Review: Dream a Little Dream by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Thursday, September 8

Title: Dream a Little Dream*
Author: Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Series:  Chicago Stars #4/ Bonner Bros.
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher:  Avon Romance
Format: Paperback & digital e-book
Date/Year:  1998
Reviewed by:  DD

*This book was purchased for my own reading enjoyment)

Summary from the publisher:

A Desperate Young Mother: Rachel Stone's bad luck has taken a turn for the worse.

A Man With No Heart: Gabe Bonner wants to be left alone, especially by the beautiful outcast who's invaded his property.

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.

My Musings:

Sadly, I haven’t felt inspired by anything I’ve read lately. I know that there are not “classics” or “epics” or books that everyone remembers that come out every week. I just feel like nothing has jumped out at me.

So I started thinking I would look back at my archives and see what deserved a re-read. A book that has stuck with me that never fails to produce the same response. Something I had enough heart in to actually write a review...When asked what my favorite book is, I always say Dream a Little Dream by Susan Elizabeth Phillips.

Dream a Little Dream is a series book, actually it’s part of the Chicago Stars series, but it's really an offshoot. Cal Bonner was the Quarterback of the fictional Chicago Stars and the Hero of “Nobody’s Baby but Mine”. The hero of Dream a Little Dream is Gabe, who is Cal's older brother. We learn a very tiny bit about Gabe in Cal's book, but I have always had the feeling that Phillips didn’t intend on writing a book about him. I’ll never know, but when authors talk about “books that want to be written” or some such statement, I always feel like Gabe's book is one of those. It’s amazing to me that it’s in the middle of a well-established series, and so different and so somber from the others. 

Rachel Stone is the widow of an evil televangelist, G Dwayne Snopes. The power couple settled in the aptly named Salvation, North Carolina. The Snopes’ built their empire taking the town and it’s residents for all they were worth, and though he is merely a memory and his young wife practically vanished, they are still despised in the community. Rachel was young and needed a father figure when the charismatic Snopes swept her off her feet. Her role in the relationship is to sit and look pretty on every telecast and support his cause, good or bad.

G Dwayne dies in a small plane crash, and to no one’s surprise has debts out the wazoo, but Rachel knows there is money missing. She and her young son Edward were ostracized and left for poor after her husband's death. She loves her child desperately. Her son is recovering from pneumonia, and is small and thin for his age of 5 years, and is very dependent on his mother, as he has no father figure. Rachel by chance sees an article about Cal Bonner and his Physicist wife living in the Snopes’ former gaudy mansion, and she spots a treasure in the article pic that gives her a clue as to where some of G Dwayne’s missing money might have gone. Since she is desperate, she makes her way back to Salvation to find clues about the missing fortune, knowing she is taking a huge risk even showing her face in town. She accidentally meets Gabe when her car gives up the ghost beside his property. She quickly finds out, after begging for a job to support herself and her son, that he is devoid of any kindness or mercy.

Gabe Bonner is a gentle vet, turned callused and angry by his wife and child’s untimely death in a car accident. Gabe’s family is worried sick as he has been in Mexico for months losing himself in as many substances he can take without while challenging the edge of death. Gabe reluctantly returns home to Salvation and buys the dilapidated drive in theatre in town to fill up his days with something to do. It’s nothing more than a way to pass time. He is empty and at this point doesn’t care if he lives or dies, except that the effect it would have on his parents. Gabe’s young son Jamie was a robust, strong, curious young boy of five, and was Gabe’s pride and Joy. His deceased wife, Cherry, was the only girl he ever loved, the only woman he has been with, and cannot fathom how he is continuing to walk the planet without her and his child.

The thing that has always stuck me as rare about this book is the raw emotion I experience reading it. This story line has been done before, but not really in this way and not with two people that are so close to both losing their grip on reality. I like Rachel as a heroine and I do feel for her, but the center of this story for me is Gabe. He affects me every time I read this never fails. He is absolutely heartbreaking. I am constantly in awe of the way his character is developed in the book emotionally...I feel like I am experiencing his emotions myself. You inwardly flinch at the cruelty that he shows Edward and Rachel, and you try to make yourself understand how someone with so much good inside can treat another human being so badly. Gabe’s guilt over comparing his own deceased child to Edward and his prejudice against him is palpable and devastating. But as the book progresses, somehow, you do understand.

Susan Elizabeth Phillips manages to take what you think is an everyday romance novel and shines a bright light on the complexity of human emotions. Phillips takes you to the literal edge, where Gabe has to make his own personal decision to live or die, and it is heart wrenching...probably the saddest scene I have ever read in a book. Gabe is at the end of his rope, but surprisingly Rachel is a force to be reckoned with. She does not coddle him and forces him to face that his life has to continue. Rachel learns reluctantly that her's has to continue as well. As you go through the journey of Gabe and Rachel’s relationship, you feel the REAL joy of second chances. As cliché as that might seem, I have never experienced the true meaning of that until I read this book.


Overall: 5.00 Stars (I wouldn’t change a thing) 

Sensuality level:  2.75 Stars (There are a couple of love scenes and definitely sexy elements, but too many of them would have been distracting to the story)

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Kathleen O September 8, 2011 at 10:36 AM  

I wish I had time to re-read books. I have so many on my tbr shelf now. But I would re-read one of SEP in a minute. I love her books..
I will be on the look out for this one. I am sure my library has a copy somewhere...

Anonymous,  September 12, 2011 at 11:21 PM  

People ask me why I reread books, I have selves and boxes of books I haven't gotten to yet. This book is a perfect example of why we reread books. It is a rare one that squeezes your heart and makes you hurt for the characters. Just like friends, we like to revisit them.
I hadn't discovered Susan Elizabeth Phillips when this book came out. I will definitely be looking for it.

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