Renegade Muse

books

All books
The Dream Hunter

E-Reads, July 2013
ISBN: 9781617569432

Berkley Books 1994, 2006

buy now

The Dream Hunter

BACK at last, one of my most overlooked novels…

To love him is to face her deepest fear…

In search of a legendary mare, Lord Winter enters the crucible of the red sands, forging unbreakable bonds of loyalty and trust with his young companion in the desert. But hidden beneath the ragged costume of a Bedouin boy is a remarkable young woman: Zenia Stanhope, daughter of the extraordinary Queen of the Desert.

Zenia wants nothing of the danger that Lord Winter lives for. She wants only to reach England, far from the blood and sand of the desert. But in one night of terror, condemned to death, their lives are irrevocably bound. Zenia escapes to an English world of elegance and comfort, leaving behind the lonely, fearless man who has changed her life and conquered her heart…until he returns to invade her sanctuary.

Now she must choose between safety and love, but can she find the courage to be the person she was truly born to be?

Discuss this book

Setting:

England and Arabia, 1840’s

Mascot Animal:

Shajar al-Durr, The String of Pearls, a legendary Arabian mare

Laura's Comment:

I’ve learned over the years that I don’t write for every reader. If a reader doesn’t care for characters who make mistakes and misjudgements, who may act—or overreact—out of fears and insecurities, these readers aren’t likely to care for some of the journeys I take. Some readers have been pretty vocal in criticizing Zenia as a heroine, so vocal that they had convinced me I’d written a book that failed. For a number of years, I never picked up The Dream Hunter, feeling that it wasn’t up to standard. When I finally took a deep breath and sat down and read it, some seven years after I wrote it, I had not once looked at the book after correcting the galleys for publication.

I was surprised to discover that I truly enjoyed it. I thought Arden was a great hero, if I say so myself. And Zenia was perhaps a little shrill, but by no means the witch that I’d been led to think by the criticism. In a reversal of the usual hero-heroine interaction, Zenia was the one who was driven away from Arden by fear and her past, and romance readers can be resistant to this type of reversal.

Then, another few years later, when I listened to Nick’s narration…I fell in love with it all over again. The audiobook has moments in it of pure awesome intensity. Nick creates Arden and Zenia exactly as they were meant to be. It is a gift, from me to you.

So with the warning that this book may require a bit more empathy for a wounded heroine than some others, perhaps you’ll find it a diamond in the rough, as Arden found Zenia to be.

Recognition:

Romance Writers of America Rita Award—Finalist, Best Long Historical Romance of 1994

Laura's Fave Review:

Laura’s Fave Review of The Dream Hunter:

A reader from Australia—“Not so much the love story as the character study and brilliantly subtle feel of the settings keep you reading this book. Laura Kinsale is the best. No sap, just real people with true problems trying to cope in an imperfect world. I’ve read all of her books and found something that grips the imagination in every one of them. Keep them coming Ms Kinsale!”

A reader from Ohio—“A beautiful story, like all of Ms. Kinsale’s work. Her richly imagined, unconventional characters with very real flaws and internal conflicts makes her books unusual in the romance genre and the reason I keep coming back time and again. I eagerly anticipate her next effort…”

Amazon.com

Old Covers:

Inside cover of The Dream Hunter.  I had to tell them to make the horse’s ears smaller; the lovely String of Pearls looked more like a mule.

Discuss this book

[1] Posted by laura kinsale on 01.07.2010

(Comments closed due to spam.  Feel free to email me or make contact on Twitter or Facebook.)  All opinions are welcome, positive or negative, but civility and polite language are required for comments to remain.  Political or religious references are not allowed, unless directly related to the book under discussion. I do answer questions but I seldom give interpretations about my books or characters, because I enjoy hearing what readers see in them.  These comments and discussions replace my old forum at The Terrace. WARNING: Book discussions may contain spoilers.

[2] Posted by Scorpio M. on 01.07.2010

I MUST defend this book!

I am so glad that you do not write for every reader because if you did, The Dream Hunter might not have been written and THIS reader would have lost out. This is a book to be proud of, this is not a tale of a simpering miss and typical lord of the manor. It’s about two people wanting to live beyond the skin they’re in.

The term “soulmate” gets bandied about so much in the realm of love but when Zenia & Arden came together that is what I felt: soulmates. It’s hard to describe their chemistry because they were at odds with their interpretations of happiness but they “got” one another.

It was one little turn of a phrase, easily forgotten, that made The Dream Hunter catapult to being one of my most beloved romances of all time…when Arden dragged Zenia off the train and onto his horse in the snowstorm and held her under his coat, Zenia felt Arden’s breath brush against her face, feeling comforted and she recognized it as “the familiar life of him.” To me that was more beautiful, more meaningful than I love you.

Don’t doubt your ability, Ms. Kinsale. Maybe some readers might not get it but some do.

P.S. Arden, Lord Winter, if I were forced to choose would be my #1 romantic hero. I found his awkwardness utterly charming :)

-Jennifer aka Scorpio M.

[3] Posted by laura kinsale on 01.08.2010

Thank you Jennifer.  I truly appreciate every reader who loves this book.  Actually Arden is just about my fave too.  I think he’d make a great adventurer to see the world with.

[4] Posted by Colleen on 01.10.2010

This and Shadow and the Star are my favorites among your books. I just adore Zenia and how deeply, frighteningly scarred she is by her upbringing. She’s so divided against herself, but it makes utter sense in the context of the book. And I also love Arden, especially in his scenes with Beth. This book makes me cry every time I read it and has one of the most well earned happy endings I’ve ever read.

[5] Posted by laura kinsale on 01.10.2010

Thank you, Colleen!  I think maybe more readers “got” this book than I realized.

[6] Posted by Beatriz C Williams on 01.13.2010

Now there’s a discussion topic for the ages: why will readers put up with any amount of borderline-sociopathic behavior from the hero, but only accept a narrow range of mild neurosis from the heroine? I suspect it has something to do with the way romance readers tend to project themselves vicariously into heroines, and don’t want to “be” someone outside the comfort zone. So pert-n-sassy or shy-n-bookish it is. Again.

For my money, Zenia’s one of the more interesting heroines in romance: her vulnerability and endurance are beautifully portrayed, every action consistent. Her approach to motherhood may make us want to take her by the shoulders for a good shake, but it’s absolutely spot-on for her character and background. And what’s not to love about Arden? A resourceful adventurer with a soft nougat center—oh, the sweet strength of him. The scene in the prison slays me. Arden is genuine husband material, a layers-deep complement to Zenia.

And the prose, the prose! No one else in the genre comes close for subtlety and originality. The interlude in the desert, before Arden returns to England, is lyrical and understated all at once. Don’t ever think that it’s not worth the time and effort, that we don’t appreciate it, that everything has to be spelled out in the lazy overwrought cliches and head-bangingly anachronistic dialogue that pass for good writing elsewhere. Please take all the time you need. It’s worth it.

[7] Posted by laura kinsale on 01.14.2010

Beatriz, I really appreciate your comment.  I sometimes feel that I get lucky in the words that come to me for certain moments in the books, and I felt that way about the desert scenes in this one.  I’ve been to some deserts (thought not Saudi) and I think that came to me from long ago experiences with how the air and the quiet immensity feels.

Indeed, the Heroine Problem is a minefield! ;)

Funny, of all my backlist, I never would have predicted that this book would get the most numerous early comments!

[8] Posted by Dreamer on 03.04.2010

I LOVE the Dream Hunter!! It’s one of my faves! In fact, I wish you would write another story that takes place in that kind of middle eastern setting.

One of my favorite lines is from the scene where Zenia and Arden are being held captive, and she asks him if he thinks she’s like honey, and he says she’s like water…so clear and bright it hurts. (Or something like that.) Because he can’t live without water.

And I agree with Colleen about loving the scenes with both Arden and Beth. While Arden thinks he isn’t a confident person, I think he really is. I love how he takes Beth on a tour of the house. I felt such relief for that little girl. All she wanted was to be a normal child! And he let her do that. (And the picture of him in the jacket flap is stellar!!)

[9] Posted by Von Chestman on 03.11.2010

This book was my first foray into the romance genre.  Such quality and insight into the heart and mind.  Until I read this book, I only read classics, history and Elmore Leonard.  Yes, the characters were imperfect, but that is what’s so special about your writing.  I have often wanted to thank-you for writing.  I look forward to any new adventures you choose to create.

[10] Posted by eKathy28 on 03.13.2010

A book where the characters through love come to a new understanding of themselves is a book I want to read and re-read. Loved this one as much as the others. I absolutely cannot pick one above the other. They are all fabulous. I also think there should be an award for best pet names. And Laura would always win it. Wolf cub. How endearing is that? My thee-thou girl. Sunshine. It is interesting that the names sometimes reflect the part of the heroine that the hero needs the most. That your characters are not always initially sympathetic gives them room to grow. Zenia was never shrill. She was consistent. She had an alarming upbringing and she had no models for living in anything but an alarming way. When she was able to put that behind her so she did not have to live her mother’s life ... ah, that is what we should all hope for. Yes? We get it. Write for those of us who do and ignore the ones who want formula. Or at least don’t let them get to you if you can’t entirely ignore them.

[11] Posted by Heather on 03.18.2010

I was trying to find the name of the book Arden reads (Phrases for Charming Ladies of Quality? Something) and stumbled here and I was shocked to find this isn’t a popular book. It is my absolutely favorite of yours! It makes me cry every time, and the whole story is so heartbreaking and real yet lovely. Thanks for writing it for me I guess!

[12] Posted by laura kinsale on 03.19.2010

Thank you all.

[13] Posted by Nancy on 05.05.2010

Your writing is my favorite of all romance authors I’ve read, and this was my favorite of your books.  I never read a book twice, but the first thing I did when I finished this one was turn to the first page and start all over again.  (And I really did read every single word, again.)  I wish there were more heroines like Zenia - her flaws and their impact on her reactions made her seem so true, and since we knew her motivations, I felt sympathetic, not annoyed.  I can’t stand to read criticism of her and of this book - it is the gold standard for the genre for me!  Please continue to ignore it all and keep writing such original and fascinating heroes AND heroines.

[14] Posted by laura kinsale on 05.06.2010

Nancy, it’s really a compliment when a reader starts over again right after they read a book the first time! 

I figured out a long time ago that I just have to write what I write.  Some people like it and some don’t.  But I’m glad to hear from the ones who do.

[15] Posted by Liz on 05.17.2010

I would love to just stay here and write comment after comment on all the books (ahem, maybe I will eventually). I just finished Dream Hunter and my throat is still tight from the tears.  You do this to me every time!  My heart just broke for Zenia… just about cracked in a million pieces at the end when she finally asks Arden to help her.  I also love how Arden can say something as breath-stealing as that “water” comment and then ask “Is that a stupid thing to say?”

ARDEN:  You had me at “Oh, God.”

I have yet to find another author who can so completely envelope me in the story and the characters the way you do. On a funny side note, last night I lamented to my husband that I couldn’t put the book down and went on about how your books always do that to me.  His reply? “Huh. Why is there no Fabio on the cover?” ;-)

[16] Posted by Nancy B. on 08.05.2010

I just finished this GREAT book - ditto to what everyone else has said!  I also liked the note Arden put in the talisman charm - he can’t say it out loud but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t feel it.  Loved it!

[17] Posted by laura kinsale on 08.07.2010

Thank you Liz and Nancy B!

[18] Posted by Denise Herron on 08.13.2010

Ms. Kinsale,
I read “The Dream Hunter” recently while on vacation, and I wanted to tell you how very much I enjoyed it.  I have to admit that I was confused at the beggining of the story, but once Zenia arrived in England I totally got into the whole romance between her and Arden.  I was nearly in tears towards the end when I thought she was going to leave him. You have such an exquisite way of writing your love stories that each of your unique characters remains as memorable as all the others.  I just loved the ending when Zenia thought Arden wrote the note in another language and then he tells her to turn it over.  I am about to read “Lessons In French” so I can’t wait!  Unfortunately some of your older books aren’t available from the library, so I’ll have to seek them out at used book stores or order from Amazon.com.  Please keep writing these wonderful and powerful love stories.  Hope to one day hear that you’ve written a sequel to “The Dream Hunter”.  Wishing you all the best, as always!

Denise

[19] Posted by Melanie on 08.26.2010

I have decided to re-read some of my favorite authors, and I’m starting with you. Last week was “Flowers from the Storm”, and this week was supposed to be “A Knight in Shining Armor” by Jude Deveraux.  Well, that one will have to wait, as I have decided to re-read ALL of your books.  This week I’ve finished “The Dream Hunter”, and next week will be “The Prince of Midnight”....

I could not believe that people had negative things to say about this book.  I thought it so well written, so passionate.  My favorite part was the ending, when she comes back to him and he’s alone in the room with the book….I just cried and cried….Both our Hero and Heroine were too real, too human, just like all of us, not perfect. When I read, it’s like watching a movie. I picture it all. The characters, main and secondary…the places, the voices, smell…all my senses are engaged. You are one of those rare authors that does what that commercial for CALGON says “…take me away”! 

People often ask me, since I read a lot, which is my favorite book from such and such author, and I can pick them quickly. There are only two authors that I REFUSE to pick favorites, and that is because everything they write IS my favorite! You are one of them (second is Judith James).

Thank you for creating these two people who will stay with me for a long time!

BTW…today I’m stopping by at Borders to pick up your new one “Lessons in French”.

[20] Posted by laura kinsale on 08.26.2010

Thank you Melanie!  It means so much these days, with the ease of downloads on the internet, for someone to purchase a book (ebook or print) from a retail channel.  It will help keep writers able to write every time you do that!  Thank you again and glad you enjoy my books.

[21] Posted by Melanie on 08.26.2010

Dear Laura!
You are more than welcome :)

I’m one of those people that loves to read FROM a book, in a very special place with a lot of sun (or sometimes rain) in the background… These days our kids are living in an INSTANT society and it makes me very sad.  It is all NOW!!!  They watch movies that are not even in the theaters yet!  There is something to GOING to the theaters! Smell of popcorn, people enjoying the story, discussing it afterwards…I realize that prices have gone up, but we don’t HAVE to see it all, read it all…its fun to make choices.  I want to say it must be generational, but then again I can’t, as I think it’s up to us parents to keep at it and remind our young ones to continue in our footsteps, and not take the EASY way out….Keep up the MUSE going!

[22] Posted by Judith on 11.12.2010

I’m interested to hear how others interpreted the significance of the phrase “What difference does it make?”  Arden first says this to Zenia on page 92 just before they make love when she tells him “I want to be brave ... I don’t want to cry ... I’m going to cry if you don’t hold onto me.”  He responds:  “‘It’s no matter.’ He sounded angry. ‘Cry then! What difference does it make if you cry?’” A few lines later he tells her “I’m a blackguard ... I want you.  I want inside you ... She understood him.  He felt it in the way she stilled.  ‘Stop me,’ he said, his lips on her skin.  ‘Damn you.’”  She responds “Go on, What difference does it make?”.  Later on page 130 when Arden has returned to England to unexpectedly find Zenia ensconced at Swanmere (the heart of “enemy” territory for Arden in the form of English propriety and his parents stifling control but detached emotionality) all he can really remember about her is that she said “What difference does it make?” before he had made love to her that night in the desert so long ago when death seemed imminent.  I think that phrase echoes again in Arden’s mind a third time in the book but I just can’t seem to find it right now.  Anyway, I have an idea of the significance of this to Arden, but I’m curious how others interpreted that element of the story and Arden.  Of course, the author’s intent would also be of interest, Laura?

[23] Posted by eKathy on 11.13.2010

Hello Judith: I read it in the context of this being their last night to be alive.
When you are about to die what difference does it make whether or not you cry? It is OK to cry. What difference does it make if you decide to make love or not? What consequences could there be?
The refrain is heard again on 93. “Unbearable. He was afraid he was the one who was going to cry. What difference does it make? None, but that he wanted her to want him. He did not want to take only. He wanted to give. But in a few hours all scruples were going to be nothing.”
How noble must a person who is going to die be, especially when “she pushed her hips against him” and “it felt exquisite. It felt like life.”
And then to find out (when he returns to England) that the difference was the making of another life ... “apparently it had made a difference after all, he thought fiercely.”
I think also that her calm acceptance at the top of 93—Tomorrow they would not be alive. So what difference would it make—is what Arden is remembering as infinitely cold and languid. At this point his memory is not serving him well.
I have a feeling you are looking for something more deep than this, but I ready it very straightforwardly.

[24] Posted by judith on 11.14.2010

eKathy,

Thanks for responding.  Good points, and the passage you indicate immediately following in which you get Arden’s perspective I probably “cruised” through on my most recent reading, because no matter how many times I read Kinsale (and I have read all of them many times) and TRY to force myself to slow down, I find that I focus on the dialogue and unintentionally skip key elements of description because I want to see what happens next!  (Suspense even when you already KNOW the outcome!)  So, good point on noting Arden’s sense of loneliness and uncertainty with respect to first thinking that Zenia was indifferent about HIM.  But ... I still think there’s something else at play there. I did finally find where it is repeated yet again —top of page 134.  At that point, he briefly considers riding all night to Swanmere, but upon imagining walking into his wife’s bedroom, he wonders (bottom p. 133) “Who was she? What would she look like? He couldn’t remember her.  He only remembered that she had said.  What difference does it make?  He turned the horses west, away from Swanmere.”  But that’s not the ONLY cause for turning away—his old insecurities in the world of his parents also play in to that decision.  The thing is, I think there are actually TWO things going on here.  On one hand, Arden’s shy insecurity (self-esteem issues) interprets what she said as being, if not a rejection of him, certainly not a passionate embrace of him.  On the other hand, her “what difference does it make” reaction to her potential deflowering (disaster in English society) and their imminent death makes her the total antithesis of “English Lady”. In the face of the threats to both reputation and life, she is not hysterical and does not cling to the rigid social order of English society as the other women he knows—his mother and the debs she pushes on him—would. Turns out, maybe Miss Bruce is who/what he’s really been looking for even though he hadn’t quite figured that out yet—that is, he knows what he DOESN’T want, but he’s not entirely sure what he DOES want.  She doesn’t faint or get the vapors at the suggestion he wants to have sex with her.  She is calm, quiet, and practical in the face of a really bad situation.  In a way, I guess the problem of interpreting Zenia’s “What difference does it make?” sort of sums up the typical conundrum many of us encounter in real relationships.  Often what people say can be interpreted in more than one way, and we have to figure out what they really mean.  Our insecure side tends toward the less flattering even while we may hope for the more positive meaning.  The insecure side of Arden thinks she means that since they don’t have long to live, what difference does it matter if she does it with HIM, even if, as he thinks, she is not really attracted to him.  But the more confident side of Arden who has been lonely and looking to fill that empty part of himself for so long, and who has only just realized that the Bedouin boy who he really respects is actually a woman, maybe on some level recognizes that a woman who can be so practical and matter of fact, and quietly brave and not a prisoner to social convention in the face of disaster may be just who he’s looking for.  I think it comes up more than once because he continues to struggle to figure out what she really meant. The statement attracts the bolder side of him who is looking for a worthy partner to end his loneliness, but repels the insecure side of him that always feels awkward and uncertain of his personal worth.  He dwells on those words not because there’s only a single interpretation rejection of him but precisely because he’s uncertain about their meaning, coming from her.  Otherwise, why do they echo through the story?  If it’s just that he’s drawn to her but remains convinced that she’s dismissive of him and will reject him, psychologically it seems unlikely he would continue to pursue her or obsess over her.  He’s kind of a “black and white” guy when it comes to feeling accepted or rejected.  Clearly he wants the love of his parents but never feels like he has been loved, and look at how he responds to them.  Having been “pushed away” (or held at emotional distance) by both mother and father, he does everything now to push them away first.

[25] Posted by Judith on 11.14.2010

eKathy -

As for his sardonic internal comment “apparently it had made a difference after all” upon learning he has a daughter, I thought that a clever way for the author to draw the reader’s attention back to the significance of both their “What difference does it make?” comments and their possible alternate interpretations.  I guess that brings to light yet another layer of “what difference does it make?” By my count, we now have:

1. Arden to Zenia :  What difference does it make if you cry (act like a typical female)? - Which, of course, up to that point she most definitely had NOT since he only just figured out that she WAS a woman.

2. Zenia to Arden (Interpretation #1):  What difference does it make ...if I lose my virginity to you even if I’m not all that interested in you? We’ll both be dead tomorrow.

3.  Zenia to Arden (Interpretation #2): What difference does it make ... if I have sex with you and get pregnant?  We’ll both be dead tomorrow. (This makes sense only to the degree that Arden later interprets the comment in THIS very way.)

4. Zenia to Arden (Interpretation #3):  What difference does it (honor) make ... that you don’t hold yourself to some noble social conventions about how ladies and gentlemen are supposed to comport themselves?  We’ll both be dead tomorrow

Bottom of p 91 - “He kissed her hungrily, angrily, deeply.  He could not bear to face eternity having been so close and having never been a part of her.”  On p 92 he pushes away from her with a sound of anguish ... later same page, after he tells her it’s no matter if she cries she desperately asks him to hold her. 

“His hands rested on her shoulders. He tightened them.  His fingers pressed into her. 

Zenia reached up suddenly and pulled his head down to her.  She thrust her lips against his, seeking.

Arden felt the edge perishing beneath his feet, his last honor crumbling.  ‘I’m a blackguard,’ he said against her mouth.  ‘I want you.  I want inside you.’

She understood him.  He felt it in the way she stilled. 

‘Stop me,’ he said, his lips on her skin. ‘Damn you.’”

At this point, she says what difference does it make.  I think she is asking him “why stand on social convention now?”  What’s the point?  Maybe it’s that Bedouin desert practicality. Maybe he’s afraid of finding what he’s been searching for (what does the dog do with the car once he’s caught it?).  Maybe he NEEDS her to demand that he follow social convention because feeling unloved is the known “bad” but feeling loved (or the potential to love and be loved)is the scary, unknown potential good.  As humans, it is easier for us to stick with what is familiar (but perhaps painful) than to take a chance on the unfamiliar (but perhaps wonderful). 

Arden tried to disengage himself and do the noble thing, and Zenia pursues him and says “so what?” if he isn’t honorable by conventional standards—so in a way, his interpreting her words as a rejection of HIM only makes sense of he needs to cling to his familiar world of loneliness and rejection—But, on some level, Arden knows in his gut that there is more than one way to interpret what she says…

[26] Posted by laura kinsale on 11.16.2010

I actually am far more interested in readers’ interpretations than in my own. ;)  I learn a lot more!

[27] Posted by judith on 11.16.2010

Laura -

Yes, but you wrote it in there as an echo for a reason (didn’t you?)—regardless of how we readers interpret it ... so why does it echo for Arden???

[28] Posted by laura kinsale on 11.16.2010

If you’d asked me that in 1993, I might have been able to answer.  At this point I think you know as much about it as I do…

[29] Posted by judith on 11.16.2010

I was afraid that was what you were going to say.  What’s a mere 17 years??  But I understand about letting go once the “the baby” is “birthed”.  No doubt you obsess over your stories while you’re writing them, and we obsess over them after they’re written.  I guess that’s what allows them to be relevant over a lifetime—as our perspective changes based on our life’s experience, our interpretations of your characters and their actions gets to shift accordingly.  There’s a certain beauty to not pinning things down to firmly.

[30] Posted by eKathy on 11.16.2010

Now I feel like I have to read it again a look for more insight into what difference it makes. Ahhh.

[31] Posted by judith on 11.16.2010

eKathy -

And the problem with that is?????  You just get enjoy it all over again.  Sorry if I “pushed” you.  You’d have eventually “jumped” at reading it again anyway.  :-)

[32] Posted by eKathy on 11.16.2010

Ahhh. Was a sigh of gladness! An excuse to read it again ... as if I needed one. Hey, it’s been a whole nine months since I last read it. Must be time to read it again. The real problem is how they spoil a person for almost all other romances. Not much measures up.

[33] Posted by judith on 11.16.2010

eKathy - Totally agree that it’s hard to find anything else that measures up - either as romance, or as just deeply good, thoughtful fiction.  And I find I’m torn between both wanting to share with friends, and jealous of the goldmine I’ve found—not so sure I want to share.  And of course, you don’t want to get into arguments with friends with different taste over whether or not they are the best ever, b/c we KNOW the answer to that one already!  So do you have a fav and why?  My favs change depending on which one I’m reading at the time HaHa!

[34] Posted by Debra on 12.11.2010

I loved this book the first time I read and enjoy it more every time I’ve re-read it.
Plus, I keep noticing things I missed in my earlier readings - like the fact that Arden had run away to the army when he was 14. I really like him as a character, but also feel such compassion for his father who had only the one son with whom he couldn’t relate at all. Their relationship was heartbreaking. Arden was strangled by his father’s over-protectiveness, but his father suffers, too, and keeps drinking the cordials. Zenia was such a consistent, desperate, frightened person but I liked her and liked how Arden described her as “hell-born brave.”
I thought much of the prose became poetic. This is one of my favorite passages:

He watched the water drip, and walked, lost in savage desolation and utter solitude. The long inhuman reaches of the desert, where his body found the limits of what it could endure, and his soul came near to peace.
He had longed for it, with a longing that was terrible. And yet even here, he was looking for something that he could not find.
All of his life, he had been looking. He did not know what for . . . Sometimes he thought he found it in the evening, when they stopped to rest and the red sands turned violet and indigo, flooded with light like a frozen tossing sea, and he turned from that glory to where Selim cooked homely balls of flour in the bottom of the fire, and burned his fingers retrieving them from the ashes.
Sometimes he thought he found it in the morning when he rose and walked to the top of a sand hill, and grew drunk on the pure clear arch of sky and the silence. Sometimes he thought he found it in a dry mouth and and a thimbleful of water swallowed in the shadow of his patient camel. . .
He thought he found what he was looking for, in moments that came and vanished, that he could not hold on to. . . he prayed for it to end and he wanted it to go on forever.
In so many of Laura Kinsale’s books, it seems like the happy life is so nearly out of reach, like a tiny lantern at the end of long dark tunnel. If the hero and heroine cannot each reach the lantern, or someone takes it away or it winks out, they are such unique characters that they will be condemned to wander in darkness without that light. The suspense is always so good - can they, will they reach the light? and in time?
I like several other Laura Kinsale books, but this is my all-time favorite.
Thanks, Laura, for writing it!

[35] Posted by laura kinsale on 12.15.2010

*smile*  Thank you Debra.  I enjoyed writing the desert journey.

[36] Posted by Marylou on 05.19.2011

Trapped in the desert with only a dozen books to read and reread I have to say they would all be Laura Kinsale novels.  This one took me a little while to recognize its genius.  But that is part of the absolutely beguiling surprise of Kinsale,her books actually improve with subsequent readings!  One of my favorite scenes is when Arden is trying to explain why he appeared entranced with her rival during their date at the zoo.  He was plotting to get her alone later!  Many writers would have stated it as baldly as I just did,-only Kinsale can make you laugh and weep at the same time.  I just adore you Laura, but I can’t help wishing you could write them as fast as I can read them.:)

[37] Posted by laura kinsale on 05.19.2011

If I can write a book that makes readers laugh and weep at the same time, I think I’ve succeeded at my goal!  At least Charles Dickens thought so…

[38] Posted by mary lou mawson on 03.15.2012

Laura, I am eagerly awaiting the ebook version of The Dream Hunter.  I have been collecting all your books on my Nook so that I can always have them with me, even when I loan the hard copy to friends or take a trip. (I have found that this assuages my fear of loaning them) BTW love the duel versions of FMLH, read them both:) I am longing to read this one again but can’t find my hard copy.  While searching for it, I noticed it is already available in spanish as an ebook.  What gives, high school spanish was a long time ago,don’t think I can manage with that. Where’s the english?

[39] Posted by judith on 03.15.2012

I too have been eagerly awaiting the e-publication of BOTH The Dream Hunter and My Sweet Folly.  What’s the word?  Are we going to be seeing them any time soon?  I love having the ability to take all my Kinsale with me in my e-reader, without having to drag the actual books on a trip.

[40] Posted by laura kinsale on 03.17.2012

Mary Lou and Judith,

It’s good to know there are readers who want these books as e-reads.  I’ll pass the word along to my agent and see if we can’t get them going.  I think these editions got put on the back burner somehow, when I got involved with making the dual versions of SH and FMLH, and the new covers for the other ebooks.

Thanks for the reminder!  LK

[41] Posted by Elisabeth Roam on 05.03.2012

I can’t believe this book ever got a bad review. I can see how Zanias character might be a little strange at times, and it hurt me the way she treated Arden. Especially that she would try to keep him from his child when he was obviously such a wonderful father -That was hard to read. Yet Zanias background helps us understand her character so well that I did not dispise her but only felt sorry that her mental processing was a little twisted at times. She was a heroine with an obvious weakness, sadly most readers are addicted to the “fairy tale” approach when it comes to the female lead. Ardens character was a perfect balance for her, patient, honest, witty and compassionate. His character was very magnetic, drawing the reader in. Even though he had his flaws I would say he showed repeatedly that he was the right match for Zania. I felt that whatever your vision for Arden was before you wrote the novel came to life perfectly on the pages. Everything flowed so well together.
From someone who has read many novels of this genre and am also an aspiring writer, I just want to let you know that other writers hardly come close to your talent. Your prose, dialog and description in this novel showcase true artistry and imagination. From page one you moved me, bringing to life such a beautiful love story. Showing true depth in these characters that had experienced so much pain. The setting and the way you depicted it was incredible, I felt like I was actually there with Arden and Zania. I loved that it wasn’t the typical ‘London season’ that you read about so often now a days. It brought me out of my comfort zone and I loved it. Thank you for writing this book, it is truely a love story to be treasured.

[42] Posted by Kathy on 05.03.2012

Elizabeth: AMEN!

[43] Posted by laura kinsale on 05.03.2012

Elisabeth, thank you for commenting!  I don’t mind when some readers don’t like a book, as long as others love and understand it. ;)  And thank you Kathy, too!

[44] Posted by Kristine on 05.24.2012

Hi Laura!
Any news yet on getting The Dream Hunter and My Sweet Folly into ebook form? I know you mentioned that you were going to check with your agent about it, but your fans are getting antsy! Hahaha! I have all of your other titles in ebook form and I am SOOO looking forward to adding these two!  :D
I LOVE your books and have read some of them several times. I am also hoping that you may write other books in the future? Please say you will!  :)  There is no other author that comes close to your talents, so if you quit writing, I may have to quit reading! You’ve spoiled me for every other historical romance author! LOL!

[45] Posted by laura kinsale on 05.26.2012

Kristine, I’ve forwarded your comment to my agent.  Reader demands carry a lot more weight than mine do, so fingers crossed!

I’m writing, the niggling problem is finishing, you know! ;)

[46] Posted by Lee M. on 06.18.2012

I love this book. I still catch myself thinking about the plot of it now and then—and that’s when I HAVEN’T pulled it out to reread it! I love Zenia’s character, and the way she torments Arden by making him dream of women (among other things). Because of her circumstances, she could be a weak and clingy character, but instead she’s a real piece of work, which I liked about her—who says men always get to be the difficult, or ‘complicated’ ones? I love that Arden has to work hard to get her, in the end. And what an ending.

Really, is there any better ending for an author (or any lover of words) than one that hangs itself on the talisman of the written word? So beautifully done, too. Your books are so emotionally satisfying, but you never resort to sentimentality for its own sake. You weave the humor through your stories so well. I often recommend your books, especially Flowers, which I consider the best romance ever written (as I recall, quite a few other folks do too). But honestly, whichever book of yours I’m reading is my favorite at the time. I couldn’t choose between them.

I never worry about recommending them, either, because frankly, I’d consider anyone who didn’t like them too stupid to live. (Haven’t met anyone THAT dumb, though.) I used to write book reviews, and one thing I noticed is that better authors are often criticized more harshly by readers whose own life view or experiences are narrow. The truth is, some people just don’t ‘get it’, and they don’t even have the wherewithal to KNOW they don’t get it. Nothing but time and experience can cure that.

Also, when someone writes as well as you do, there’s going to be envy. Sadly, the folks subject to envy often can’t seem to see that others recognize their envy for what it is, so it only reflects badly on themselves. It’s like holding up a big green flag that says, “Look at me! I know I can’t make it on talent, so I’ll trash the competition and cheat my way in!” Yeah, that’s impressive.

I always wonder about the jealous types: were their folks stupid too? Is that why they didn’t teach their kids not to make asses of themselves by attacking those they envy? Or are they the type of kids who have to learn things the hard way? Or were they orphans with no parents at all? It just seems such an obvious self-insult that it’s hard to fathom why the big letter ‘L’ they’ve pasted on their own forehead isn’t obvious to them too. Of course, if they were better at self-introspection, they’d probably be writing like…you.

;-D

[47] Posted by laura kinsale on 06.18.2012

A beautifully articulated comment, Lee!  (I certainly enjoyed re-reading it several times. ;))

Thank you for the compliments—not sure I deserve them but they make me feel wonderful.  I do agree that readers are very different and books either speak to us or they don’t.  I can’t stand Hemingway, I think he’s just awful, but obviously there are lots of people who don’t agree!  Although that’s based on his style, mostly.  And maybe if I went back and gave him another chance, I’d change my mind.  That happened to me with avocados.  And a few other things in life. ;)

Thank you again for your lovely and insightful comment.

[48] Posted by Lee M. on 06.19.2012

Well, I don’t give compliments I don’t mean—which is why I didn’t last long as a reviewer. ;-P Very few people can deal with criticism, constructive or not. Which likely explains the level of writing in so many places today. My favorite poem is Hemingway’s “The Age Demanded”, which is reflective of that. I love the bluntness of his style, though I think a lot of his subject matter stunk and his handling of male/female dynamics was rank.

I’m glad though that my opinion meant something to you, because it was honestly given, and it would be a shame if someone as talented as you ever doubted that talent, or gave up on it. I often think that, for truly talented writers, it must be like slogging upstream through quicksand to maintain such standards when so much in the publishing world has become so ‘slip-shoddy’. I’m constantly amazed that authors like yourself manage to write as often as you do. But a lot of us are grateful you do. Don’t ever forget that! :-)

[49] Posted by Jude on 07.16.2012

I just finished reading and I loved it.  Fits is still my favorite but it was lovely.  For what it is worth,  I thought that what does it matter was kind of cross between what does it matter if I am weak and human and what does it matter if I let myself love you when there is no fear of consequences tomorrow.  He was always urging her to really live instead of being safe.  Laura, your books are my favorites and, fortunately, I am less than halfway through them though I went ahead and bought all on the strength of the shadow and the star and flowers from the storm!

[50] Posted by laura kinsale on 08.05.2012

Glad you enjoyed TDH, and also that you have some more to read!  I wish I were faster and had more to offer, but it’s really nice that e-books have made it possible to keep my backlist available.

[51] Posted by Jai Joshi on 08.24.2012

What difference does it make if we all figure out what that phrase means or not? We’re all still reading, aren’t we?

On a serious note, I’ve been very interested to read the various interpretations people here have come up with. I read it as Zenia saying to him: “What difference does your honour make here and now when we’re going to die in the morning?” But I also felt that he later took it to be a rejection of him which was what was so sad but also so true. People do that all the time, where they misremember things others have told them and colour everything with their own insecurities. And he, poor guy, was very insecure!

Looking back, I see how you made the heroine the wounded one in this book, while Arden had to bring her back into life and love despite his own issues. I didn’t notice that at the time but that’s what I love about Laura Kinsale books. There’s always something to notice. Brilliant. I’m going to have to go re-read this one!

I echo what one commenter here said when she told you, Laura, to never think your writing isn’t appreciated. It is and we love you for it!

Jai

[52] Posted by laura kinsale on 08.24.2012

Thank you for all of your comments, Jai! It’s great when people re-read the books and enjoy them more or get more out of them.  You are a very perceptive person.

[53] Posted by Rachel on 01.23.2013

Thanks for the note above regarding this book’s availability. I was coming round to ask if/when it would be for sale as an eBook. It wasn’t so many days after I purchased the Dec sale books that I went ahead and got all the rest of the eBook backlist, as well.  I had to pack up all my paper titles for a big move and the packing and slow boat to New Zealand are just too dang slow so it’s wonderful to have the digital alternative. I look forward to this one being available too and maybe My Sweet Folly, as well?

Also, I’m thrilled beyond measure to see tid bits regarding research for a new book! Happy writing to you! I know it will be happy reading for me to have a new Kinsale to treasure.

[54] Posted by Susy on 03.05.2013

I don’t think my words will be adequate to express my reaction to The Dream Hunter.  I think you have written an extremely beautiful, gut-wrenchingly haunting novel.  At least, it’s haunting me.  AND my dreams.  (The Dream Haunter?)

I personally loved the character Zenia, even when I wanted to slap her repeatedly, shake her and give her electro-shock therapy. And Arden?  Arden, Arden, Arden. <sigh>

What I really loved about this novel were two things: the bittersweet frustration of two people making their lives and their relationship difficult if not impossible through their own phobias and defects, and the very restrained characterization you used to bring them to life.

My heart ached for Arden, a man lost in his own time, place and station, in his own country, and especially in his own home. Chained there by love for a woman who was rejecting him for all the things he had been in the desert—rejecting the very man that Lord Winter himself longed to be and remain.  His attempt to let go of their shared memories and identities so that he could woo Zenia as this more acceptable, tamed version of himself was painful and compelling to this reader.

I am surprised that no one has mentioned the similarities between this novel and Gone With the Wind.  Surely, I am not the only one put in mind of that classic when reading The Dream Hunter?  I cannot put my finger on it, but I know that the tone is very similar, with a heroine who is loved for what she really is by her perfect man, but who blindly cannot see it for herself.  I don’t know if that is what it was, though; I may have to re-read them both.

Anyway, I have since read For My Lady’s Heart, which was Christmas morning in book form, I relished each moment of it.  I am now reading Shadowheart. I am so glad you are writing, Ms. Kinsale, and I want to particularly thank you for The Dream Hunter, and for Lord Winter, whom I will never, ever forget.

[55] Posted by laura kinsale on 03.05.2013

Susy, thank you so much for the wonderful description.  I’ve never thought of Gone with the Wind, but that’s a good connection.  I love when readers notice things that I haven’t noticed myself.

And I promise, we ARE going to get THE DREAM HUNTER and MY SWEET FOLLY out in ebook format this year.  Really.  I mean it this time! ;)

[56] Posted by Pamela on 04.12.2013

This book is a fav up there with Jane Eyre. I read it practically once a year; alas, my copy is falling apart and I’ve sworn off dead tree books because they fill every nook and cranny of my humble abode and I’ve got nowhere else to put them. So, I REALLY need a Kindle version, Ms K. I’ll be anxiously awaiting this release and any other prose you decide to gift us. Sincerely, Pamela xo A fan.

[57] Posted by laura kinsale on 04.13.2013

Look for it in July, Pamela!  Or maybe a bit sooner.

Along with the audiobook read by Nick Boulton! 

Be sure to sign up for my newsletter; I’ll be sending out notice of when they are available.  Glad you enjoy it!

[58] Posted by Susy on 08.24.2013

Laura,
I really love the new artwork for the E-Book!  I think it says much about the depth of your affection for your characters and your stories that you have reclaimed them, gotten this fantastic new artwork and found such a great talent to do the audiobooks. You have never sold out and I admire that greatly.

And also…is there any way that we can purchase a print of it…perhaps signed?

[59] Posted by laura kinsale on 08.24.2013

Susy, thanks for telling me you like the new covers!  They’re pretty unusual, but I think they’re very interesting and fun. 

There isn’t a print of the covers, but for The Dream Hunter (and My Sweet Folly,) you can purchase the paperback version of book, which is a trade-sized paperback, so larger, and very nicely done. 

Thank you again! I’ll tell the cover designer, Ceci Sorochin what you said, she’ll be very pleased.

[60] Posted by Nancy Syslo on 09.24.2013

Hi,I love your book The Dream Hunter.It was so different, but full of deep love and respect.The ending is so happy,but yet sad.I didn’t want the book to end.Thank you for all your books,but this one has a special place in my heart and makes my dream world more real.Thanks again.

[61] Posted by laura kinsale on 09.25.2013

Nancy, that’s the kind of response that really makes me happy. So glad you feel that way.

[62] Posted by Catherine on 09.23.2014

Dear Laura, I love your books so much! I don’t read a lot of romance novels and since I have read yours nothing else works for me. You really did set the bar high and you are a lady worth of praise. I have been wanting to leave you a message here for ages and I finally am.

I have a particular fondness for The Dream Hunter. I didn’t know what the story was about when I first read it and was completely captivated. Since then it’s my go to book when I need a Laura Kinsale. There is something about that first part in the desert that touches me deeply. I fell in love with Arden and Zenia through the wonderful built up of their friendship.

It’s such a different love story. So far from anything I have ever read. The novelty of it is still mesmerizing to me. I am still in awe that you chose to explore the relationship of two people who don’t really know each other deeply through their offspring. That child is what unites them. I also really love how you explored the father’s side and his rights within the context of the 19th century. I completely sympathize with Zenia’s fears and conflict and Arden’s struggle to become something more is one of the most beautiful character development I have had the pleasure to read.

My muse has been failing me for a while and words really aren’t coming right. Not enough to express how much and deeply your stories have influenced and touched me. When I reread the books I promise to come back and share my thoughts with you.

I wish you the best in whatever is making your world shine these days. Even if you don’t ever write an other book again, your contribution so far is priceless. Thank you!

Catherine

[63] Posted by Laura Kinsale on 09.26.2014

Catherine, I’m sorry your muse feels like it’s failing you; I know how that feels! It’s a delicate thing and comes back, but you have to listen really carefully and not whisper too loud! :)

Thank you for what you wrote here.  I appreciate it so much, to hear that you have a particular feeling for this book.  I do too. 

Yours,

Laura

[64] Posted by Catherine on 09.27.2014

Dear Laura,

I am happy if my words can procure you some joy. It means it went both ways! Honestly, it is the most beautiful gift to be touched by a book (and 12 in your case).

I know you’ve heard time and time again how well you write and I think it’s an understatement. It’s not just about prose and the way you chose words or string them together; it’s the emotional impact they have that resonates deep in the soul. It’s more than craft, it’s a gift that you have.

More than that even, the one thing that I find absolutely fascinating with every one of your novels is how unpredictable they are. It is why I never read a single review or blurb about the story beforehand. Reading one of your book has become that same fabulous and mysterious journey I used to have as a child when everything was new. And as I have a poor memory, I get to rediscover them over and over with that same sense of delight.

Thank you for your encouragements about the capricious way of the Muse. It’s an art to listen, to respect and not force anything. A path I am happy to follow. That’s the only one that I feel can work in the long run.

To stay on topic, I just re-listened to the fantastic audio version of the book. I had forgotten so many details. Got to love Zenia! So much guts you have to explore fear in a woman character. I agree with Lee above that those who didn’t get the character probably don’t have lived enough. Maybe they read novels to escape their own fears and don’t want to be reminded that they are also humans.

The ending and paroxysm of that fear and the subsequent release     (preceded by Arden’s complete surrender to the circumstances) is one emotional, gut-wrenching, soul soaring moment on top of an ending you really don’t see coming before the last minute.

So many favorite moments in The Dream Hunter. This time around I fell in love again with Arden and his “thank you” after making love. And again and again with Elizabeth, one of of the most vividly adorable child brought to live with so much details.

Thanks again!

Catherine

[65] Posted by Laura Kinsale on 09.29.2014

So glad you enjoyed the audio!  I love all of them, but I thought Nick caught the two characters in TDH exactly the way I imagine them.

Commenting is not available in this section entry.