I Dream of You by Judi McCoy
(Zebra, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-8217-7140-X
I’ve mentioned in the past that I prefer my romances more reality based, so a book that features a genie in a bottle as the hero would probably be one I’d pass up if I had my choice. But when reviewing, I strive to be open-minded about this kind of thing and was rewarded with Abban ben-Abdullah, or Ben, a quick-witted, take-charge kind of hero. Unfortunately, he’s saddled with Maddie Winston, a heroine who is the wishy-washy personification of a doormat.

Maddie took the helm of her family computer chip business, Winston Design, five years ago. Since then, revenues have decreased and over the last two years the business has barely broken even. Now it appears the company is the victim of techno-sabotage, which threatens to close its doors for good. If that isn’t trouble enough, Maddie’s fiancé, Trevor Edwards III, has just eloped with a “bubbleheaded French wine heiress.”

To escape sympathetic stares and the New York gossip columns, Maddie retreats to her grandmother’s place in Key West. While wandering the beach, she discovers a jewel-encrusted bottle, begins to rub it clean and out pops a partially clad, drop dead gorgeous man whose first words are “Master, your wish is my command.”

Naturally, Maddie is certain she’s lost her mind. But when the apparition fails to disappear, she insists it pop itself right back into the bottle. Since the genie has no choice but to obey, he disappears into a cloud of smoke and swirls back into the bottle.

Certain this is a psychological manifestation brought on because she hasn’t properly dealt with all of her problems, Maddie leaves the bottle on the beach and returns to New York. Only to discover the bottle in her luggage when she arrives.

As far as Ben is concerned, this is the first opportunity to escape the bottle in over a thousand years and he’s not about to pass it up. For whatever reason, the bottle has selected Maddie as his new master and Ben’s prepared to do everything in his power to serve. Plus, he’s dying to see what has changed in the world over the past one thousand years.

It doesn’t take long for Maddie to realize Ben is not a figment of her imagination. So, what does one do with a genie? Well, if it were me, something a lot more fun than what the virtuous Maddie does. She decides to give Ben his freedom from the bottle, arranges for a fake ID and gives him a job as her personal assistant. Although her company is failing, she instructs him to help only if it can be done in a way that won’t be noticed by the other employees. This is typical behavior for Maddie. She does nothing that will ruffle anyone’s feathers and her behavior became increasingly annoying the further I read.

It’s blindingly evident to the reader who is responsible for sabotaging her company, but Maddie is clueless. I can grudgingly accept that since it does advance the plot and gives Ben an opportunity to show his stuff. But it was her dealings with her snake of an ex-fiancé that had me gritting my teeth.

Maddie, never once, stood up to the man who dumped her. Even while married to another woman, Trevor continues to tell Maddie how to run her life. It takes Maddie’s best friend, Mary Grace, to give Trevor the set down he richly deserves. Although I delighted in Mary Grace’s defense of Maddie, I also felt cheated. I needed Maddie to be the one to let him have it. It’s difficult to relate to a heroine who won’t stand up for herself.

While Maddie was a character that simply didn’t work for me, readers who enjoy fantasy romance will not want to miss the genie Ben.

--Karen Lynch

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