Jake Kilchurn is an adventurer and jewelry designer who travels to remote corners of the world in search of the perfect gems for his creations. When his father sends him on an errand to deliver documents to a business associate, he's taken with a photograph of the medieval castle of Artane in the man's office, which the man invites him to visit. Enticed by the offer to view a collection of rare antique jewelry, Jake accepts, but he never quite makes it there. His car breaks down outside Seakirk castle, where he spends the night and meets its ghostly inhabitants who speak of an exquisite beauty who used to live at Artane hundreds of years ago. Eager to leave the haunted abode the next day, he heads out for his destination, only to find his car careening out of control, followed by a sense of falling. He awakens to find that he's somehow traveled eight hundred years into the past, and the woman who finds him is none other than Amanda de Piaget, the enchantress of whom the ghosts spoke.
Although her parents have given her a lot of leeway in choosing a husband, Amanda is feeling the pressure to marry soon. She longs for a man who'll love her and not just her dowry, but none of the men who've come courting seem to care for her at all and none have inspired any emotions in her. Feeling trapped and having no desire to marry an unsuitable man, she decides to run away at the first opportunity. When most of her family leave Artane, it appears to be the perfect opening, but on the road, she encounters an unconscious man who is oddly garbed. She stops to see if she can help, only to have her two youngest twin brothers catch up to her, foiling her plan. Together, they take the man back to the castle, and when he awakens, she begins getting to know him. Jake isn't quite like any other man she's met, as he can't wield a sword or even speak her language, but under her brothers' tutelage, he learns quickly. However, Jake is naught but a mere merchant, leaving her saddened by the knowledge that because of the differences in their stations, her father would never approve a match with the one man who has ever caught her eye.
The more time Jake spends with Amanda, the more he's willing to leave his own time behind to stay in the past with her. But it seems that the only way that might occur is if he travels back to the future to sell off his vast wealth and then returns to the past, seeking to buy land and title from the king, so that he can offer for Amanda's hand in marriage. Returning to his own time proves fraught with dangers of its own, as he's betrayed by someone close to him, but he finds some surprising allies in the owners of Seakirk castle. If Jake can make it back to the past, what will happen when he discovers that, fearing that he isn't coming back for her, his headstrong lady has entered a nunnery while he was gone?
Dreams of Stardust is the third book I've read by Lynn Kurland and the third in her de Piaget series chronologically. This one is the story of Rhys and Gwen's daughter, Amanda, and Jake Kilchurn, who travels back in time nearly eight hundred years to meet and fall in love with her. Unfortunately, though, he holds no title to make a claim to marry her despite being very wealthy in his own time, so he must not only train in knightly combat to be able to impress her father, but also find a way to convert his modern-day funds into medieval ones in order to buy a title and hopefully win his bride. I waffled a lot on how to rate this book. Parts of it are very slow-paced with not much happening, and the romance is pretty subdued compared to the first two books of the series. I also saw some missed opportunities for character and relationship development. However, I did very much like the characters, and at this point, I feel fairly well-invested in this family's greater story arc. So after much debate, I settled on four stars. The book wasn't perfect, but it did have it's good points that I enjoyed.
Jackson Alexander Kilchurn IV comes from a wealthy family, but he's basically the black sheep. Having no real interest in his father's business dealings, he struck out on his own and became an adventurous hunter of rare gems and designer of expensive jewelry. As the story opens, Jake's father has sent him on an errand to deliver business documents to Gideon de Piaget, a many generations removed descendant of Rhys and Gwen. When Jake is taken with a photograph of Artane, Gideon's ancestral family seat, Gideon invites Jake to come visit the castle. Jake is rather dubious, but the promise of being able to view some exquisite antique jewelry makes him agree. However, he never quite makes it all the way to Artane. Instead his car breaks down outside Seakirk castle, which unbeknownst to him at that time is also owned by a de Piaget. While spending the night in the haunted castle, Jake overhears the ghosts arguing over which lady was more beautiful, and they end up agreeing it was Amanda de Piaget. More than happy to leave the supernatural goings-on at Seakirk behind, Jake leaves the next day, only to find his car careening out of control and him spinning nearly eight hundred years into the past, where he meets the lovely Amanda for himself, as well as her large, colorful family. Jake is a sweetheart and definitely more of a beta hero. Being an adventurer, he adjusts pretty well to being a man out of time, and once he falls for Amanda, he fully commits to intensive knight training to be worthy of her and manages to hold his own against all her brothers. However, what really solidified his love for her in my mind was his willingness to give up all his wealth, as well as his comfortable life in the present, on the mere hope of ensuring a future for them, living with her in the past. The only thing about him that was a little odd to me was that a thirty-two year old, 21st century man would suggest waiting until the wedding to even so much as kiss Amanda. Ultimately he doesn't, but still it was a bit unbelievable to me nonetheless.
Amanda is a headstrong lady who has thus far been unimpressed with all the men who've come to Artane to present themselves as potential suitors. Although her father is a good man, he's becoming eager for her choose a husband and has given her until the end of summer to do so. Feeling there's no one out there for her and not wanting to be saddled with an unsuitable man, she's determined to run away at the first opportunity and most of her family leaving Artane presents the opening she's been looking for. However, along her way, she encounters an unconscious man in the grass and stops to see if she can help, which unfortunately allows her two youngest brothers the time to catch up and foil her plans. They take Jake back to the castle, and when he awakens and Amanda begins to get to know him, she thinks she's finally found someone she could spend her life with. But Jake is naught but a mere merchant, leaving her with little hope of a future between them. When he leaves to set his affairs in order with a promise to return for her and to find a way for them to be together, she's hopeful, but when months pass by without him coming back, she decides to take matters into her own hands. Amanda can definitely be feisty, holding her own against five stubborn brothers, and she's a woman who knows what she wants but hasn't found it until Jake appears. She can be rather impetuous and lacking in patience, something that gets her into a bit of trouble, but she's also a caring soul who loves her family dearly, even though she banters constantly with her siblings.
Dreams of Stardust boasts an extensive cast of supporting characters from both the de Piaget and MacLeod series. Most importantly are Amanda's wonderful family. Her parents, Rhys and Gwen (Another Chance to Dream) don't come into play until the end, but they both support Amanda and want nothing more than her happiness. All of her siblings are at least seen, but it's primarily her brothers who steal the show. We get to see Robin and Anne (If I Had You) and their growing family. Robin is still the hard as nails warrior, but he becomes a surprising ally to Jake. After briefly courting Anne in the previous book, tender-hearted, chivalrous Nicholas finds himself having feelings for Amanda (although they grew up as siblings, they aren't related by blood), and although she returns his affection on some level, them marrying would never fly with the king because of their familial connection. Nicholas is a character I've grown to love in this series, and I look forward to seeing him finally get his own HEA in the next book, When I Fall in Love. Amanda's middle brother, Miles gets a story in the novella, "The Gift of Christmas Past" from the anthology, Love Came Just in Time. Then there are her two younger twin brothers, John and Montgomery. Montgomery is a sweetheart who always has Amanda's back and who likes Jake from the start. He gets his story told in the book, One Enchanted Evening. Then there are the de Piaget descendants who Jake meets in the present. Robin and Anne's son, Kendrick, who has a supernatural romance of his own with Genevieve in Stardust of Yesterday, after centuries of being a ghost, is now the owner of the haunted castle, Seakirk. Gideon, the current owner of Artane and the many generations removed nephew of Kendrick, and his wife Megan have a story in "The Three Wise Ghosts" from the anthology, Christmas Spirits. And last but not least, Alexander Smith, cousin-in-law to Gideon and a man who did some time-traveling of his own in The Very Thought of You, offers his attorney skills to help Jake out of a tight spot.
Dreams of Stardust has a great cast of characters I very much enjoyed reading about. However, IMHO it did have some weaknesses, mainly in the plot and relationship development. The first two hundred pages moved a little slowly for me. This part primarily seemed to consist of Jake learning knightly skills with Amanda's brothers. He starts with the young twins, but as the older ones return home one by one, each taking over the training, the challenge they present becomes increasingly more difficult. During this time, there are a couple of mildly romantic interludes between Jake and Amanda, but nothing that really put paid to their emotional connection for me. I did feel that Jake's actions spoke of his love, but I simply couldn't put my finger on exactly why they fell in love with each other. This author doesn't write descriptive love scenes, which isn't necessarily a detractor for me as long as I can feel the connection, but in this book, it kind of was. At least in the first two books there was some light sexual tension and a few closed-door implied love scenes, but in this book, there was nothing of that nature at all. It was totally squeaky clean in this regard, which only added to the lack of romance in my view. At least it does end on a romantic high note and I finally felt that all-important spark at the end but it took too long to get there. Also there wasn't quite enough conflict for my liking. Again the first two books had evil villains who presented a constant threat, but in this story, they only make rare appearances for the sake of the plot to stir up a bit of trouble that never really goes anywhere. They also don't have much motivation to speak of. In fact, someone tries to detain Jake when he returns to the present, but I never understood this character's reasons for doing so. Otherwise, Dreams of Stardust is a decent story. Having totally likable characters helped a lot to elevate it and the latter half of the book was better than the first, so even though there were parts that dropped into the three-star range, I decided in the end to go ahead and give it four. It's not my favorite of the series so far, but it had its good moments that made me smile.
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