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A Pocketful of Paradise

This Time for Keeps

Still Close to Heaven

Dreamweaver by Kathleen Kane
(St. Martins, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-312-96808-6
Meara Simon is a Dream Weaver. For the one hundred years since she was killed, she's been one of those beings who guard children's dreams and protect them from nightmares. Meara's a soft touch and has given a little boy a dream instead of a nightmare. This dereliction of duty brings the wrath of Gideon, the Dream Master, down upon her.

Her friend Daisy, who's only been a Dream Weaver for twenty years (in her lifetime she was "the owner of the best damn cathouse in Bear Creek, Texas," although Meara can't figure out why cats deserve a home of their own), urges her to hide for a month until Gideon calms down. Daisy shoves her into High Timber, Nevada, in 1876.

Connor James is a lonely rancher. He had won the ranch in a poker game, and the previous owner has encouraged the residents of High Timber to ostracize him because his mother was a whore and his father was a gambler. Connor believes that his past will prohibit his ever marrying a woman and starting a family.

A beautiful Irish lass crashes through his roof. Other than remembering her name is Meara Simon, she has no memory of her past or how she came to land in Connor's house. Connor allows her to stay until they can find her people. Meara, being the generous, outgoing person she is (not to mention a great cook), soon charms every one on the ranch. When Luke, a young orphan, wanders onto the ranch, Meara has another lost soul to heal.

But the good people of High Timber are willing to believe that Meara and Connor are living in sin and begin to shun her. In addition, her time limit of one month is running out. How can there be a happy conclusion for any of them?

I've enjoyed Kathleen Kane's writing in the past. While her stories have supernatural elements, they're not so fantastic that they stretch a reader's credulity to the breaking point. Yes, Meara has an afterlife occupation, and she arrives at Connor's ranch in an implausible way, but from then on the story pretty much plays it straight. Meara doesn't whip out a magic wand and work miracles.

But the story never quite moved me the way A Pocketful of Paradise did. The male characters seemed more believable than the female. Connor's a decent sort who has a nobility of character that's admirable considering his background, and Luke's a tough kid with a heart of gold just waiting for someone to love him.

Meara, on the other hand, is so sweet and so cheerful and so generous and so quaintly Irish, she started to get on my nerves. I suppose you can't have someone who has been dead for a hundred years have PMS, but a little speck of tarnish on her halo would have been a welcome relief.

As for the explanation of why Daisy pushed Meara into Connor's life, that was pretty obvious from the beginning. In fact, there's little suspense about whether everything will work out just dandy for all the good guys. I know romances have a guaranteed happy ending, but other romances (including A Pocketful of Paradise) have been more successful in creating tension as to whether that happy ending is possible in this case. That tension is pivotal in building an engrossing story, and the primary conflict of whether Meara will have to return to her former life never grabbed me.

Nevertheless, I'm sure there are readers who will enjoy this book. Ms.Kane is a talented author who can create very likeable characters. Dreamweaver is a light-hearted book without the emotional impact of some of the author's earlier works. There are readers who might prefer this book just for that reason.

--Lesley Dunlap

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