Dec 18 2014 9:30am

First Look: Elizabeth Camden’s Beyond All Dreams (December 30, 2014)

Beyond All Dreams by Elizabeth CamdenElizabeth Camden
Beyond All Dreams
Bethany House / December 30, 2014 / $14.99 print, digital

Anna O'Brien leads a predictable and quiet life as a map librarian at the illustrious Library of Congress until she stumbles across a baffling mystery of a ship disappeared at sea. She is thwarted in her attempts to uncover information, but her determination outweighs her shyness and she turns to a dashing congressman for help.

Luke Callahan was one of the nation's most powerful congressmen until his promising career became shadowed in scandal. Eager to share in a new cause and intrigued by the winsome librarian, he joins forces with Anna to solve the mystery of the lost ship.

Opposites in every way, Anna and Luke are unexpectedly drawn to each other despite the strict rules forbidding Anna from any romantic entanglement with a member of Congress.

From the gilded halls of the Capitol, where powerful men shape the future of the nation, to the scholarly archives of the nation's finest library, Anna and Luke are soon embroiled in secrets much bigger and more perilous than they ever imagined. Is bringing the truth to light worth risking all they've ever dreamed for themselves?

We’ve all heard before that opposites attract. That is certainly the case for Luke and Anna from Elizabeth Camden’s Beyond All Dreams. On the surface, there is nothing that should draw them together. But just beneath the surface they find that the other is everything they need in a partner.

Luke and Anna’s first encounter is contentious. Ambitious Congressman Luke Callahan has found himself demoted to the Fisheries Committee after an unfortunate argument (involving potential violence!) with the Speaker of the house. Anna O’Brien, who works as a maps librarian in the Library of Congress, has been sent to the meeting with maps that chart ocean currents to settle the dispute. During the meeting Luke snaps his fingers at her to have her bring him some maps he needs.

Unbelievably he looked directly at her and snapped his fingers again. Snap, snap, snap. Did he really expect her to spring across the room like a dog summoned to heel?

Of course he did. Most congressmen were accustomed to people bowing and scraping.

Anna complies with the request but delivers a gentle reprimand along with the maps.

Snapping your fingers works better if you wear a crown and use a scepter to point out where I should scurry.

Their second meeting doesn’t go much better.

“Hello, Miss O’Brien,” a voice said from the far side of the map room.

Anna was so startled she dropped the cards. The last thing she expected to see was a man casually sitting in her chair, his booted feet propped on her desk.
It was that obnoxious congressman from yesterday. . .

“What are you doing here?” It didn’t sit well to have her sanctuary invaded this way and she hid her unease by shuffling the cards back into order.

“The clerk at the front of the library let me in.”

He was breaking the rules by asking for the map room to be opened early, but it was hard to decline requests from members of Congress.

Luke demands that Anna work for him as a research assistant/gopher; she politely declines and reminds him she has to be assigned by the head librarian. She’s pretty confident that won’t happen since “we are very busy with moving to the new library, and the director is quite stingy in assigning research assistants. You can’t get your way all the time.” He gives her a devilish smile and assures her that he can. In this instance he is right. He does get Anna assigned to him as a research assistant. Their time together underscores what they both already know – they have little in common.

Luke is a bit of a hothead.

Mr. Callahan tried to throw a punch at the Speaker (of the House), stopped only because the sergeant at arms intervened. Speaker Jones had had enough of Mr. Callahan’s temper and removed him from the prestigious committee that controlled the budget of the United States and demoted him to the Committee on Fisheries.

Anna is a calm, collected person.

She was doing it again, calming him with her cool wit and steady logic.

Luke is flashy.

Mr. Callahan was no stodgy old man. The young congressman strode into the room with the easy confidence of a man born to power. His chestnut hair was tousled with streaks of gold. He had sparkling blue eyes and the sun chapped complexion of a man who loved the outdoors. Yet it was his smile that caught Anna’s attention. It was effortless- confident and self-assured with gleaming white teeth. . .Amethyst cufflinks winked from his wrists.

Anna is not.

All her clothes were simple and plain because she hated anything that might draw attention to herself.

She loves modernization.

Many people were leery of new technology but Anna’s best friend worked at the Patent Office, and she had access to the amazing flood of inventions even before they reached the popular market. . .Anna loved to use prototypes of new inventions.

Luke isn’t that wild about technology.

I like old things. I prefer the challenge of a time when men went out and killed something when they were hungry rather than opening a tin of processed meat. I don’t want perfumed soap and a trickle of water from a copper pipe. I want a healthy blast from a frigid New England waterfall. I don’t want the tinny noise from a gramophone. I want the thunder and vibrations of a real orchestra pounding out a Beethoven symphony. Technology has made us soft. I like hard muscle and loud voices and the satisfaction of a sweaty day of labor.

Luke doesn’t like the new Library of Congress, calling it:

A spectacular gold plated waste of taxpayer funds.

Anna sees it differently:

The most beautiful library in the world. A tribute to the human endeavor against darkness, savagery, and ignorance.

He is rich, she is definitely not. Yet in spite of their differences, they share some deep commonalities. Both have a strong faith. Both had difficult childhoods with deeply flawed family members. They share a love of the written word.

“Pieces of paper with words and lines on them have the ability to change the world,” Luke said softly. “They always have.” His eyes gleamed in the light, and his words sent a thrill through her. She swallowed hard.

“I really love it when you talk like that.”

Who would have guess that this flashy, arrogant man had the exact same values as she?

They also share a common struggle. Anna wants to see justice done in the report which catalogs the sinking of her father’s ship. She knows the Navy has the details wrong and she has the maps to prove it. Yet as she fights to correct simple errors she finds herself impeded by the Admiralty at every turn. The growing hostility from the Navy has her turning to Luke for help. He is eager to aid her but has struggles of his own—his family at home continues to battle against alcoholism, anger management and a host of other dysfunctions. Yet despite these distractions and their superficial differences, the more time they spend together they more they find themselves drawn to each other:

They were as mismatched as a diamond and a lump of coal, but regardless they were perfect together.

When their quest finds them embroiled in a silent struggle with the highest powers in Washington, a place where every weakness is ruthlessly exploited, they find their love tested. Would being apart help them or hinder them?
Ultimately, they realize that side by side is the only way to be:

By joining their loves together, they had what it took to weather the storms ahead and reach beyond all their dreams.

Camden has delivered a riveting tale of life in the American Capital in the months preceding the Spanish American war. Filled with fascinating history, scene stealing settings and a terrific romance this novel is sure to keep you enthralled to the very end. I especially loved that she managed to deliver an opposites attract novel without having the two protagonists be at war with each other. Anna and Luke sparred with civility and wit. Call me a fan girl! I’ve just finished this story and am already anxious for her next book!


Learn more about or order a copy of Beyond All Dreams by Elizabeth Camden, available December 30:

Buy at Amazon

Buy at B&N

Buy at iTunes

Buy at IndieBound



Maggie Boyd, blogger, reviewer, avid reader

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
1. Scarlettleigh
I love when an author uses witty repartee. If I had to pick out of all of the plot devices that authors use, this would be in my top three favorites.

It shows that some thought went into the dialog instead of just having angry words. And heroines who talk back, are self-confident enough to call the hero on his errors, and arrogance.

Thanks Maggie for the First Look.
Megan Frampton
2. MFrampton
I love this premise! I might have to seek this book out, even though it's not in my usual type of read. Thanks, Maggie!
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