“Dream a Little Dream” by Susan Elizabeth Phillips ★★★★★

Excellent! This one goes on my short list for books I would read again.

Rachel Stone reluctantly returns to the town she had to leave in shame after her televangelist husband swindled millions of dollars from his innocent parishioners. Once he realized he was going to be caught, he made a point to blame his “Delilah” of a wife, saying she was the one who urged him to provide for her extravagant lifestyle, even though he forced her to dress the part of a teased/trampy wife. So now here she is broke, with her her 5yo son in tow, returning to face all the scorn which should have been directed toward her now deceased husband.

“Ironic, isn’t it, what religion does to people?”
“I guess it’s more ironic what people do to religion.”

Her car breaks down outside of Salvation on the property of a drive-in movie theater owned by Gabriel Bonner, one of the town’s favorite sons. When she meets him, he is in deep despair after losing his wife and child in a car accident. He is incredibly surly and rude to both her and her son, Edward, and does whatever he can to get them off his property. Unfortunately, no one else in the town is willing to help her, including his brother who is the town pastor. Rachel is full of pride and dignity, but they have been living out of her car (which has now just been towed away) and she is fighting for her life and is desperate enough to now be willing to do anything just to provide food for her son.

They spar constantly, but she refuses to give up and talks him into hiring her to help fix up the drive-in before the summer season starts. She faces one uphill battle after another but never gives up. He cannot understand why she won’t admit defeat and is determined to break her. It enrages him. It pains him. He is forced to face his own pain whenever he is around her or her son, who reminds him so much of who he lost. Their story is filled with real pain, sadness, regrets, shame, and desperation to hold onto a reason to go on.

For those who are new to this genre, this is a good example of one that is done right. It has a story and characters with depth, an interesting plot that keeps you on your toes, additional stories of side characters which also draw your interest, heart-tugging angst (but not so much to be annoying or tiresome), and loads of good chemistry and sexual tension. The end resolution is also well done and doesn’t feel rushed or contrived. Recommended.

Dream a Little Dream

 

 

Dream a Little Dream by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
“Chicago Stars” series #4

 

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