Desert Isle Keeper Review

Some Men's Dreams

Kathleen Korbel
August 2003, Series Romance
Sil Intimate Moments #1237, $3.99, 256 pages, Amazon ASIN 037327307X
Part of a series

Grade: A-
Sensuality: Warm

Wow.

There's really nothing more I can say that would convey my reaction to Kathleen Korbel's Some Men's Dreams better than that. It's simply phenomenal, a book that manages to deliver more deep emotions, intense scenes, remarkable characters and beautiful writing than books twice its length. What Korbel accomplishes within its pages is truly incredible. Easily one of the best 2003 romances I've read, it's going to take a lot to match it.

Medical resident Genevieve Kendall doesn't make the best first impression on Dr. Jack O'Neill, her new boss at the Chicago hospital where she works. Playing in a staff softball game, she steps up to the plate and promptly knocks him flat on his back with a ball to the forehead. Lucky for her, she doesn't cause any permanent damage, and the handsome head of pediatric critical care isn't one to hold a grudge. Instead the attraction between them is powerful and instantaneous, and Gen is drawn into the life of the widowed Jack and his twelve-year-old daughter, Elizabeth.

A delicate and sensitive girl, Elizabeth is devoted to her father. But as she spends more time with the girl, Gen realizes something about her that Jack hasn't, something she doesn't know how to tell him. She knows she's falling in love with him, which makes it all the more difficult to figure out how to tell him something she's not sure he's ready to face, as a doctor, or as a father.

Gen really is a remarkable woman. Her strength, her humor, her compassion and her intelligence all come shining through in this story, creating one of the more fully-developed characters I've come across in some time. It's not just that she has well-drawn backstory and a complete history. Korbel really fleshes out all the aspects of her character. It's in the smallest of details, like the way she decorates her apartment. It's in the kind of doctor she is - the way she's hit hard when a case goes badly, how she responds to a grieving parent, and her behavior toward her patients. It's in the love she has for her family; the way they act toward her in return reflects back on her. She's always striving to do her best, dealing with matters that would overwhelm many people, without being the slightest bit cloying. Heroines don't come much better and are seldom as worthy to be called that.

I'm often annoyed when characters from other books I haven't read, in this case Gen's siblings from Jake's Way and Simple Gifts, play a large part in stories that aren't their own. But here their personalities are so strong they work well as stand-alone characters instead of ones that have just been shoehorned in from other stories. They're so much a part of Gen and who she is that they really add to the story instead of detracting from it.

Next to Gen, Jack pales somewhat in comparison, remaining a bit of an enigma next to her until the walls start to come down late in the story. But he certainly has his moments, like his reaction when he thinks her family, who has always treated her as something of a mother/caregiver figure since the death of their parents, doesn't appreciate her enough.

This is one of those rare books that's told in a very distinctive and unique voice that really stands out. There aren't many romance novels that make me stop and appreciate just how beautifully written they are. There were passages in Some Men's Dreams where the way Korbel captures a moment or expresses an emotion made me do just that.

It also has a wealth of character and story. For a completely character-driven book, there is a lot going on in its 251 pages. It grows in intensity as it goes along, building to a series of dramatic moments in the final chapters that deliver the punch of physical blows. What starts out as a sweetly humorous story in its early stages takes the characters and the reader deep into devastating emotion and back again to the redemption at the very end. It's a happy ending that feels sweeter because it's been earned. Seldom has a book's title been used to such beautiful effect.

I almost didn't buy this book, having been through a string of disappointing series books of late and remembering not being overly impressed with the only other book by the author I'd read. But it looked like something different from the norm and I decided to take the chance on it. Little did I realize just how different it would be. Just - wow.

-- Leigh Thomas

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