A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
(a) Boy meets girl.
(b) “The course of true love never did run smooth.”
(c) True love eventually prevails.
(d) The End.
Virtually every romantic novel ever written has the same basic plot. That isn’t a complaint, it’s a statement of fact.
What makes a romantic novel good, bad or indifferent is the journey from (a) to (d): how it’s told, how well the fictional landscape is populated and whether or not we can be made to care what happens to the people in the story. The endless search for new angles on a very old tale has, over the years, taken romance writers down some highly unlikely byways, and I thought I’d encountered most of them – but in Dream a Little Dream Sue Moorcroft has come up with a genuinely fresh approach.
Her hero, Dominic Christy, has had his life turned upside down by narcolepsy – a sleep disorder which causes the sufferer to fall asleep at inappropriate times. Initially, I was worried that Dream a Little Dream would either trivialize or sensationalize the condition, going for the cheap laugh or the melodramatic cliff-hanger, but in the event I needn’t have worried. Sue Moorcroft is not only a much better writer than that, she also has a strong line in believable characters and down-to-earth storylines. Narcolepsy is neither a central feature of the book nor Dominic’s defining characteristic – it’s the reason that he’s in the village of Middledip in the first place, staying with his lovely but smothering sister while he tries to put his life in order. (His defining characteristic is actually that he’s the owner of a really cool dog skateboarding dog called Crosswind.)
The heroine of the story – Liza Reece – is so real and so bloody-minded that I felt as if I’d known her half my life. A reflexologist who dreams of being her own boss, Lisa thinks she sees a way to do it: by taking over the failing holistic health care centre where she works. But in order to do that she needs money, lots of it, and quickly.
Dominic is an air traffic controller who has had to leave the job he loves because of his medical condition. For his part, HE dreams of setting up an outdoor pursuits centre. He has the money, but he needs the premises, and he thinks he’s found the perfect place.
Collision course plotted and locked in …
As they waltz around and frequently collide with each other, Liza and Dominic are variously aided, abetted and hindered by a totally believable cast of friends, family and ex-partners. Particularly vivid are Adam – Liza’s haunting and haunted ex – and Dominic’s best mate and business partner Kenny, who is having major problems coming to terms with his friend’s illness and the changes it has wrought in his life.
The portrayal of the narcolepsy, what it means to Dominic and how he is coping with it, is absolutely spot on and interwoven with the story so skillfully that Sue Moorcroft’s meticulous research never shows. It’s an organic part of the narrative – a plot catalyst, but not in an exploitative way. Dominic’s determination to realize his dreams in spite of the strictures his condition places upon him makes him genuinely heroic, but not a plaster saint.
Liza and Dominic are ordinary, decent and flawed people like you and I, grounded in reality but sprinkled with enough stardust to make them shine. Dream a Little Dream is funny, poignant and thoroughly engaging – a very human love story with a beautifully disguised sting in its tail.
Romances don’t come much better than this one.
Choc Lit Ltd. 2012. ISBN: 978-1-906931-2. 329pp. (Also available as an ebook.)
(As part of her research, Sue Moorcroft asked for help on the messageboard at narcolepsy.org.uk and, serendipitously, made contact with a a thirty-something man called Dominic … Her interview with him makes fascinating reading.)