I do an annual reread of Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas. Derek Craven, for the uninitiated, was literally born in the gutter and raised in a brothel. His sordid climb to the top has seen him working as a climbing boy, a dockworker, a resurrection man (digging up fresh corpses for medical students), a prostitute, and eventually the owner of an exclusive gambling hall and one of the richest men in England. He is a legendary figure, equally admired, envied and feared. Now that he has gained everything in life he’d ever wanted, he finds that he has nothing left for which to strive. His cynicism has reached new levels and he is just going through the motions, dead inside. Until he meets Sara.
Sara Fielding, beloved daughter of elderly parents, small town gal with a slow-moving almost-fiancé is also an author of some note. Though she loves her home, she has always felt restless; she is an observer, always feeling a bit apart from the rest of the world. This longing for adventure shows through in her novels, as her subject matter—prostitution, alienation, tragedy—is not that of your average lady writer. Her new novel will feature gambling, so she is in London to do research when she meets Derek.
Yes, it’s a wonderful story with great writing and steamy love scenes and true love conquering all, yada, yada, yada, but the same could be said of many romances—been there, read that. No, I read Dreaming of You every year for one reason: Derek Craven makes my toes curl.
Ah, Derek, how do I love thee? Let me count the Top Ten ways.
- I love that he was born in the—literal—gutter and made himself into one of the richest men in Regency England, for all heroes should be very rich if they possibly can be.
- I love that he reverts to his Cockney accent when he’s under emotional stress; it’s a wonderful hint of vulnerability.
- I love that he has no taste, that his gambling club is a Tower of Tackiness, drowning in enough gilt and marble to make Prinny’s Brighton Palace seem a Monument to Moderation in comparison.
- I love that he knows he’s not nearly good enough for the woman he loves. Because, really, what man is, even a fictional one?
- I love that he is flummoxed by Sara’s unconditional acceptance of him and his appalling past. He’s so cute when he’s flustered.
- I love that he steals Sara’s spare pair of glasses and keeps it in his breast pocket, next to his heart. Awwww…
- I love that he scares the bejesus out of Sara’s erstwhile suitor just by looking at him. A very handy talent.
- I love that he tortures himself with thoughts of losing Sara, for I love seeing a man suffer. I’m sure it’s a defect of my character, but there it is. It’s good for them.
- I love his testosterone. I usually go for the Beta Heroes, but once in a while, an Alpha gets under my skin with his hairy chest and his carrying his woman hither and yon in his big, beefy arms. Preferably to the bed. Derek is welcome to carry me there anytime he wants.
- And, lastly, I love Derek for he is so grateful that Sara loves him. He’s a man who’s never been loved but is so desperately in need of love. He never takes Sara’s love for granted and he worships the ground she walks on. As every man should.
Goodness, where’s my hartshorn? And where’s my copy of Dreaming of You? (you can enter to win a signed copy here!) I feel a reread coming on.
Cheryl Sneed, Rakehell.com