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Once Upon a Dream

 
Call Down the Moon
by Katherine Kingsley
(Dell, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-440-22076-9
****
Meggie Bloom has a gift, a gift that is a curse. She can read people's thoughts. Her uncanny ability causes her nothing but trouble at orphanage where she is sent to live after her foster mother dies. Finally, desperate to rid themselves of this unusual young woman, they send her to work at a sanitarium for the insane which is run by a member of their order. Here Meggie's gift is invaluable in aiding the troubled patients and under the kindly wing of Sister Agnes, Meggie finds a place. But she dreams of a different and better life.

Lord Hugo Montague visits the sanitarium at the behest of his mother. While there, he catches a glimpse of the beautiful, almost ethereal Meggie. Sister Agnes tells Hugo Meggie's sad tale: that she could find no place outside the sanitarium. Understandable, Hugo concluded that Meggie is an inmate.

Lord Hugo, the brother of a duke, is finally, at 26, settling down after a tumultuous youth. He has lost and won a fortune at the gaming tables and now chooses to purchase an estate in Sussex. However, one of the provisions of the sale requires Hugo to continue to give a home to two elderly female relatives of the previous owner. Now a property owner, Hugo decides to fully embrace respectability and find a wife. But while in London, he gets involved in one last game of chance and loses all he had won. Faced with ruin, he concludes that his only recourse is to wed the obnoxious heiress who has set her cap for him. But while he is at his lawyer's discussing settlements, he overhears a conversation about a missing heiress and realizes that it can only be Meggie Bloom.

And so he hurries to the sanitarium to convince the young woman to marry him. Of course, Hugo's misapprehension about his new wife's mental health leads to misunderstandings. But he finds that despite her "affliction" she is a warm and loving woman, and begins to wonder if, once free of the sanitarium, she might not regain her health. Meggie, on the other hand, concludes from what Hugo says that he does not want a smart wife, and seeks to live down to his expectations. The fact that she cannot read Hugo's mind leaves her unaware of his misconceptions about her mental state.

Hugo and Meggie settle down at his estate, and he arranges for the lawyers to discover who Meggie really is. But as he becomes fonder and fonder of the lovely, free-spirited woman he has married, he feels guiltier and guiltier about his deception.

Kingsley has devised a clever plot with just the kind of originality which makes her such a good storyteller. Meggie is, from the start, an appealing heroine. Hugo takes some warming up to. At the outset, he seems selfish and immature, but he grows and matures over the course of the story till one really roots for him at the end. The two female relatives the aunties are delightful creations who add welcome humor to the story.

Call Down the Moon is by way of a sequel to Kingsley's 1997 release, Once upon a Dream. It is nice to revisit the characters from that book briefly, although this book easily stands alone. I recommend Kingsley's latest without hesitation. But one thing worries me. Once upon a Dream was clearly a retelling of the Cinderella story and I keep wondering if this new book also has its roots in a fairy tale, too. If it does, I can't place it. So, if any of you readers out there can figure out if Kingsley has based this book some fable or another, please let me know.

--Jean Mason


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