Title: We Met in Dreams
Author: Rowan McAllister
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: February 27, 2017
Genre(s): Historical, Mystery/Suspense
Page Count: 268
Reviewed by: Crabbypatty
Heat Level: 3 flames out of 5
Rating: 4.5 stars 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.
Once upon a time, a thief scales a high tower and finds an angel with golden hair locked away in a small unlit room. The thief rescues the angel and, as Julia Roberts says in Pretty Woman, the angel rescues the thief right back.
While that’s the basic plot, We Met in Dreams is a beautifully textured tale, set in Victorian England, unlike any other book I’ve read in recent memory. Arthur has spent the last ten years of his young life (he’s 25) living in a small suite of rooms lovingly attended to by a small staff … who drug him daily with laudanum and lock him in at night. During the night he regularly hears spectral moans and has hallucinations of a ghostly woman in white. One night a tall man with silver hair appears in his room and Arthur is convinced he’s dreamed up this gorgeous apparition whom he names Fox.
Arthur believes he has an “diseased mind” (perhaps what we’d consider severe social anxiety with OCD) but Fox finds him “clever, charming, beautiful, passionate… and stronger than you think.” Fox says he’s not a good man, but Arthur tells him “You have treated me with nothing but care and kindness. I cannot believe you are as bad as you pretend.”
I don’t want to give any more of the story, but I loved the unique plot, the relationship Fox and Arthur carefully build, and the historical setting. My only complaint is the pacing of this book. While only 268 pages, to me it felt much longer and I’m still not entirely sure all the scenes were needed to set the stage. But I realize that other readers may not feel the same.
While reading this story, the words of a song kept going through my head – “Mended” by Matthew West. In part those lyrics read:
When you see broken beyond repair
I see healing beyond belief …
When you see nothing but damaged goods
I see something good in the making …
When you see wounded, I see mended.