Zachary Bronson is a hero to die for. He started out in direst poverty and literally fought he way to wealth and power. Now, he riches provide him with a grudging entré into the world of the ton. But Zachary wants more; he wants the acceptance that marriage into the aristocracy will bring. But he knows that he will have to polish up his image if he is
to have a hope of achieving his goal. A chance meeting convinces him the Lady Holly Taylor is the very person to turn the proverbial sow’s ear into a silk purse.
Lady Holland Taylor is a young widow. Three years earlier, her beloved husband Charles died of typhoid fever, leaving her with an infant daughter. She was devastated. As was expected of grieving widows in 1830, she spent a year in deepest mourning, a year in Second Mourning, and a year in half-mourning. Now, for the first time, she is out in society and very uncomfortable in the gaily decorated ballroom. She seeks refuge outside a darkened room in a garden, only to be swept up in a passionate embrace.
Thus do Zachary and Lady Holly meet. Zachary had been expecting someone else, but he is moved by the woman in his arms surprised reaction to his kisses. For her part, Holly is startled at the feelings the embrace arouses in her and flees to her carriage. But not before Zachary learns her identity.
Shortly thereafter, Lady Holly receives an invitation to the home of the infamous Zachary Bronson to discuss a business proposition. Her husband’s family, with whom she and Rose live, try to dissuade her from the visit, but curiosity wins out. She recognizes the man from the garden, but hopes he does not know who she is. Then, Zachary makes
Holly an offer she can’t refuse. If she will come and live in his house and train him, his mother and his sister in the ways of the ton, he will provide a dowry of £20,000 for Rose and pay her £10,000 for her services. Since George had left her with nothing but a small annuity and since she must depend on the charity of her in-laws for support, this promise of wealth is too much to refuse. So Holly and Rose move into Zachary’s opulent London estate.
Where Dreams Begin charts the transformative relationship of Zachary and Holly. Both characters grow and change because of their interaction. Zachary develops more polish while his mother learns how to manage his household and his sister learns how to act like a fashionable lady. But more significantly, Zachary learns to put the
needs and wishes of someone he comes to love above his own desires. He realizes that seducing Holly would destroy their friendship and concludes that he cannot wed her because such a marriage would hurt her position.
The best part of the book is watching Holly’s growing realization that the strictures and attitudes that she had adhered to all her life were perhaps not really true. Is birth really
more important than ability? Are manners what truly make the man (or the woman)? Are the fashionable pursuits of the ton truly superior to the activities of a man like Zachary who not only makes lots of money, but who also shows real concern for the well-being of the men and women who work for him? And are all those lessons she learned about the passionless nature of ladies really correct?
In fact, by the end of the story, Holly has changed much more than Zachary.
Kleypas provides a well drawn setting for her story. She has a real descriptive gift, as she describes the incredibly ostentatious house that Zachary has built to blazon his wealth across the London landscape. She also creates attractive secondary characters, especially Zachary’s sister who has her own lovely romance.
But this book succeeds because of the hero and heroine. Zachary may be a diamond in the rough, but he is a true jewel. He is one of the most compelling heroes I have encountered in quite a while, a man of great gifts, of supreme self-confidence, of incredible accomplishment, of considerable charm. While I am fond of tortured heroes, I must admit that it is refreshing to find a hero who has surmounted a desperate past
with his humanity intact. Zachary is a alpha hero in the best sense of the word. And Holly grows into a heroine worthy of him.
I must note one failing in the pacing of the story. Often, it appears that the end of a story seems rushed, as if the author had to hurry to tie up all the ends. In Where Dreams Begin, the ending seems drawn out. I suppose the second ending is designed to show that Holly truly accepts that Zachary, not her first husband, is the real love of
her life. But I did find the final episode a bit unnecessary, almost anticlimactic.
Yet, despite this minor quibble, I recommend Where Dreams Begin enthusiastically. Derrek Craven has always been my favorite Kleypas’ hero, he has been bumped into second place by Zachary Bronson. I shall end as I began: Zachary Bronson is a hero to die for!