Thursday, January 17, 2008

Susan Elizabeth Phillips: Dream a Little Dream

Dream a Little Dream: C+
Chicago Star Series #4
Rachel Stone and Gabriel Bonner

Setting her story in Salvation, N.C., Phillips adeptly develops the theme of love's healing power. Broke and desperate to provide a better life for her son, gutsy Rachel Stone ends up in Salvation when her car breaks down. She knows the place, even worse, they know her as the widow of G. Dwayne Snopes, a televangelist who fled stealing millions. Luckily, Gabe Bonner, who owns a drive-in theater where Rachel asks for work, seems to be the only person who doesn't recognize her right off. Rachel's proud mettle distracts Gabe from the grief of his own tragic loss, but enemies strike out at Rachel, while Gabe's brothers mount a family defense against the gold-digging widow. Phillips (Heaven, Texas) digs deep to expose weaknesses and strengths in the psyche and faith of her characters…

Not really a “part” of the Chicago Stars series since the story has very little to do athletics and professional sports, but it is a continuation of Gabe and Ethan Bonner, whom the reader meets in the previous book, Nobody’s Baby But Mine.

I knew that this would be a particularly hard story to love since I don’t do well with stories where a main character is a widow, or the survivor of his or her lover’s death – a lover that the character has loved immensely before. (It’s kind of like one giving his entire heart to a woman and then having his heart broken into a million and a half pieces, then getting over that woman to love another person.)

Gabe Bonner has lost his wife and childhood sweetheart (he knew he loved her since he was thirteen, or something like that) and his son in an automobile accident two years ago. Being a lively and very gentle person before the death of his family, our heroine Rachel Stone finds Gabe to be a very bitter, hard-edged, and cynical man.

She has a five year old son and is a widow of Snopes, a once hugely famous corrupt tele-evangelist. He was from Gabe’s hometown and was found to be pocketing millions and millions of dollars, ruining lives in the process of doing so.

Rachel returns because she is at the very bottom of all possible lows; she has no money, no job, and a son to support. Her car breaks down in front of an old drive-in theater, one that Gabe has bought, and tries to work there.

To Gabe’s surprise, he finds himself attracted to Rachel and does his best to tamp down his desire for her, but more than physical attraction, he finds Rachel’s ability to keep going, even when she’s constantly shoved and pushed down, admirable and intriguing. She is shunned by the entire town, including Gabe’s very friendly family and Gabe’s pastor brother, Ethan.

The development of Rachel as well as her son’s character is truly remarkable. So is Gabe’s ability to move on with his life after the death of Cherry and Jamie. Their relationship is down to earth and full of angst –because of Gabe’s remaining pain and the hate that is hurled at Rachel.

Story-wise, there is nothing wrong with Dream a Little Dream, I just dislike that Gabe was still so fully in love with Cherry and Jamie. I know that it’s a necessary fact in life for people to move on after the death of their loved ones, but I still don’t understand (from the lack of experience?) how he was able to put his pain away and focus on his blooming love for Rachel.

SEP was able to write about it and technically, I understand – I just don’t comprehend how the feelings play into the entire equation. It’s something I probably won’t understand for a long time.

Good story, but full of pain that is gritty. I probably won’t want to read it again…

1 comment:

Vicious Trollop said...

I love SEP but this book is horrible.

That Chip kid drove me up the wall and all that repressed anger and angst in the main characters gave me an ulcer *ughhh*