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Throwback Review: The Dream Trilogy by Nora Roberts

There are some books that stick with you no matter how long it has been since you first read them.  For me, the Dream Trilogy has always been in the back of my head.  I probably read them a good 15 years ago and the last time was a good 10 years back.  As a matter of fact, that trilogy was part of the first round of books I purchased when I got my first kindle for my 24th birthday (I never actually read it after buying the digital version; I guess I just needed to know that I could read them if I wanted.

The first book of the trilogy, Daring to Dream, was released in 1996 when I was just 10 years old and more concerned with passing math (I did, but not without many a night of struggling to remember what the E in PEMDAS meant) than I was with the goings on of fictional characters inside the pages of a book.  In fact, if I read at all during that time period it was to get a free pan pizza through Pizza Hut and the Book It! program.  I've mentioned this a few times before, but I actively hated reading as a kid.  If 10 year old me could see me now, she'd be appalled.  How could I be so boring as to prefer reading to watching television or a good movie?  Writing about how much I love books?  I don't think that would have even entered my mind.  This trilogy along with Harry Potter changed all that.  I'd read a few other romances before picking up Daring to Dream at the library's book sale, but that book taught me that reading "adult" books could be so much more enjoyable than all of the Babysitter's Club books I'd read just a couple of years earlier.

Margo Sullivan is at a turning point in her life--the modeling career she's spent a decade building is crumbling at her feet, creditors are hounding her, and the police think she might have something to do with drugs being smuggled into multiple European ports.  Needing a break, she returns home to Templeton House, where she'd spent her childhood with her friends/sisters, Kate and Laura.  As the daughter of the housekeeper, she knew she was never quite as good as her friends, who were legitimate members of the household.  She'd dreamt for more than the life her mother wanted for her and now her dreams have been torpedoed, forcing her to start over again.  After sulking for a few weeks, she decides that the answer to her problems is to open a shop to sell her precious belongings.

Josh Templeton has been in love with Margo for as long as he could remember, but he's never done anything about it.  She was his sister's best friend and four years his junior, making her inappropriate.  Everything changes when Margo winds up in legal and financial trouble.  Josh hates to see her struggling and vows to protect her and when he finally sees his chance at a happy ending with her, he jumps at it.

As an introduction to La Nora's books Daring to Dream was perfect for 15 year old me.  I loved the writing and how she made the setting come to life.  I loved Josh and Margo as the hero and heroine and the relationships between Margo, Kate, and Laura.  I especially loved how everyone was there for each other when they needed help.  During that first read-through, I fell in love with Josh.  He was smart, good-looking, and totally in love with Margo.  At 30 with a decade's worth of Investigation Discovery documentaries and a Master's Degree in Criminal Justice, I can see him as being a bit problematic.  Josh likes knowing that he can control Margo's life without her knowing about it and he thinks that it makes him a good person for not flaunting his involvement in the resolution of her problems.  The biggest issue I had with him was that he thought he had the right to control things.  After sleeping together once, Josh decides that Margo is going to move in with him, but he doesn't ask her if she wants to, he just sets it up so that she has no choice:

“Annie’s got your bag packed by now. Why don’t you go up and get it?” “My bag?” She found herself teetering between unfinished temper and bafflement. “Why do I need a bag?” “So you won’t have to rush back to the shop to change every morning. It makes more sense to have your clothes where you sleep.” Her cheeks flushed, not from embarrassment but from fury. “I sleep here, or at the shop.” “Not anymore.” He walked over, took her hand in a firm grip. “Margo’s staying with me at the hotel, for the time being.”
Roberts, Nora (1996-08-01). Daring to Dream: The Dream Trilogy #1 (p. 248). Penguin Group. Kindle Edition. 
Margo is truly pissed that he has maneuvered her into doing what he wanted, but she goes along with it, just as she does every time he pulls something like this.  What makes this worse in my eyes is that he asks Margo's mother to pack her bag--Annie is the Templeton housekeeper, but she is also Margo's conservative, Irish mother.  I can just imagine her realizing that she was packing her daughter up so she could shack up with a man.  I doubt Annie appreciated being asked to do this, even if the person doing the asking is Master Josh.  I read this scene in the back of an Uber on my way home from work last week and I must have made some sort of angry sound when I did because the other passenger looked at me like I was nuts.  Thankfully, she didn't ask what was wrong because I probably would have been incoherent.  3.5 Stars

Kate Powell is on the verge of having everything she ever wanted--a partnership at one of the best accounting firms in the country and the respect of the family that took her in when her world was turned upside down at the age of 8: Susan and Tommy Templeton.  Just as the partnership is within her grasp, Kate learns a secret about her father that shakes her to her core and makes her wonder if blood truly does tell.  Just as she thinks things can't get any worse, she's accused of doing the exact same thing her father did, sending her life into a tailspin of grief and fear.

Byron de Witt is the new head of Templeton Monterey, the hotel owned by Kate's aunt and uncle.  With his good looks and his intelligence, he is every girl's dream, but Kate hates him on sight.  He's too good looking and everyone knows good looking men are sleazy and will break the hearts of anyone who makes the mistake of falling for them.  Before long, Byron disabuses Kate of this notion and she finds herself slowing falling in love with him.

Of the three books in this series, this is the one I remembered the least when I began the re-read, most likely because of Kate's love of math.  As I mentioned above, math and I were not friends, frienemies from time to time (I rocked proofs, so much so that my math teacher once asked me if I cheated on the test because I did so much better than usual), but never friends.  Her love of math would have made Kate extremely unrelatable to me back when I firmly believed that the quadratic equation was a torture device and should have been declared unconstitutional for violating the 8th Amendments protections against cruel and unusual punishment.

One of the first things I noticed about Kate this time around was how much she's like another one of Nora's heroines--Eve Dallas of the In Death series.  Both are extremely literal, experts in their field, have boyish figures, and don't understand girly things like makeup and wearing dressy clothes.  Of all of Nora's heroines, these two are probably the most alike.  I can't believe I'd never noticed this before.

I loved the relationship between Kate and Byron and I especially loved the way he took care of her.  However, like Josh before him, Byron was a bit controlling.  Maybe it was because of when these books were written, but these heroes had a tendency to think that they knew better than the heroines did when it came to their problems.  In Holding the Dream, Byron involved himself in the investigation into something that happened to Kate through her accounting firm and he did not tell her.  He hired an expert to go over evidence and found out the culprit without ever telling Kate.  Thankfully, Kate let him have it.  She called him out on his bullshit and I applauded that.  I was so glad that she stood up for herself and made sure that Byron knew that she wasn't some damsel in distress that needed a man to take care of her.  That was probably my favorite scene in the entire book. 4 Stars

When Laura Templeton married Peter Ridgeway when she was 18 years old, she thought her dreams had come true.  She had the loving husband she'd always wanted and was on her way to having the life she wanted--her parents' life.  It didn't take long for her to realize that her marriage wasn't as solid as she'd thought and her dream life wasn't the perfect replication of the life her parents had found in each other.  If there was one thing she knew, however, it was that marriage took work and if she had to work a little harder to have the life and love she wanted, so be it.  Then, it all came crashing down around her: Peter never loved her or her children.  He'd used her to get ahead in his career.  She could have dealt with his betrayal of her, but not the betrayal of her children.

Over the next two years, she gave up on the idea that she'd ever find the dream life she'd wanted as a young woman.  When Michael Fury re-entered her life, she did not have time for her brother's wild friend, no matter how much he made her ache.

For Michael, Laura was everything he could never have.  She was beautiful, rich, and his best friend's little sister.  He's the mongrel son of a hotel maid, who has done more things that he regrets than Laura could even imagine.  Sure, they're attracted to each other and compatible in bed, but there's no way she'd want to be with him for the long term.

I've always had a soft spot for Michael Fury, but I didn't remember just how swoon-worthy he was until I re-read this book last week.  I love the way he treated Laura like she was something special and how he truly cared for her daughters.  Take the following exchange, for example:

‘‘You yelled at her.’’ Wincing, he looked over to see Kayla still astride, her eyes huge and fascinated. He’d forgotten he had an audience. ‘‘Nobody ever yells at her. Mama has a couple of times, but she always says she’s sorry after.’’ ‘‘I’m not sorry. She deserved it.’’ ‘‘Would you really spank her?’’ Gray eyes glittered. ‘‘Would you spank me if I was bad?’’ There was such a poignant wistfulness to the question that Michael gave up. He plucked her out of the saddle, held her hard. ‘‘I’d whale the tar out of you.’’ He gave her bottom a light pat. ‘‘You wouldn’t sit down for a week.’’ She squeezed harder. ‘‘I love you, Mr. Fury.’’ Hell, what had he done? ‘‘I love you too.’’ Which was, he realized with some amusement, the first time he’d said those words to a female in all of his life. ‘‘I was pretty hard on her,’’ he murmured, as the picture of Ali’s unhappy face swam into his mind. And guilt seeped into his heart.

Roberts, Nora (1997-08-01). Finding the Dream: The Dream Trilogy #3 (pp. 165-166). Penguin Group. Kindle Edition. 
First off, I don't think that Michael would actually have spanked either of Laura's children, but if he did, it would actually hurt him more than it would hurt them.  He just does not have that in him.  What pulled at my heart was how much those girls needed a father figure and without even thinking about it, Michael filled that role for them.  He loved them even before he fell for Laura and in a way it was easier for him to love those children than it was for him to love Laura.

I did have one issue with this book, however much I loved it.  The biggest issue, the one that bugged me the entire time I was reading, was that Ali and Kayla, Laura's daughters, never aged.  At the beginning of the series, they are the same ages as they are in this book, which takes place two years after Daring to Dream.  It was as if they'd somehow stumbled onto Never Land.  While Laura, Margo, and Kate all aged, the girls never did.  It was weird and surreal and kept pulling me out of the book whenever their ages were mentioned.  Thankfully, this did not happen very often.  4.5 Stars

One of the strangest things about reading a series that was published and took place in 1996-1997 was that it was like a looking at a tiny piece of history.  I tend to forget just how much time has past since the mid-90's, so reading this was definitely a reminder of the changes time has wrought.  One of my favorite "oh shit" moments happened in Daring to Dream:

Margo jerked a thumb at the terrace. “She’s working on my books,” Margo explained when they were outside. “You can’t imagine what she pulled out of her briefcase. This little laptop computer, a calculator I’m sure could run equations for the space shuttle, even a fax.”

Roberts, Nora (1996-08-01). Daring to Dream: The Dream Trilogy #1 (p. 48). Penguin Group. Kindle Edition. 

My first reaction to that was literally this meme:

Today, Margo wouldn't bat an eye at the idea that Kate had access to all those things, although if she pulled those exact items today, she'd think Kate was a dinosaur.  Nowadays, all you need is your iPhone (or android/Windows phone) and you'd be good.  It was so odd to think that Kate carried around a fax machine.  Was it a mini-fax?  How the hell big was her briefcase?  Even a the mini-laptop that Margo mentioned would be huge and heavy by today's standards.

Also, there was only one mention of anyone having a cell phone and I could only imagine it was one of those huge brick-like phones everyone had in the early 2000's.  I wonder if Kate liked to play Snake as much as I did?  

Could you even imagine pulling out one of these babies today?  Even with the 3310 coming back, people would still look at you like you were insane.  Who would want this when your iPhone holds pretty much anything you could ever want?  Plus, having to hit the same button multiple times to text one letter?  No, thanks.

Overall, this series is a fun trip back to the 90's, filled with unique characters who feel like family and friends.  4 Stars


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