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Monday, January 12, 2009:
"Dream a Little Dream" by Susan Elizabeth Phillips - review (1998)
A Desperate Young Mother
Rachel Stone's bad luck has taken a turn for the worse. With an empty wallet, a car's that's spilling smoke, and a five-year-old son to support, she's come home to a town that hates her. But this determined young widow with a scandalous past has learned how to be a fighter. And she'll do anything to keep her child safe—even take on. . .
A man With No Heart
Gabe Bonner wants to be left alone, especially by the beautiful outcast who's invaded his property. She has a ton of attitude, a talent for trouble, and a child who brings back bad memories. Yet Rachel's feisty spirit might just be heaven-sent to save a tough, stubborn man.
Dare To Dream
Welcome to Salvation, North Carolina—where a man who's forgotten what tenderness means meets a woman with nothing to lose. here two endearing lovers will set off on a funny, touching journey of the heart. . .to a place where dreams just might come true.

Rachel Stone was once the wife of the charismatic and deceiving G. Wayne Snopes, a t.v. evangelist who promised salvation and instead left misery, hopelessness and betrayal in his wake. Having scammed the townspeople of Salvation, N.C. out of their hard-earned savings, Snopes made plans to leave the country with the money he swindled, only he died in a plane crash, leaving his young widow and son to fend for herself.
With nowhere else to turn, Rachel's desperation brings her back to Salvation, despite the fact she knows everyone in town hates her with a passion. But she has a little boy to take care of, and her pride is nothing if it means he can have food in his belly and a safe place to sleep at night. The main reason she's returned is that out of all the money that Dwayne took, a part of it was never recovered, and she believes Dwayne left it behind. She's determined to claim that money for her son, no matter what she has to do to get it.
Rachel's car breaks down right in front of the run-down drive-in that Gabe Bonner is renovating. At first he demands that she leave, even though she tries to prove to him that she can help him re-build. Unconvinced of her ability to be of much help as he takes in her scrawny, bony figure, he nevertheless prevents her from being arrested and grudgingly allows her and her son to remain. But there's something about her little boy that won't let Gabe like him, and he demands Rachel keep him away from her. Baffled by why this angry man would have such negative feelings about her shy, withdrawn child, she decides it's better to listen than to push her luck. She needs money, and she needs time to find Dwayne's fortune, and this is her only opportunity to do just that.
Gabe has suffered terrible loss in his life, and opening up the drive-in is one way he's able to forget. He cannot go back to the career he once loved so much, so he fills his days with physical labor. Rachel Stone and her son are a thorn in his side he just cannot get rid of, but he finds himself enjoying her mouthy attitude and penny-pinching ways. Rachel doesn't treat Gabe with kid gloves, but gives him lip on a regular basis, and it awakens him from the cocoon his family has let him live in. Reluctantly, he can't stop wanting her, and before long, the two give in to their mutual attraction.
Gabe's family and the townspeople are not happy about his relationship with the Widow Snopes, and definitely let him know about it. But Gabe is going to do his own thing, and he genuinely cares for Rachel, and sees that she's not the money-grubbing snob that everyone believes her to be. She makes him forget his pain for a little while, and he sees she's a wonderful and fiercely protective mother, and he doesn't like how people are so spiteful towards her. But the woman has some pride, and he knows he has to be clever in order to keep her around. He's not quite ready to let her leave Salvation...
My thoughts:
I would say I enjoyed this book as much as Cal's and Jane's story, which makes sense since Cal and Gabe are brothers. What kept me from liking it better was that I didn't always like Rachel. I could understand her motivation, and respect her for what she's gone through and how she's managed to survive and raise her son, but at times I thought she was a bit....harsh. I can't explain it, other than there were moments when she totally put me off. But not enough that I couldn't be happy for her and Gabe when they fell in love. Rachel was just sassy and loving enough to bring him back to the living. My heart broke for him, and even moreso when he couldn't fully accept Rachel's son until something happened to open his eyes to her special little boy.
I liked that Ethan, another Bonner brother, found his HEA but that he really had to work for it. I also found it interesting that as a pastor, he couldn't quite follow his own preaching when it came to Rachel, so he began to question his faith. Things had come pretty easily for Ethan, and it wasn't until a woman he took for granted opened his eyes that he was able to face himself, and also come to terms with Rachel and his brother.
And another thing I loved is how the women were able to "see" Rachel for the person she really was and stood by her, even when they didn't always agree with their men. The Bonners were a very protective sort, and were blind to anything that affected their family, and sometimes the women had to get tough. It was fun seeing Jane and Cal again, and their little girl. It was sad to find out that the boys' grandmother Annie had passed away. I really liked her.
All in all, it was a wonderful edition to the Stars series, though not really a Stars book but I loved the connection to Cal and I found myself enjoying the town of Salvation very much. I adored little Edward, Rachel's boy, and Gabe has become my favorite Bonner brother. Rachel grew on me eventually, and after all she'd been through with her first marriage, it was so nice to see how blissful she was by the end of the book, and watching all 3 of the Bonner brothers happy and in love, doting on their families.
The more I read SEP's books, the more I understand the appeal. Wonderful contemporary stories with a lot of heart and centered around family. I miss that. Now, on to the next one...

Rating: ****1/2 out of *****

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  1. Thanks for the review. I had just ordered this book last night too! Yay, I can't wait to read it.

  2. Gabe is my fav Bonner brother too. I thought the whole book had a rawness to it, maybe the desperation of Rachel's situation? This is one of my favs, but not as much as Kiss An Angel :)

  3. This is my favorite Stars book. I think because it has a darker tone and because Gabe suffered so much his HEA was so much sweeter than the others.

    I understand what you mean about Rachel being kind of harsh. But I was able to move past that - especially when I considered all she'd been through and the place she was in when the novel started.

    I have to tell you - the beginning of this book is probably one of the hardest for me to read emotionally. Her circumstances and her willingness to sacrifice for her son were just..heartbreaking.

  4. Tabitha I hope you like it. Despite Rachel being rough around the edges, she's still a likeable character.

    Toni, yeah, I think that what Gabe suffered, his vulnerability, it all made me favor him over the other two. He melted my heart.

    Holly, reading this book started out very difficult. I can imagine how any person, parent or not, would feel for Rachel and what she was willing to do for her son. It was heartbreaking, yet she was also so strong. She would survive, because Edward gave her purpose. And never once did she give in to self-pity. I think that's what made me respect her the most.

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