ROMANCE: As Dreams Are Made On – Maria Gibbs
Matty slips away from her husband one night and enters a dangerous dream world, where she meets an enigmatic man intent on stealing her heart in order to win the prize he’s been working so hard for. Her husband does all he can to fight for her and bring her back to her real life whilst the man of her dreams tugs at her heartstrings, and Matty is pulled in two.
I hate love stories. Have I ever mentioned that? Yes, I know, a million times. I think the thing I’ve got against love stories is that they are all a bit boring (and soppy – who wants soppy!? Yuck). They’re all the same, they tend to fit one of a few formulas: two people meet, there’s trouble, they overcome said trouble; they meet, fall in love, tragedy tears them apart; they meet, they live happily ever after. Blah blah blah. But do you know what? As Dreams Are Made On has completely proved me wrong!
Now I’m not saying I’m going to dive straight into the romance genre or anything – because believe me, I’m not! What this book has made me realise though, is that actually not all romance is the same. This is a love story, yes – there can be absolutely no doubt about that, but it’s also a time-travelling adventure, a supernatural mystery, and a verbose and beautiful narrative. I find it rather exciting, in fact, to find such a rare mix of things in one tiny little unassuming book – and it is nothing like I expected after reading the blurb!
The story itself kept me gripped and I read it in one sitting, although its short length made that significantly easier. I knew what would happen in the end because it’s just that type of book but that didn’t matter – I wasn’t sure how we would get there, and I was enjoying the characters and the narrative too much to care. It’s also quite a bit naughtier than I expected. Although not full-on erotica, there is more than a hint towards sexual proclivities – so if you’re not a fan of the explicit, this one may not be for you.
The first person narration flips between Matty and her husband and that irked me somewhat, if I’m honest. The technique was needed in order to tell the tale but I don’t feel there was enough of a difference between the narratives (the voices, the settings, the types of words used) in order to make it effective. It would have been much better had the Matty sections been dripping with verbosity, suiting the age and the genre, with the Donald sections much more simple and lighter to demonstrate the difference in time. I suspect that this was actually what the author was going for as there is a clear attempt at simpler language with her husband, but I could tell whilst I was reading that Gibbs favours the beauty of the language and she often slipped into loquaciousness in the modern sections too. It’s a real shame, because had this technique been pulled off more effectively, I would have devoured the book a whole lot more.
On the note of verbosity though, Gibbs clearly has a wonderful way with words. She strings them together like pearls, making words trip over your tongue and through your mind in such an aesthetically pleasing way that I couldn’t help but read parts aloud. The very first paragraph of this book is like a party popper full of wonderful words exploding in the air and I couldn’t help but gawp at the beauty of it all. I could hear ‘olde worlde’ Matilda so clearly, and that was exciting. It made me want to put on my posh voice (the one, it seems, that I use so often when reading Victorian literature aloud – yes, I’m odd, I’ve never tried to deny it).
If I’m honest, I suspect I may have been expecting to hate this book just because it was romance but actually, the thing I love about it most now is that it surprised me, and in such a fabulous way too! It’s not long enough for you to feel much for the characters, and yes, there is quite a bit of soppiness (and a touch of sex too) but the language is beautiful and the story is unusual. The blurb doesn’t do this book justice and if you are a romance-hater like me, then I urge you to at least give this one a go – I think it’ll surprise you too.
Review first published on Riley J’s website, along with lots more reviews, short stories, and general bookish goodness.