Beautiful Dreamer

by Melissa Brayden
July 16, 2019 · Bold Strokes Books
Contemporary RomanceLGBTQIARomance

I was sold on this book when I heard it has a donut shop called Amazin’ Glazin’. Yes, sure, new small town romance by one of my favourite authors, whatever. But DONUTS, friends, are important. Unsurprisingly, the donut shop name is just one of the many things I fell in love with when I read Beautiful Dreamer, because I am thoroughly smitten with this book.

Everyone in the tiny South Carolina coastal town of Dreamer’s Bay loves Elizabeth Draper and she loves them all right back. She interacts with many of them frequently because she owns and operates an odd jobs business called “On the Spot,” which people in town can contact to ask for help with anything from having her pick up lunch for them to walking their dogs to melting down a bunch of doorknobs (I don’t know either, but someone asked for it and it requires a blowtorch and sounds weirdly fun and badass). So, when Jill Winters doesn’t show up for her job teaching fourth-graders, it makes sense that Elizabeth runs point on the search party, coordinating people to search all over the town and its back roads.

Devyn Winters couldn’t wait to get the hell out of Dreamer’s Bay after high school, putting it as far behind her as possible while still staying in touch with her sister, Jill. Fifteen years later, she’s dominating the Philadelphia real estate game, always calculating how she can do better and hit that next level of success. When she gets a call that Jill didn’t show up at work and isn’t at home either, which is 100% unlike her older sister, Devyn books the first flight to Charleston she can get. She even settles for a tiny, opposite-of-luxury rental car because she wants to get to Dreamer’s Bay and find Jill ASAP.

When Devyn gets to the police station, she quickly figures out that the only person there who seems to have their shit together is her former classmate Elizabeth. She’s not even particularly surprised since Elizabeth used to organize events like their high school food drive. Thanks to Elizabeth’s superior cat herding skills, including getting people to fan out for a thorough search, Jill is found stuck in her car, two days after crashing it. She’s kind of a mess, but it’s nothing an extended hospital stay can’t fix. And when Jill’s ready to go home, the sisters are happy to hire Elizabeth to come spend the mornings with her so Devyn can focus on her business.

Devyn thinks Elizabeth is a TOTAL weirdo, not helped by the fact that she shows up at the hospital once in a chicken costume (seriously, she can be hired for just about anything), but she’s also sort of charmed by her, especially when Devyn slows down enough to talk to her. And since Elizabeth is determined to show Devyn that there’s more to Dreamer’s Bay than the bad memories Devyn formed as part of the cheerleading squad with the local mean girls, they start to spend a lot more time together. Devyn might only be in town temporarily, but there’s no reason why she can’t have a fun fling while she’s there.

I adore Elizabeth. Like, I don’t know if I want to be her or marry her, but she’s just wonderful. She operates 100% from a place of kindness and genuinely strives to be the best person she can, constantly thinking of others, and she’s super cute while doing it. For example:

She arrived at Jill’s house and leaned her board against the brick wall of the porch, smiling at the spring flowers that Jill had meticulously spaced and planted in the garden out front. Perfect color combination of pinks and purples and yellow. She took out her phone and snapped a photo.

“Are you stalking the flowers? Some sort of flower paparazzi?”

She turned and smiled at Devyn. “No. It’s just that they’re beautiful. I’m putting them on my Instagram so more people can see them. Anyone who needs to be cheered up could use a dose of these colorful guys.”

SHE JUST WANTS TO CHEER PEOPLE UP WITH FLOWERS. In a time when I feel like I’m surrounded by cynicism, including my own healthy doses of it, Elizabeth was a massive breath of fresh air. And that’s not to say that she doesn’t have any issues, because she definitely does. In particular, she has some insecurities that let her put up with being treated poorly by her crush, Talia, who might be beautiful, but is a total dick to Elizabeth.

If I had to pick my favourite moment with Elizabeth, however, it has to be this one, when Devyn tries telling Elizabeth that she’s doing more for Jill than she’s being paid for:

Elizabeth walked to Devyn’s car and leaned down to the passenger side window, relaxing onto her forearms. “When are you going to figure out that I’m not motivated by cash? Trust me, if I was, I’d have a lot more of it.” She gestured behind her with her chin. “That house won’t be paid off until I’m a hundred and eighty-three.” She shrugged. “Doesn’t bother me.”

Devyn swallowed the guilt that crept in for the assumption. “You’re a good person, you know that? A little weird. Probably too perky. But good.”

Elizabeth tapped the car twice and stood. “Weird, perky, and good sounds like a balanced combo I can live with. I like me.”

That “I like me” is so important because it’s rare to come across characters who unapologetically like themselves. And maybe it hit me a little more than it might have otherwise because I’ve been listening to Lizzo so much lately, but yessss. Love yourself! Elizabeth might have vulnerabilities and be insecure, but she knows her self worth and I adore seeing that grow throughout the book so that she’s even stronger by the end than she is in the beginning.

Devyn, on the other hand, is a total workaholic, so I didn’t immediately want to hang out with her like I did with Elizabeth. Work is clearly her first and only priority, so it was a little harder to connect with her for the first third of the book or so. It was fun watching her warm up and seeing how her priorities change, thanks to all the time (sexy and otherwise) she spends with Elizabeth and getting used to the pace of life in town.

I don’t have any real problems with this book, although I did see the nature of the breakup coming. Given the premise of the story, I don’t think that’s a real knock against it, because I don’t know how else it could have gone without the book becoming a 100% angst-free story. I love super-fluffy romances, truly, but I’ve also read enough of them lately that I was ready for a little break up and then make up. Also, even though I could tell how the breakup would go, I didn’t anticipate the way everything else rolls out, which was a pleasant surprise. Their path back together is lovely and I smiled so hard at the epilogue that I almost pulled a muscle.

People who prefer listening to books should know that this one is available in audio. I read Beautiful Dreamer on my Kindle and then I listened to it, and I personally preferred reading it. That said, there’s nothing wrong with the narration and if I had listened to it first, I might have preferred it in that format. Also, the narrator does a particularly great job with the major confrontation scene.

So, yeah. I love this book. I want to kiss it on its face. I also want to go to Dreamer’s Bay, so I can eat the donuts, hang out on the beaches, and maybe even join in on the Saturday night cornhole game with Devyn and Elizabeth. Instead, I’m going to stick Beautiful Dreamer on my to-reread-when-everything-sucks pile, because it’s sure to make me happy again and again.

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