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Monday, June 11, 2007

The Dream Hunter

***** The Dream Hunter by Laura Kinsale. Historical romance.

I'm slowly working my way through Kinsale's backlist. There are so few books that I have to spread them out, and I'm dreading the time when there are no more left for me to discover.

I always feel at a loss when discussing Kinsale's books--there's just so much to them.

The Dream Hunter is the story of Zenia and Lord Winter. She is the illegitimate daughter of an English lord and a powerful Englishwoman who's lived in the north African desert for all of Zenia's life. Lord Winter is an only son who's become an adventurer in reaction to first overprotection and then pressure to settle down.

He was born to wealth and privilege and plenty of loving, if stifling, attention. She was born to a mother who spent wealth as soon as she accrued it with little left for a daughter whose existence she preferred to forget.

They meet when Lord Winter is searching for a fabled horse. Zenia's mother, with whom he'd been acquainted, has just died, and he rescues Zenia, who's disguised as a young Arab boy, from the resulting chaos. He then hires "Selim" as his guide--the cost being to take "him" to England.

Eventually, they're captured, Selim/Zenia's identity is revealed, and... (avoiding spoilers here)... the story moves to England.

This is not your usual romance. In a usual romance, Zenia would be a plucky chit who'd charm everyone, but would retain her desert wildness. If you've read Kinsale before, you know better than to expect the usual. Zenia's much more realistic than that. She's grown up in a culture where women are chattel, and she disguises herself initially, not (like the usual romance heroine) to be marginally more independent, or freer, but to save her life. She fully expects that being discovered to be female would mean being sold into slavery. Her overriding goal, the one thing that keeps her going, is to get to England, find her father, and become an English lady.

Her goal is the exact opposite of Lord Winter's--the kind of life she longs for is exactly what he's trying to escape.

The whole story, the whole conflict between the two of them, stems from their characters, which in turn stem from their histories. It's an amazing piece of characterization, and I'm completely in awe.

The setting is just as vivid--from the hot desert sun (in particular as they're traveling through the most dangerous/arid part of the desert) to the cool greenness of England, I felt I was there.

I just can't rave enough about this book, or Kinsale's writing in general. She's never disappointed me yet.


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I've wanted to read a Laura Kinsale's book for some time...and from your review this sounds like a good book to begins with. I'll check this out, Darla. :)
Cool. I'd like to see what you think of it. :)
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