Beautiful Dreamer

Beautiful DreamerTitle: Beautiful Dreamer
Author: Sam Singer
Cover Artist: Paul Richmond
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Amazon: Buy Link Beautiful Dreamer
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Length: 220 pages
Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

A Guest Review by Lloyd A. Meeker

Review Summary: A sweet but odd retelling of Sleeping Beauty

Blurb

From the time he was a child, Nicholas Crittendon, oft-overlooked second son of the Duke of Sanburne, has been outcast because of his fascination with the myth of the Lost Kingdom. As legend has it, the entire population was wiped from existence when its prince was cursed by an evil sorceress into a deathlike sleep.

Convinced that the Lost Kingdom is real, Nicholas devotes his days to reading and research, trying to pinpoint its location. As he grows older, his nights become haunted with dreams of a blond, green-eyed young man calling to Nicholas for help. Nicholas’s interest spirals into an obsession that drives him away from the comfort and safety of his life and toward the unknown of his dreams. Those slumbering visions may hold the key to everything he’s searched for and a lover he never believed could be real.

Review

Right at the outset, I should admit that I found something odd and disturbing about Beautiful Dreamer, and it took me a while to understand what that was. In my effort to figure out my discomfort, I bought a short story of Singer’s from Dreamspinner so I could hear the author’s voice outside the book I had in front of me to review.

Let me also say at the outset that other readers may not have the same discomfort with this story as I did, so please don’t take my comments as some one-size-fits-all pronouncement about its quality.

Beautiful Dreamer is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty. Re-casting such a famous fairy tale in a fresh and convincing way is not as easy as it might seem, and Singer found a very attractive frame for her story’s canvas. Her use of dreaming as a way of making the story fresh and engaging was both ingenious and admirably executed. It held the story together.

That said, this story is not a subtle or nuanced work, and its atmosphere is not at all dream-like. The author paints actions, issues and emotions with heavy strokes and unhesitating assertiveness. I encountered some significant story-logic problems, but I’m reluctant to dig into those for this review. My intention is not to be mean, and I figure I’m going to be critical enough without.

After reading Beholding Beauty as well as Beautiful Dreamer, I came to the conclusion that what made me uncomfortable with Singer’s writing is author intrusion.

When I read fiction, I don’t like being “told” opinions that don’t come organically from the characters, especially if I’m told in what comes across to my ear as an arbitrary “parental” voice: “Because I say so.” Characters become sock puppets for the author.

The author obviously has no distaste for same-sex desire and relationship. Yet in the two stories I read she imposes an awkward and pedantic sexual/moral overlay that is rationalized by the characters whenever they are required to support her agenda.

The most blatant instance of this was a celibacy-before-marriage trope (supported by a few carefully-engineered events planted earlier in the story) that astonished and disappointed me when it showed up toward the end. Neither the planted events nor the trope had anything to do with the story, and really damaged it, to my reading.

As I say, your mileage may vary on this and you’re welcome to your own views on the matter. Indeed, you may passionately believe celibacy before marriage is an essential manifestation of love and respect for your future spouse. But that’s retelling a fairy tale I won’t read happily.

Singer’s plots are well thought out, her writing is vigorous and colorful although often heavy-handed and uneven. She gets her points across, no doubt about it. I would love it if, through refined craft and more self-discipline, she would let her characters make theirs instead.

6 comments

  • This sounds like a book I wont enjoy. I hate it when an author superimposes his or her own beliefs on the characters they create to advance their own agenda and it sounds somewhat like this here.

    This for a very balanced perspective Lloyd, something I probably would not have adhered to if I were reviewing this book.

    • Omg – Lloyd I had the very same discomfort with this book or I guess I should say with three or four pages of this book which I read before I returned it. I adore well done retellings of fairy tales but for some reason this cold comment about sex being for married couple only which I accidentally flipped to after reading the ending made me so annoyed that I returned the book. Like literally one sentence made me return it because it sounded like condemnation of those who have sex while not married. I get that this is a fairy tale retelling, I do, but if you want to claim that fairy tale is more likely to take conservative road allow us to remember that you are talking about two men here for whom the road would not have been easy anyway in historical or pseudo historical times.

      • Singer isn’t the only writer to modify the writer/reader contract this way, for the sake of personally held religious beliefs. CS Lewis did it in his Narnia tales, and it ruined the story for me. Maybe I’m extra-sensitive to this issue because I was a minister before I came out, but whatever the reason, I have an allergic reaction to it.

        • Oh I know she is not the only one ( last book of Narnia was the book I wanted to throw against the wall repeatedly) . I do not think you are oversensitive to this issue – I never was a Minister and I was annoyed enough to return the book, which trust me I do very rarely. It is kind of funny – I am the kind of reader whose favorite stories have little or no explicit sex scenes in it, but I get so annoyed when I am reading a story where the attitude towards sex is something like it looks it was in this story. I cannot deal with YA stories for example which try to tell me that sex won’t be on the mind of sixteen seventeen year old teenager , well, often. Or I always wonder why the majority of m/m characters ( usually guys in their early/mid twenties) who actually have a lot of sex apparently have issues. I mean, why? I guess some do, but almost everybody? Healthy young guy cannot love sex just because he does? Sorry off the soapbox now.

    • Thanks, Wave – To my ear Singer isn’t all that aggressive about her agenda, which somehow made it worse for me. If the whole book had been a polemic about morality, I would have taken it more seriously, and looked for the arguments. But this seemed to be an arbitrary insertion which had nothing to do with the story. It was odd. 😕

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