1994, European Historical Romance (Regency England)
Avon, $7.50, 384 pages, Amazon ASIN 038077352X Part of a series
He was born in a drainpipe, abandoned by his mother and raised by prostitutes until he was old enough to work as a climbing boy cleaning chimneys. He gave himself a name as he was born without one. He does not know how old he is or the day on which he was born. He has survived by working as a thief, grave-robber and a gigolo, earning enough money to start his own gaming club and become one of the wealthiest men in London.
She was born and raised by elderly parents in Greenwood corners. She has been courted by the same man for four years, but they have shared no more than a few uninspiring kisses under the disapproving stare of his overbearing mama. She writes books about the seamier side of life, travelling to London's rookery to do her research. Underneath her quiet, lady-like veneer is a passionate woman, crying out for a little excitement in her life.
In Dreaming of You, Lisa Kleypas takes two characters who are so different on the surface and fits them together like pieces of a puzzle, making them whole. Derek Craven is a self-educated, self-made man. He has done many unsavory things in order to survive. Although he has had many lovers - the latest of which is the very mentally disturbed Lady Joyce Ashby - he believes himself not only incapable of love, but unworthy of it as well.
Sara Fielding is a proper young woman whose novels have earned her a large following across the country. Her characters are so vivid that most people refuse to believe they're not real people. She longs for love and excitement, hoping that someday Perry Kingswood will actually propose marriage to her. During a night of research, she stumbles upon two thugs attacking another man. She pulls a pistol from her reticule to fire a warning shot and accidentally kills one of the men, effectively saving the man from further injury from his attackers.
Sara is ecstatic to discover that the bloodied man she helps home is the Derek Craven, as she has been hoping to gain entrance into his exclusive club to do further research for her novel. Derek, however, is less than pleased to be in her debt. The two reach an agreement and Sara begins spending more and more time around the club, interviewing the servants, club employees and the house wenches who are allowed to conduct their business out of rooms in the back.
The more Derek sees of her, the more his attraction to her grows, but he has even bigger problems on his hands. The scorned Lady Ashby becomes obsessed with him. She is out for revenge and eventually sets her sights on Sara. To make matters worse, a business rival is constantly trying to run him out of business.
Sara's attraction for Derek is growing as well, but he is convinced she is better off without such a low-life as himself. Although they share a passionate kiss, Derek spurns her in order to protect her. Even after he has saved her from three randy young bucks out to separate her from her virtue, he is sure he is not good enough for her. When he takes her back to her lodgings and says good-bye, Sara realizes that she will never see him again.
She returns home to her family and Perry, but nothing is the same. Her time in London has given her more backbone and it isn't long before her relationship with Perry falls apart - no thanks to his meddlesome mother. Sara receives an invitation to a weekend house party where both Derek and Lady Ashby are in attendence. Derek is none too pleased to see her, and Lady Ashby's machinations almost ruin Sara's reputation. The end result in the one thing Sara wants most and Derek fears most - their marriage. After a few days of passion, Derek takes her back to her parents' home, where they are wed.
The course of love does not run smooth for Sara and Derek, but both learn to overcome their fears and insecurities. Derek learns to open up his heart and allow himself to love and be loved. Lady Ashby makes one last desperate attempt to ruin their happiness, and it is when faced with the possibility of actually losing her that Derek realizes how much Sara actually means to him.
I've read quite a few Kleypas books, but this is one of her finest. The sexual tension between Sara and Derek is established early and fairly hums through the course of the book until they finally give in to it before their marriage. Their passion reflects their feelings for each other - real, earthy and very nearly uncontrollable.
I can't possibly say enough about Derek Craven. There is a sweetness to him that is almost heartbreaking - dangerous even, but he makes no excuses for what he is or what he has done to rise above his birth. It is because of him that I absolutely love this book. Kleypas's flawless prose certainly adds to the book's appeal, along with a great hero and wonderful secondary characters that are beyond one-dimensional flatness. If you are looking for a heroine to respect and envy, and a hero to fall desperately in love with - read this book!
-- Kate Smith
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