As S.R. Fielding, Sara Fielding achieved no little recognition on the publication of her first novel, Mathilda, the gritty and meticulously researched tale of one of London’s prostitutes. Despite her gentlewoman’s position Sara had been able to connect with the streetwalkers who so ably helped her get the nuances and background right ion what was a work of fiction, though many refused to believe the book was not biographical. Sara’s follow up novel, The Beggar, was as successful, and she had left the country village where she lived with her parents to research her third novel, about illegal gambling.
Unobtrusively lingering in the dark streets of London one evening, gleaning information to use in her as yet untitled new work, Sara sees a gang of ruffians attack a tall, dark man. Unable to stand by and do nothing, she reprimands them, to no avail. Retrieving a revolver from her reticule (for, despite her not-quite-fiancé Perry’s beliefs, Sara is not wholly helpless), she shoots in their general vicinity. Intending to miss, Sara is shocked to see her bullet hit one of the men in the throat, but the action served at least for the rest to flee, though not before cutting their victims’ face. Sara soon learns the subject of this vicious assault was none other than the owner of Craven’s and thus just the man to aid her in her research.
Through determination and hard work Derek Craven rose from his sordid beginnings as the abandoned child of a prostitute to a wealthy lord. Ever fearful of it all being taken from him, Craven continues to amass a fortune, from his investment holdings to London’s most exclusive gambling house. Handsome but hard, he has bedded almost every married woman in the ton – they know it means nothing more than a short lived series of tumbles, except for his most recent paramour - married to an old man at the tender age of fifteen, Joyce Ashby refuses to believe he is done with her. Craven has no time for the country chit who came to his aid, but his household has other ideas.
It’s been a long time since I’ve read an historical romance, and even then they were predominantly of the more category, Regency-era variety. Despite its thoroughly modern-sounding title, Dreaming of You is considerably more nuanced and rich. Although the setting is integral to both plot and character, the combination of unfurling mystery (who is determined to bring Craven down, and why) and romance take centre stage.
The characters, from the chief protagonists to Derek’s closest friend Lily, married Lady Radford, and his factotum Worthy, and Sara’s parents and unattractive fiancé, are rounded and complex. The writing is engaging, and the plot absorbing. I was lead to Kleypas through a thread on Smart Bitches, and while I think overdoing it would be a mistake, this will not be my last reading of her work. – Alex