We Met in Dreams (PIU’s Review)

We Met in Dreams.
Title: We Met in Dreams
Author: Rowan McAllister
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: 27th Feb, 2017
Genre(s): Contemporary, Historical, Healing
Page Count : 268
Reviewed by: PIU
Heat Level: 3 flames out of 5
Rating: 4.5stars out of 5

In Victorian London, during a prolonged and pernicious fog, fantasy and reality are about to collide—at least in one man’s troubled mind.

A childhood fever left Arthur Middleton, Viscount Campden, seeing and hearing things no one else does, afraid of the world outside, and unable to function as a true peer of the realm. To protect him from himself—and to protect others from him—he spends his days heavily medicated and locked in his rooms, and his nights in darkness and solitude, tormented by visions, until a stranger appears.

This apparition is different. Fox says he’s a thief and not an entirely good sort of man, yet he returns night after night to ease Arthur’s loneliness without asking for anything in return. Fox might be the key that sets Arthur free, or he might deliver the final blow to Arthur’s tenuous grasp on sanity. Either way, real or imaginary, Arthur needs him too much to care.

Fox is only one of the many secrets and specters haunting Campden House, and Arthur will have to face them all in order to live the life of his dreams.

‘We Met in Dreams’ is a very exceptional and unique romance. I loved the air of mystery and intrigue here. It was not all black and white. There were a lot of secrets that were playing peek-a-boo with the story and it kept me glued to my kindle until the final reveal.

Almost 90% of the story has a single setting: Arthur’s room, where he spends all his time either in a drug induced slumber or reading and painting or being tormented by his mental sickness that has alienated him from the outside world. He just exists without any purpose. It was a tremendous feat to make that single setting work and keep the reader’s interest captive throughout. Arthur’s room was his entire world and I loved how the author made that one single room come alive.

Arthur Middleton was lost and adrift but still had the courage and strength to fight for his right to make changes in his life. He was fragile in some ways but also resilient as he finally conquers his mental illness. With the help of Fox, his “imaginary friend”, Arthur takes baby steps as he contests his present care and takes back the reigns of his life. I deeply felt Arthur’s loneliness and frustration with his situation. He has been led to believe that he is too dangerous to go out in the world and he accepts it but then again there are times when he longs for a life that is “normal” for a Victorian gentleman of his age. It was heartbreaking to see such a sweet, gentle and thoughtful human being like Arthur, locked up for lack of a proper diagnosis and treatment of his mental illness.

When I started reading the story I thought Arthur’s whole “mental illness” stank to high heaven. I was convinced that there is foul play involved but as the story progresses I was completely thrown when the situation turns out to be something totally different. The so called “cure” of Arthur’s condition was not a conspiracy but the norm at those times in treating a patient who had even a little mental ailment.

Arthur’s visions and the other occurrences is explained in a very startling manner as it is revealed to be a painful, long-buried family secret which impacts the story very much. I really liked how the author combines Arthur’s tragic past and his ‘slightly broken’ mind to create his hallucinations and basically the root of all his delusions.

Fox was the catalyst behind all the triumphs in Arthur’s life. He enters in Arthur’s life as a mysterious shadow conjured up by Arthur’s broken mind, or so Arthur believes. Fox is shrouded in mystery and as the story progresses we get a glimpse into his life a little at a time. We don’t get Fox’s POV in the story but the author had done an amazing job in detailing his character and making him real and solid. His pain, loss and grief as well as his compassion, love and longing is painted in stark colors and I could not help but feel for him. Fox was the little voice in Arthur’s head encouraging him to take back control of his life. He is extremely gentle and patient with Arthur. His love for Arthur was beautiful and selfless as he goes to great lengths and risks a helluva lot to be there for him always.

The romance here builds up from a tentative connection to passion to full blown love in a very satisfying pace. I loved how Arthur’s struggles to come to terms with his sexuality are described here. Arthur has lead a completely sheltered life and he is very innocent about the ways of heart especially with a man. Also factoring in the ‘homosexuality is a sin’ mindset of the society of those times, it was a very courageous leap for Arthur to love Fox. I admired his courage and his big heart.

The ending could have been better. The reunion of Fox and Arthur was a little rushed. I wanted to read more about how they reconnect again and work out their relationship against the social odds. The author has mostly emphasized on Arthur’s victory over his mental illness, which is beautifully executed here without getting in too deep into his and Fox’s future. It was mostly hinted that Arthur’s sparse inner circle was ok with his unconventional relationship with Fox so the ending could be counted as a HEA.

Ms. McAllister has created a very intriguing, emotional as well as a sweet historical romance here and I completely loved it. It was a perfect combination of mystery, paranormal, healing and romance. This book is like an encouragement to all people with varied degrees of mental illness out there to never give up fighting. This is an amazingly well-written book and I would recommend it to all!

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Galley copy of We Met in Dreams provided by Dreamspinner Press in exchange of an honest review.