Dear Ms. Mayburn,
I’m always on the look out for Paranormal Romance stories that don’t feature the usual set up of vampires vs werewolves or angels vs demons. Though I haven’t read your work before, the blurb for Dreamer, the new book in your Chosen by the Gods series, intrigued me because it offered a paranormal setting in which a variety of old gods are not only real, but active in modern life. Dreamer is listed as a romance with elements of domination and submission. The BDSM sub-genre isn’t really my thing, but I was curious about your world-building, and I’m always happy to read romances featuring multi-cultural protagonists, so I decided to give it a try.
In the world of this series, there appears to have been a Religious Revolution in the 1960s or 1970s which reintroduced ancient gods and magic to the modern world. In addition to temples and worship of ancient gods being commonplace, this world features a select group of Chosen humans who are granted increased longevity and special powers by their patron gods. The hero, Devon King, has a combative, dominant personality commensurate with his role as the Chosen of an ancient war god. The heroine, Shan Harrison, is a potential Chosen and not-quite-closeted submissive whom Devon must protect from the Chosen of the bad gods of Destruction who want to prevent her ascension into the ranks of the Chosen.
I usually like a little moral ambiguity in both villains and heroes, so I was disappointed by the very clear line drawn in Dreamer between the forces of Creation and Destruction. (Creation = Good; Destruction = Bad.) I read this story just before Jane posted her letter of opinion on villains, but I think many of the points raised in that post explain my dissatisfaction with the bad guys, and subsequent lack of engagement in the battle between the two sides.
The romance also did not really engage me, but I think much of my reaction to that aspect of the story stems from the fact that I am not this novel’s target audience. Common trappings of BDSM romances featured in this story, like bondage clubs and leather or plastic clothing, just don’t interest me. Instead, I find myself idly wondering about the janitorial and dry cleaning services the clubs and characters must use, and whether they have to pay a premium.
Though the romance plot leans more toward the sexual than the emotional, it revolves around Shan learning about BDSM and reconciling her desire to be dominated in the bedroom with her need to be in control of the public aspects of her life. While I appreciated that you provided emotional arcs for the heroine in both the romance and action plots, Devon’s character didn’t change much and the characterization in general struck me as shallow. By the end of the book, I realized I was more engaged by the bittersweet love between Devon’s parents—secondary characters who make a brief appearance together—than I was in finding out whether Devon and Shan got their HEA.
Despite all that, there are things I liked about Dreamer. For one thing, this is the second installment in a series, but it worked very well on its own. Although the worldbuilding failed to fully capture my imagination, I did appreciate the respite it provided from the parade of vampires and were animals that so heavily populate Paranormal Romance.
Lastly, I really enjoyed the multicultural cast of characters. While my preferences in fiction tend toward the fantastic, paranormal, or just plain improbable, I do wish more of the stories I read reflected or surpassed the cultural, racial, and religious diversity and complexity of real life.
I had a difficult time picking a rating for this book because I knew going in that a D/S romance probably wouldn’t resonate with me, but read it anyway. I want to be honest, but I also want to be fair. While Dreamer is not a book I would be eager to reread or recommend, I also don’t regret having read it. Dear Author’s FAQ on review grades pegs that sentiment as a C, so that’s the grade I’ll give it.