Thursday, March 5, 2015

"Only in My Dreams" by Darcy Burke

Fed up with her self-imposed single life, successful event planner Sara Archer heads to a bar for a night of dancing … and bumps into Dylan Wescott, the high school crush she hasn’t seen in years. A little harmless flirting leads to a hot, completely uncharacteristic one-night stand; but when she wakes up alone, Sara knows her life is too complicated for a relationship and there can’t be a repeat.

Dylan, a divorced, ex-military construction contractor, limits himself to casual flings—his failed marriage proves he’s better off alone anyway—but he can’t stop dreaming about Sara. And when his firm is hired to oversee the renovation project run by the Archer siblings, Dylan and Sara are unable to resist their explosive chemistry.

But when their secret affair grows beyond “friends with benefits” and neither is willing to admit they want more, family drama and emotional scars may ruin their chance at a love they believed was only in their dreams.

My review:
Darcy Burke's first book in the "Ribbon Ridge" series gives us an introductory glimpse into the lives of the Archer family.  Only in My Dreams provides an emotional glimpse into a family reeling from tragedy and rising from the ashes, slowly, to reclaim their lives. The healing begins in Only in My Dreams, facilitated in the aftermath of the tragedy but I'm confident we will continue to see the healing through the subsequent books in the series.  In this introductory book, the emotions are raw and running high and the family appears on the brink of splintering due to the stresses.  The author does a wonderful  job of depicting a family in the throes of grief and working to dig themselves out, each manifesting their grief in their own way.
It felt as though the author threw the reader into the deep end of the tragedy.  After a first chapter, which felt more like a prologue by setting the stage for the future situation, we are brought together by family tragedy with little to no background on the family members or the background which led them to where they were.  I would have liked a bit more background woven into the beginning to help understand this family - I felt the tragedy would have resonated a bit more emotionally if we had felt a bit more invested in the characters first. 
Sara is the Archer featured in this story.  Sara has a strong personality but lives with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), which causes her to get a bit spun out of control when she is feeling stress or her environment is overwhelming.  I could sympathize and relate to Sara's struggles, but felt the author went a bit overboard with the continued references to SPD.  Every time there was anything other than "unicorns and rainbows" in Sara's life, we were hearing about another "coping with SPD" moment - so I felt it was a bit overdone.  Had those references been introduced early on and then reserved for the especially stressful situations, it wouldn't have been quite as frustrating to always hear about her SPD.
Dylan's character was very easy to relate to and realistic in this story because he was depicted as being the "forgotten child"; the one child of two divorced parents who each went on to remarry and have children with their respective new spouses.  Dylan's experiences were insightful and I don't doubt that many children find themselves lost between two families like Dylan did.  Dylan felt, because of that, that he was incapable of being loved and lived his life accordingly - until Sara. It was clear that he felt his emotions deeply but that he also had deeply held beliefs that he was not destined for love.
I liked that the Archer's were not depicted as an "All American family." They fought. They yelled.  They stormed out on each other.  They had plenty of dysfunction to go around, but they also had a lot of love. The tragedy that struck the Archer family shook it to its foundation and we see the repercussions rippling through the family in this book - repercussions that will continue, I'm confident, into the subsequent books in this series.
As Dylan and Sara's relationship develops, Dylan begins to realize that not all families are like his, and Sara comes to realize that she is stronger than she believes; and stronger than her siblings treat her.  Through their relationship with each other, the find what they felt was missing in their relationships with their families, and with former loves, and realize that what was intended to be a brief affair was really true love.  
All in all I felt this was a powerful introduction to the Ribbon Ridge series and I look forward to subsequent books about the Archer sextuplets and their baby brother! 
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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