Bewitching the Baron

The Changeling Bride

Come to Me

Dating Without Novacaine

Dr. Yes

George and the Virgin

The Mermaid of Penperro

Of Midnight Born

The Wildest Shore

 
Dream Of Me by Lisa Cach
(Love Spell, $6.99, R) ISBN 0-505-52519-4
****
Cach has never been an author to be tied down by conventions. Her stories have crossed time periods and sub genres, making her one of the rare romance authors who never writes the same thing twice. She continues that trend with Dream Of Me, the companion book to Come To Me. The setting, time period, and story elements are essentially same with this second book, but Cach throws the reader a slight curve ball. Dream Of Me is notably darker than her other works, and lacks the humor that has largely been her trademark. In a nutshell, Dream Of Me is pretty darn intriguing.

Readers met the incubus Theron in Come To Me and learned he’s a character with questionable morals and strong ambitions. He strikes a deal with Vlad Draco of Wallachia – Theron will get Prince Dragosh of neighboring Maramures to break the engagement of his younger sister, Lucia, and Prince Nicolae of Moldavia. Vlad will then concur Moldavia, marry Lucia – which aligns him with Maramures – and he will be ruler of three territories. In exchange, Theron will be allowed to inhabit Vlad’s body for three days – three days where the dream demon will learn what it’s like to be a mortal King.

There’s just one catch though – it’s been six years since Theron’s succubus counterpart delivered a disturbing dream to Dragosh and set a war in motion. Vlad is on the eve of victory and yet he still has not held up his end of the bargain! When it finally dawns on Theron that Vlad has no intention of delivering on their deal – Theron makes good on a threat. He vows to Vlad that he will visit his virginally, naively pure Lucia and corrupt her to the point that she’s as knowledgeable as a tavern whore.

Lucia has spent six long years in total isolation. Her only companions are a senile nun and a lady’s maid who thinks of her with contempt. Lucia is pampered, sheltered and intensely curious about married life. It’s 1423; she’s 20 and an old maid. She’s ready for a husband and children – even if she has absolutely no clue when it comes to love and sex. For you see, Vlad wants his betrothed to be perversely sheltered and ignorant for his own twisted appetites.

Incubi are dream demons who bring erotic dreams to frustrated mortal women. When Theron begins visiting Lucia, he has nothing more in mind than revenge on Vlad. However Lucia is a special girl, and it appears she has inherited her grandmother’s gift of “sight.” Lucia can see Theron. She talks to Theron. And worse yet, she still exhibits some measure of control over herself in her dream world.

Dream Of Me reads very much like a companion to Come To Me, with both stories essentially taking place over the same period of time. In fact, some scenes repeat themselves in both books, albeit they are told from different perspectives. While Dream Of Me does stand alone, and can be read separately, there are certain elements of back story in Come To Me that make this book that much more compelling.

Theron is a morally ambiguous hero if ever there was one. His motives are highly questionable, and he’s equally as power-hungry as Vlad. In the beginning, Lucia is merely a means to an end – and she stays that way for over half of the book. It’s as Theron spends more time in her dreams that he begins to change. He learns what his selfishness has wrought.

Lucia is one of these hyper-virginal heroines. Normally this type of character goes down about as smooth as razor blades for this reviewer, but Cach does an excellent job of creating her. She has literally been locked away like a fairy princess, surrounded by people who are terrified of what Vlad will do to them should she become even the slightest bit corrupted. It’s a joy to watch Lucia grow over the course of the story – from literally a naïve child to a woman who must learn to make her own choices.

There are a few light-hearted moments towards the end of the story, mostly revolving around the demise of one of the villains. However Cach never really abandons the dark atmosphere she creates. Even the ending has a slightly creepy edge to it, throwing the reader a surprise that still has me pondering the possibilities. It’s a classic dark fairy tale.

Lisa Cach has already amply proven herself to be one of the freshest voices in the romance genre. Dream Of Me merely reinforces it. With intense, dream-like love scenes, dark atmosphere, and complex characters, this two-book series is easily one of the highlights for romance in 2004. Don’t let these unique books pass you by, take a walk on the wild side and lose yourself in Cach’s world.

--Wendy Crutcher


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