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Engaging Sam

A Wish and a Dream
by Ingrid Weaver
(Jove, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-515-12410-9
Dylan Stonehouse has been dumped by his fiancée and if her new husband gets his way, Dylan will be out of a job, too. On the eve of his ex-fiancée's wedding, Dylan filches a bottle of champagne and retreats to the family attic, a place of refuge when he was a young boy, newly orphaned. He spies a painting of a young woman, remembering how he used to pour out his trouble to her.

Dylan has no idea that the painting of Seraphina is the result of a pixie curse, and that she's actually been trapped in the painting for twenty-seven years. The curse can be easily broken by saying her name three times in succession. Dylan, looking at the picture as a man rather than that young boy, is smitten and whispers, "Seraphina." Repeating the name a second time, he hears a prodding internal voice asking him to say the name one more time. Acquiescing, he complies and is bemused when he helps Seraphina from the painting. Not believing what he's just seen, he decides that he's really had too much champagne and writes the whole episode off.

But he can't write Seraphina off. She's right there in front of him, flesh and blood, a half human, half pixie delight. She gives him the standard pixie contract of three wishes. Dylan alternately thinks she's a kook or in cahoots with his ex-fiancée's husband-to-be and is a corporate spy. He won't allow himself to believe that she really is from an alternate universe. He's so skeptical that for his first wish, he wants a lemon pie. First wish wasted. Oh, brother.

His second wish is to have his ex-fiancée back. He doesn't love her, but thinks that she'll make a fine wife. She plays bridge well and accessorizes all her outfits just dandy. In addition, with her family's share of stock in the Stonehouse Department stores, whoever she marries will control the board. Second wish wasted.

A big part of the story now concentrates on keeping the ex-fiancée from marrying the other guy. Seraphina's talents lie in being able to manipulate luck. This is a tedious job, and frequently she needs chocolate reinforcements. Manipulating luck frequently translates itself into Keystone Cops scenarios.

Dylan is the archetype of the 'Poor Pitiful Me' hero. He was orphaned at a young age and came to live with his curmudgeon grandfather, who tried to bleach Dylan of all emotions. Dylan doesn't believe in love and as far as I can tell, doesn't seem to be a happy chap. His idea of courtship is so bland that it's no wonder his ex-fiancée left him. He borders on boring.

Seraphina is light where Dylan is dark, happy where Dylan is morose. Her half human side finds Dylan physically appealing, but she's also remembering how sweet he was a small child, before his grandfather's influence robbed Dylan of most of the joy in life. Completing his second wish is becoming more difficult for her. She likes the ex-fiancée, but she's attracted to Dylan on many levels. She's also torn between going back to her alternate universe and remaining here. Her dilemma didn't ring true.

The final third of the book is interesting and shows us what we missed in the preceding pages. Dylan changes into a three-dimensional character, finally acknowledging that he does have emotions. It is truly a case of too little, too late. I can't forget his wooden personality for most of the book.

The secondary characters don't fit in. Seraphina's mother, visiting from Pixie Land, is flighty and sees no harm that Seraphina's half-brother cast a spell and left her to rot in an attic for years. True, pixie time is different, but this woman shrugs off Seraphina's concerns and is too bizarre to be likable. Her half-brother, the spell caster, is a brat and is truly unrepentant. Dylan's grandfather could be Scrooge reincarnated. The dastardly fiancé who wants Dylan's stores and will gain control by marrying Dylan's ex is a caricature. Each and every one of the secondary characters made me flinch.

Here's my big gripe. I have no use for someone who uses his three wishes frivolously. As old as I am, I have honed mine down, preparing for contingencies. I'd probably see a lawyer before I used one, looking for loopholes. Unending, unencumbered spendable wealth seems like a good choice. Our hero uses his first wish on a lemon pie. Oh, grow up, guy.

A Wish and a Dream had an overbalanced relationship. Seraphina held the story together by herself for far too long. If Dylan's character hadn't been so cardboard for so long and had possessed some credibility, the story would have been so much fuller and richer. It's acceptable but it doesn't get my recommendation.

--Linda Mowery

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