard-living who doesn't feel worthy of someone like Sara. But I love how when he finally allows her to love him, he gives back full measure even when he isn't able to say the actual words to her.
Sara is as sweet as sweet can be and as different from Derek as night and day. She's an innocent country lass, who is a bookish writer, and her novels have become popular bestsellers. She's in London doing research for her next book, when she happens to see Derek being attacked by ruffians and decides to step in to put a stop to it. After helping the injured man back to his club, she asks permission to come back to do research. Derek isn't inclined to grant it, but his factotum, Worthy, does. Sara is a gentle, open-minded sort who gets along famously with everyone from the temperamental chef to the house wenches. As he watches her from a distance, Derek develops a fascination for Sara, but he refuses to allow himself to be vulnerable to her. When he coldly sends her away, she returns to her little village where her longtime beau lives, but the man she thought she'd been in love with for so long pales in comparison with Derek. Eventually one thing leads to another and Sara and Derek are reunited, but she has an uphill battle convincing him that they should be together. I absolutely adored Sara and related to her incredibly well. She and I are alike in so many ways. I love how easy-going she is and how she can relate to almost anyone and earn their trust and respect in return. But what I enjoyed most about her is her infinite patience with Derek. There's nothing he can tell her about his past that she doesn't accept and take in stride, while she sees beneath the jaded surface to recognize the broken man underneath and doesn't hesitate to give all of herself to him in spite of it. She was a wonderful heroine who was totally perfect for me.
Dreaming of You has connections to several other books that Lisa Kleypas as written. For starters, and most importantly, as the second book in her Gamblers of Craven's series, we have Alex and Lily, the hero and heroine of the first book, Then Came You, in meaty secondary roles. They're loyal friends to Derek who offer their support and often try to talk sense into him when he's sabotaging his own best interests, while Lily also plays matchmaker. In addition, she befriends Sara, while still being the fiery spirited lass I came to love in her own book. The final novella of the series, "Against the Odds" from Where's My Hero? pairs Derek and Sara's daughter, Lydia, with Dr. Jacob Linley from Ms. Kleypas's Bow Street Runners series. Lastly it's also loosely connected to The Wallflowers series in that Ivo Jenner, father of Evie Jenner (Devil in Winter), puts in a few appearances as Derek's chief rival in the gambling club business and someone who is wont to cause trouble for him from time to time.
Overall, I couldn't have asked for a better read than Dreaming of You. It had everything I read romance for and then some. Although he can be stubborn and difficult at times, I understood Derek and fell for him anyway, because of the way that he gives all of himself to Sara and adores her to pieces. Sara was the perfect heroine, relatable in every way. Their love for one another is deep and intense with some fairly steamy scenes. Derek's struggles to overcome his past and his obsessive former lover provided enough conflict to keep me turning the pages to see just how our lovebirds were going to get their HEA. I simply loved everything about the book and recommend it to all romance readers who love seeing a bad boy hero reform for his heroine.
The Hope Chest Reviews on Facebook