Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Review: DREAMSPELL by Tamara Leigh

Once in a while a book sells itself to me entirely based on its cover art. That's what resulted when I happened upon a picture of Tamara Leigh's new novel. When I saw the cover of Dreamspell, I just had to have it and, after reading the free excerpt on her website, I pretty much drooled until it arrived.

This novel, released on March 20, is available exclusively on Amazon Kindle (app available for other devices) at this time. A proven author of both mainstream and inspy romance, this is Tamara Leigh's first foray into self-publishing … and what a fine foray it is!


Dr. Kennedy Plain is a sleep disorders specialist, but she doesn't have long to complete her research. An inoperative brain tumor has numbered her days, and chemo treatments have stolen her beauty, her strength and, some days, her ability to think clearly. When Mac, a test subject and Gulf War amputee, wakes up from one of his sessions with a crazy story about discovering a time portal, Kennedy chalks it up to hallucinations, wishful thinking and Mac's frequent habit of teasing her. Soon it becomes clear that Mac is obsessed with the idea of returning to 14th-century England, where he is not only healed of his war injuries, but has been entrusted with a task by the king.

Mac discovers a book naming the people and chronicling the events with which he came in contact in his "dream." He believes he's been charged with saving two medieval boys from a fiery death at the hand of their greedy uncle, Lord Fulke Wynland. He gives the book to Kennedy and asks her to read it. The details are astoundingly accurate to what Mac has described but, ever the scientist, Kennedy believes Mac's subconscious is simply inserting what he's read into his dreams. Mac, however, believes the boys are counting on him; so he pushes the limits of sleep deprivation … with tragic consequences.

Kennedy's health is declining rapidly, and when Mac dies, her program is shut down. She decides to spend her final days continuing her research from home — with herself as the test subject. After several days of sleep deprivation, she dreams of the characters from Mac's hallucinations — and herself within the story, cancer-free. When she wakes up, however, the history book Mac left in her care seems to have been altered. But was it really? Or is she just so tired and sick that she's not remembering what she read as clearly as she could?

Kennedy decides to tackle another test round and … immediately lands back in the arms of the villain Mac so despised.

As her dream research continues, each waking hour finds Kennedy a little more ill than the one before. She aches to return to the dreams where she is healthy, strong … and falling in love with a man who could be a murderer.


The prologue alone sells the romance — and Lord Fulke Wynland as the tortured romantic hero. Written with emotion and a poetic reverence for love, the prologue opens so many questions in the reader's mind that, once you've read that bit of the beginning you can't help but download the rest of the book and dive in.

Tamara Leigh spares no expense fleshing out Kennedy's character, resulting in a heroine who is vibrant, modern, funny, sassy, intelligent … and yet so displaced that she feels a bit like the old friend you used to find in your mirror. She's a sassy one, to be sure; but she has her insecurities — her dark places — as well.

The cancer aspect of her character's struggle (along with amputee Mac's need for wholeness) speaks to the everyman longing to grasp any reason for hope in desperate situations. It is a beautiful thread within the story, and Kennedy's health decline, especially in the scenes with her mother, is heartbreaking. But this book is, by no means, a downer. The author pulls out a lovely, original and perfect Happy Ever After epilogue that makes you want to stand and cheer. (And maybe cry a little, too.)

Through these characters Tamara Leigh taps into every emotional reserve of the reader; not one character is left without a second and third dimension to their personality or clear motivation and reasoning for their actions. There is no entirely villainous villain and no perfectly faultless ingénue or hero, yet all have been touched by the magic of this storyteller's spell. I spent my weekend laughing, crying and falling in love with this story.


Emotional, funny, romantic and entirely enchanting, Dreamspell is the sort of novel that begs a screenplay. Until the Hollywood honchos respond to my memo and get to it, however, I suggest you get your "apps" in gear and let yourself get caught up in the magic of Dreamspell.

(This review originally appeared at USA Today's romance fiction blog, Happy Ever After)

Serena's rating:


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