Finding the Dream by Nora Roberts
(Jove , $6.99, PG-13) ISBN-0-515-12087
Finding the Dream is appropriately the concluding book of the Dream Trilogy. And in this novel Roberts does what she does best: maturing her characters and expanding the relationships among them -- all with her adroit touch and snappy dialogue.

Margo Sullivan, the daughter of the Templeton family's housekeeper --- Kate Powell, an orphaned cousin -- and Laura and her brother Josh Templeton -- all grew up together in the Templeton Mansion in Monterey. The girls grew up closer than most sisters, and the trilogy devotes one book to each.

For background purposes, I think it is important to mention that Margo's life is addressed in Daring to Dream and Kate's in Holding the Dream. Both of these books have been reviewed by The Romance Reader and the reviews can be found in the Archives section. There seems little point in repeating what's been said. Finding the Dream does stand alone and can certainly be enjoyed without reading the others, although it is enriched by reading it last.

Laura, daughter of the Templeton hoteliers, fulfills her adolescent dream at 18 when she falls in love and marries Peter Ridgeway. Peter -- older, suave and sophisticated -- is an executive of the Templeton Hotel chain. To him, the Templeton money, not Laura, was the allure. He manages to strip her estate and leave her with two young children to rear before he disappears into the proverbial sunset after ten years of marriage.

This story is a romance in the strictest sense and one that single parents should particularly understand. The book explores Laura's guilt from a failed marriage with respect to her children and the anger and rejection felt by the children. The frustrations of a mother merely trying to cope are a big part of the story.

Laura lives in the mansion and works mornings in the convention department at the Templeton Hotel. Afternoons she spends at Pretenses, the business she owns with Kate and Margo. Refusing to accept support from her parents, she works these two jobs to support her children. After two years without Peter, her older daughter still blames Laura for the failed marriage.

Her brother Josh asks her to rent the Templeton Stables and carriage house to his friend Michael Fury who has literally been wiped out by a mudslide. Needing the money, Laura agrees. Michael was the teenage buddy of Josh's, whom adults loved to hate because of his bad boy image. With a history of the merchant marine, mercenary and stuntman, he has now turned to raising horses. Michael becomes Laura's dream and this book is the story of her search.

Spoiled as I am by Robert's plots and subplots, with heavily textured characters and biting dialogue, I did not award this novel 5 Hearts because it was a simple rather than complex book. (Also the similarity with the character Nathaniel Fury in Megan's Mate bothered me.) Nora Roberts has set such high standards in so many books that one tends to judge her novels one against the other, rather than against the field. The rest of the field should be grateful.

--Thea Davis

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