Rating: 2.75 stars out of 5
Five years ago Morgan Conway cheated on the man he loved all his life and their relationship imploded. Now Morgan, an up and coming assistant movie director has moved on. Morgan is engaged to be married to a popular actor, his career is going well, and the coffee shop he owns is busier than ever. All is good. Until Morgan hears that the man he loved and lost is back in town. When he shows up at Morgan’s coffee shop, all the old feelings return, unfortunately there for everyone to see, including his fiancé.
Shae Delamere was crushed when Morgan cheated on him five years ago. But when his father falls ill, he returns home and seeks out Morgan once more. Despite the fact that Morgan is engaged and Shae lives in Texas, they realize they never stopped loving each other. Their renewed friendship brings conflict on every side. Morgan still has a fiance. And friends and families unite to pull them apart again. As old alliances come to light and long buried secrets threaten to rise up and destroy them once more, Morgan and Shae must decide to either forgive and move forward or let their dreams of being together be stolen away forever.
Stolen Dreams by Sue Brown is definitely a book that will arouse strong feelings in a reader, although probably not the feelings the author had hoped for. I originally read this story back in 2012 when a now defunct press released it. It wasn’t until I was halfway through that I remembered the story…and why I didn’t much care for it then. And still don’t today.
The story starts off promisingly enough. Morgan is happy on all fronts. He has a gorgeous fiance who adores him, a career as an assistant director that’s taking off, and a coffee shop he owns that is popular with the latte crowd. All good. The interaction with his friends and employees is funny, sharp and gives the reader a good impression of the character and the story just underway. Then Shae Delamere, his ex (ex best friend, ex boyhood friend, ex lover, ex everything) resurfaces in town, and everything starts to head south, including the plot.
The official reason that Shae has returned is that his father is ill but there is another hidden reason as well. That is probably one of the biggest issues to surface in this story. Its that everyone has secrets…Godzilla- sized, huge secrets that either everyone knows about or is being kept from one of the main characters. The idea that any sort of respectful, equal relationship is or can be had between any of the characters here is tossed out the window immediately. They all constantly lie to each other (some because they are protecting a person, others because they detest a person, or everything in between). They did so in the past, are doing so now, and you are never sure what is too keep any of them from continuing this pattern. The only reason any of the secrets come to life is because someone accidentally “spills the coffee beans” as it were.
I kept wondering why Sue Brown, who writes such beautifully compassionate and relatable characters, would choose to plot an entire story around characters almost guaranteed to be off-putting and somewhat shabby in their behavior, especially towards those they say they love the most. I am not talking about the element of cheating here (although I know that’s a red flag for some readers). That doesn’t really bother me in a story if the author makes a good case for it and it feels plausible for the characters involved. Did I ever get that feeling here? No. The explanation behind the original cheating element felt contrived and shallow (kind of like the characters).
No, the poison goes far deeper into the foundation of the characters themselves as created by Brown. Shae, the one character everyone is supposed to relate to, commit to and understand comes off as cowardly, manipulative, and self serving. Ouch. And he’s the saintly one. I did feel sorry for Morgan who is apparently so fragile (not that it comes across) that he must constantly be protected from everyone and everything around him, including the truth about past events and peoples actions. Even his best friends feel that they know what is better for him than Morgan does. Every action, almost every relationship is built upon a foundation of deceit. And when it starts to crack, is it because people are finally doing the right thing? Being responsible or even kind? Nope. It’s because a light bulb finally goes off, someone gets a clue and then the explosions begin. Not because the author ever decides that someone in the story takes a moral or responsible stand. No, turns out they would have continued to hide or lie if they could get away with it.
The last issue I have with the story after all these have been dealt with? The ginormous hidden secret is easily guessed at early on in the plot. That pesky old secret/author plot device that everyone is hiding is so obvious that you wonder when all their intelligence took flight. And then you realize it happened back in the beginning of the story when Shae Delamere comes to town.
By the end of the unrealistic happy ending, I was more than ready to wash my hands of Stolen Dreams and all the characters I found within.
And I hate to say that because I am a huge fan of Sue Brown. In a way, its great to see how much she has evolved as a writer since 2012. I can’t think of a recent story she has written lately that I haven’t loved. And I am eagerly awaiting the next installment in her Isle of Wight series, a favorite of mine. So if you are new to Sue Brown, you might want to give this a pass. Seek out instead The Sky Is Dead or any stories in her Isle of Wight series. If you are a fan of Sue Brown, then you might want to pick this up and give it a try. I’ll leave that decision up to you.
Cover art by Brooke Albrecht. It’s a nice cover but doesn’t speak to the characters or story within.
ebook, Second Edition, 240 pages
Published January 30th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
(first published March 18th 2012)
original titleStolen Dreams