Cordero Moreau comes from one of the wealthiest and most well-known Creole families in Louisiana, but he is not a man who puts great stock in money or playing by the rules of polite society. He has lost everyone in his life that he loved most, and has endured his grandfather's constant criticism and ridicule for most of his life. He chooses to spend most of his time drowning his emotional pain in alcohol. When his best friend and cousin, Alex, is killed, Cord walls off his heart for good and vows never to love another human being again. No matter what the consequences, he is also determined to return to his mother's plantation on the beloved island in the West Indies that was his birthplace and the only source of happy memories in his life. Before he can leave though, Cord's grandfather insists that he uphold the family honor by marrying the woman to whom Alex was betrothed, a woman whom he has never even met.
Celine Winters is a half-gypsy girl who never knew her father and whose mother, a prostitute, died on their voyage to America when Celine was only five. She was then adopted by a fortune-teller named Persa and raised in New Orleans. She harbors the unusual ability to see into people's pasts rather than their futures. One evening she is approached on the street by a wealthy young Creole man who is one of Persa's best clients. He begs her to read his fortune, and she very reluctantly complies. What she sees is the man murdering her beloved guardian. The man then attacks Celine, but she stabs him with a knife she carries for protection, then in fear, runs away. She wants to go to the police, but she has no proof that she killed the man in self-defense. She is afraid that the man's wealthy family could easily buy a conviction against a poor girl like her who doesn't even have enough money for a lawyer, so she decides to go on the run.
As Celine is catching her breath in the shadows of a church, a fancy carriage pulls up. A young girl jumps out and hurriedly drags Celine inside. The girl asks Celine to switch cloaks with her, saying that by doing so Celine could have a whole new life if she wishes. Thinking this may be the answer to her prayers, Celine agrees and is whisked away to a plantation outside New Orleans, where she discovers that the girl was to be married to someone who lives there. No one at the plantation believes Celine when she tries to tell them the truth, because they have been warned that the girl is a consummate liar who will go to any lengths to get out of the marriage. At first Celine thinks that she cannot go through with marrying a man she has never even met, but when she discovers that the groom is planning to leave for the West Indies the next day, she sees it as the perfect opportunity to escape her troubles. Celine and a very drunken Cord are joined in a hasty ceremony, and not long after the groom promptly passes out. They board a ship for the islands the following afternoon, and sail into a story full of adventure, drama, and romance that involves the excitement of storms at sea, pirates, illness, the unscrupulous brother of the island's magistrate, a jealous African witch doctor, kidnapping, murder, and things that aren't always what they seem. In the midst of all these obstacles, Celine discovers a deep, abiding love for Cord and vows to help him learn to love again, but Cord's trust in Celine will be sorely tested when all her secrets finally come to light.
Day Dreamer is the first novel authored by Jill Marie Landis that I have read, and I must say that the story had so many twists and turns, I felt like I was on a wild roller coaster ride. On the one hand, this was a good thing as it made the story interesting, but on the other hand, the sheer volume of events at times was almost overwhelming. Considering the winding path that this story took, the main plot points were satisfactorily wrapped up, but some of the more minor points were not as tight as I would have liked to see. There were lots of descriptive details, but at times I felt like they slowed the story down rather than enhancing it. On a positive note though, there were occasionally some very witty lines of dialog that really made me laugh. I had an up and down relationship with the early part of the book, sometimes wanting to read it and sometimes not caring as much, but I was ultimately glad I kept going as the last third of the book was so engrossing I could barely put it down. The ending of the book was thoroughly satisfying, one of the best and most incredibly romantic final chapters I've read in a while.
The characters were generally well drawn. In my opinion, Cord was the best fleshed out character in the book. I really felt like the author gives the reader an excellent grasp on what drives this man. I could truly empathize with the character, his insecurities, and the losses he had experienced, although there were a couple of times I wanted to shake some sense into him. Thankfully, one of the secondary characters did exactly that for me.;-) I also liked the fact that Cord had scruples. Who couldn't like a man (a southerner at that) who abhors slavery and wishes to emancipate all his slaves as soon as possible? Celine was a likable character who was dignified, strong and courageous while still being kind, loving, and generous. The problem I had with her character was that she was being too many things to too many people and ultimately was a rather unfocused character in my opinion, basically an unrealistic superwoman. It seemed that her main purpose was supposed to be that of melting Cord's frozen heart and teaching him to love again, but she was so frequently in perilous situations that I ultimately felt like it was circumstances more than Celine herself that accomplished that goal. It was also rather torturous to have her constantly going through so many seemingly never ending trials before finally getting her happy ending. All of the supporting characters were also well done. In particular, Cord's two menservants, Foster and Edward, with all their scheming and matchmaking, as well as his slightly eccentric Aunt Ada added a bit of lightheartedness to the story. It was nice to see Bobo, a black man of that era in a position of authority rather than subjugation.
Day Dreamer is the first book in Jill Marie Landis's Louisiana series. It introduces us to Jemma O'Hurley who becomes the heroine of book #2, Just Once. The final book that rounds out the trilogy is Blue Moon. I thought that this book was a worthwhile and generally enjoyable read. Overall, I liked Day Dreamer and Ms. Landis's writing well enough that I definitely want to finish the series, and would be open to reading other books by her in the future.
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