In Our Dreams
by Linda Lael Miller, et. al.
(Zebra, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-8217-5997-3
****
If we are what the media accuses us of being, then In Our Dreams is the proverbial romance reader's box of bonbons, only in print form. This collection of ten short romantic stories by such authors as Susan Wiggs and Mary Jo Putney is loosely focused around the theme of "fantasy hunks," a la Harrison Ford, Daniel Day-Lewis, and other beefcake du jour. By the way, forget the cover. Other than a brief introduction, Tami Hoag has nothing to do with it.

The stories are mixed in genre and mostly entertaining. I'll touch on a few that stood out in my mind.

"Never Been to Anphar," by Linda Lael Miller, is the story of a diplomatic courier who ends up in the wrong place at the worst possible time. Maggie Ellington and Judd Killgoran end up the only survivors of a terrorist attack on the US embassy in Anphar. Judd saves Maggie's life, then disappears. The U.S government insists that she's "never been to Anphar." Will she ever see Judd again? This was a definite action/romance, fast-paced and interesting.

Susan Wiggs "Bridge of Dreams" is slower-paced and dreamy, and suffers a bit from its placement immediately after the Miller story. A woman waits on a bridge in Paris for her lover to keep a pact to meet again on the bridge. Ten years have passed, though. Will he remember? Will he return? Wiggs wraps her characters in a gentle longing, and the ending was as delicate and charming as a reader could wish.

"Moon Over Miranda," by Courtney Henke, is set in ancient times. A hero named Ro scales a cliff to rescue a maiden named Miranda, fighting off gods and evil forces to do so. When he reaches the top, he finds that lovely Miranda isn't interested in being rescued. What's a hero to do? Especially when he's fallen hard for this woman of his dreams? Readers who have reveled in the tales of Greek gods and heroes will enjoy this one.

Showdown," by Patricia Potter, is the story of a gunman wanting to go straight for a chance at love, but too much time is spent standing around on the streets of a dusty town, waiting for someone to draw a gun. The cuts between flashback and street felt a bit jarring. Ms. Potter does western flavor like nobody else, but this story was too short to allow her talents the room they needed.

There is a futuristic romance based on Worf from Star Trek, a good Regency short story, a Celtic-flavored story of immortals based on Highlander, a time-travel to which I was rather indifferent because the heroine started out doing something incredibly dangerous and stupid, and a contemporary that jumped around too much for the short format. All were entertaining, but nothing I'd remember a day later. Just when I was ready to toss the book aside, I came to the last story, Mary Jo Putney's "Avalon." It was worth the wait.

For readers who've ever felt that King Arthur got the short end of the romance stick, Ms. Putney has let her imagination run and delivers a story about Arthur and Morgana, the fabled Lady of the Lake. Arthur visits the lake one last time, sure in his heart that tomorrow will be his final battle. In flashback, we discover that Arthur and Morgana were lovers, that she was his soulmate. Now that his soul is about to depart, will they find a way to be together? This was by far the most touching story in the book, beautifully written.

Overall, In Your Dreams was entertaining. I admit, the "fantasy hero" bit had me squirming it seems to perpetuate a stereotype of romance readers that we'd all like to deep-six permanently but for readers who like romance shorts, there's something here for everyone. And like a box of chocolates, you can poke your thumb into a selection and see if it suits your taste.

--Cathy Sova


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