2001, European Historical Romance (1840s [Victorian] England)
Avon, $6.99, 384 pages, Amazon ASIN 0380819627 Part of a series
There are two reviews of this book. Did you know we've granted Christina Dodd DIK status five times
This book has a really great story in it,
not a good story,
a great one. So why the
grade? Unfortunately the book has a big problem. I'm going to tell you the
story and you can guess what the problem is.
Celeste, a tomboyish gardener's daughter grows up on a wealthy estate. There
are two boys who are the sons of the owners. One, Throckmorton, is stogy and
responsible. The second, Ellery, is handsome and a terrible flirt. As a
child Celeste falls in love with Ellery. As he grows up, Ellery becomes a
playboy, or rake. He barely notices that Celeste is infatuated with him.
When she becomes a young lady, Celeste is sent to Paris to learn to become a
governess. Paris changes Celeste and when she returns she is stunningly
beautiful and sophisticated, so much so
that when Ellery bumps into her at the train station he fails to recognize
her. Ellery offers her a ride home and is confused when Celeste tells him her
address is on his estate. Celeste
is delighted with the joke, which is "too much fun" to stop.
Ellery is so captivated that he invites Celeste to a party that night. The
house "was made for parties."
Unfortunately he has forgotten that the party in question is his own
engagement party where he is announcing his betrothal to Hyacinth, the
daughter of a wealthy man about to complete a huge business deal with his
brother. Ellery tells Thockmorton, his older brother, that he intends to
pursue Celeste. Thockmorton is alarmed. This will kill his business deal.
At that very party, Thockmorton tries to pay off Celeste and send her back to
Paris. Failing this, he
decides to pursue her himself to keep her away from Ellery.
Have you guessed the problem? Author Christina Dodd has written a great story
here. Unfortunately she did not find it "in her wildest dreams." She saw it
at the movies, twice.
Both times it was called Sabrina.
Nowadays writers often use stories found elsewhere to inspire new ones. It is
safe to assume that Christina Dodd knew full well that the readers of this
book would have seen Sabrina and I am not accusing anybody here of
plagiarism. Nevertheless, In My Wildest Dreams disturbed me greatly.
Usually writers who are inspired by an older story change significant factors
which change the
old story into a new a different one. In My Wildest Dreams has a
number of new details, but it is not a different story.
Usually at this point in the review, an AAR reviewer describes the heroine and
the hero. In this review it hardly seems necessary because most of the
readers of this review have met them
played by none other than Audrey Hepburn, Julia Ormond, Harrison Ford and
Humphrey Bogart. Celeste is Sabrina. There are no significant differences
other than the fact that she is a Victorian English governess and not a chef
or an assistant on a fashion magazine. If you have seen the movie, you know
that she is beautiful and innocent with only the veneer of sophistication that
Paris has given her.
Like the hero played by Humphrey Bogart and Harrison Ford, Throckmorton is a
stogy, duty bound man who resents the role that his irresponsible playboy
brother has put him in. He falls in love with Celeste, even as he is scheming
to send her back to Paris.
Ironically the biggest differences between Sabrina and In My Wildest
Dreams detract from, rather than enhance the story. Celeste and
Throckmorton engage in what used to be called
heavy petting, and then sex. During the heavy petting section of the book
Celeste is still bent on marrying Ellery, a situation which becomes disturbing
after a certain point. Then Celeste and Throckmorton have sex. Of course the
two are simply overcome with passion, but given Throckmorton's plans to ship
Celeste off, I found this offputting. Also, the younger brother Ellery
becomes a rather unsavory character. Rather than being a childish, fickle man
(as in the movie) he is a careless father who ignores the little girl he
fathered out of wedlock. There is an espionage subplot that is so routine it
adds very little to the story.
If you have seen Sabrina, comparisons with the movie are unavoidable and In My Wildest Dreams comes up very short. I usually enjoy Christina Dodd's books, especially her recent Rules of Surrender. This one I would pass up.
-- Robin Uncapher
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