Beautiful Dreamer is an expanded version of Valley of the Sun, Silhouette Intimate Moments #109 published in 1985. It is vintage Elizabeth Lowell with star-crossed lovers who have seemingly an insurmountable distance to cross to enjoy the happily ever after together.
The setting is the Basin and Range area of Nevada, where water is king and the barren beauty of the desert appeals to only a few. The hero, Rio is an enigma, fashioned by the author to embrace not only the animism of his Indian background, but also the technological strengths of a Master’s Degree holder in Hydrology from the Colorado School of Mines. He has spent his adult years drifting through the west, helping others realize their dreams while asking for little or nothing for himself. Using his knowledge of hydrology, he has found water for many of these people.
Hope Gardner, who abandoned a lucrative career in Los Angeles as a model, is the owner of the Valley of the Sun, a ranch that has been in her family for generations. Each of her forebearers paid a high price in their personal relationships, living hand-to-mouth while trying to find enough water to keep the ranch going. Hope is hopelessly in love with the land, and it has become her sole reason to be. Now, the one well on the ranch is going dry, and during the drought that is taking place when the story opens, she is hauling water from a neighbor’s well.
Rio whose Indian name is “brother to the Wind” has drifted into the Valley of the Sun, at the request of some of the many people he has befriended. Rio knows the only way Hope’s dream and her ranch can be saved is to find water. He hires on at a neighboring ranch as a horse trainer and agrees to work for Hope part time.
As the drought worsens, tensions with the neighbor, who has tried to force Hope into marriage, escalate and Rio is fired. He can now devote full time to trying to help Hope. They fall deeply in love, but deep-rooted emotional problems on both parts hold them apart.
Lowell is a true craftsman in her creation of characters. They are multi-dimensional and generally larger than life. Her pacing slows during geological explanations, which are relevant in the search for water, and may not interest all readers. (Having taken a course in geology greatly contributed to my understanding of the terms used in the book.)
This love story is poignant and the reader’s enjoyment will mainly come from watching the characters evolve through the keen understanding of themselves. The sexual tension is intense in a way that only Lowell can sustain, while rushing to a point where money, nerves and hearts are totally exhausted.