Day Dreamer by Jill Marie Landis
((Jove, $6.50, R) ISBN 0-515-11948-2

Don't let the title of this book fool you - Day Dreamer is not a dreamy sort of read. Instead, it is a two-hanky read and one of the best books you are likely to read this year.

Set in New Orleans and the Caribbean in 1816, this compelling tale is a marriage of convenience romance with a twist such stories often have - the bride is an impostor. This bride, Celine Winters, has the ability to see into people's emotional pasts. Through a frightening series of events, she ends up on the lam and is convinced to trade places with a young woman she'd never met in a marriage to a man neither had ever met. Although this portion of the story was the least enjoyable for me, the pacing was quick enough that by the time I realized I didn't like it, the story had already moved on.

The bride meets her husband as he drunkenly makes his way down the aisle. Her groom, Cordero Moreau, a dissipated, deeply hostile, deeply tortured, and ne'er-do-well specimen, has been forced to marry at his grandfather's insistence. After having been raised by his emotionally stunted grandfather after the death of his mother, Cordero desires to return to the Caribbean and live in the house he was raised in. Whether his new wife accompanies him matters not to him -- nothing does.

Celine chooses to make a life with Cordero in his island home. They leave on their ocean voyage with his two manservants, who are two of the most likable side-kicks I have ever read. They deeply care for Cordero and come to care for Celine as well. Their antics are wonderful and you will laugh at their eavesdropping, matchmaking, and prissy ways -- yes, I said prissy!

Life on the plantation home is filled with beauty, danger, and discovery. While Cord is an alpha a hero as you are likely to ever read, there are always glimpses of his humanity, even those that Celine can see. As they slowly come to care for one another, there is always something that arises to split them apart. Yet, even amidst this coming together, there is humor as well as pathos, and some light-hearted affection mixed with their deep passion.

Many themes basic to romantic fiction are used in this book besides the marriage of convenience. There are the betrayals/supposed betrayals, rescues and other acts of heroism, kidnapping and near-death- experiences, the epiphanies of love, and the scenes of reunion. In the hands of a less-skilled author, a reader might feel manipulated. But Jill Marie Landis has done her job so well that you will hand over your heart to her as though it were a ticket to a ride on a rollercoaster.

When Celine's true identity is discovered and she is charged with murder, Cordero is not equipped with the inner resources to forgive and save her. Celine's dignity as she faces what could be the end of her life will break your heart. By the time Cordero comes face to face with his lady love, and she softly informs him what she has ordered for her last meal, your tissue box will already be empty.

As in all romances, there will be a happy ending, but this book takes you on a ride you will never forget along the way. This 400-page book will fill your senses on each and every page. Enjoy it, but be prepared to be exhausted by the end.

--Laurie Likes Books

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