Reviewed by Tori
Talking to Siri:
“Search the web for Xavier de Maloret.”
“Here’s what I found for Xavier the Malaria.”
“Xavier de Maloret!”
“I’m sorry Olivia the Brilliant, I couldn’t find anything on the web for Savored the Mallory.”
“Xavier. De. Maloret!”
“Okay, here’s what I found for David and Valerie.”
Manderley (Mandy) Maxwell has always been the dependable one her father and siblings leaned upon. When an unfortunate accident claims their father’s life, they discover the estate is submerged in debt. Luckily, their mama left Mandy a sizable inheritance to help stave off the wolves. When sisters’ neediness gets a little overwhelming, Mandy decides to take a work-cation from her problems heads to the Cannes Festival with her best friend and boss. A chance of fate introduces Mandy to the mysterious Monsieur X. Monsieur X who we soon learn is Xavier de Malort, courts Mandy with a vengeance, convincing her she is the one for him. But there was a first Madame de Maloret and no one knows exactly what happened to her. Did she leave of her own free will? Or was it something more sinister? Mandy decides to find out what happened to the first wife…before something happens to her.
Dreaming of Manderley is Leah Marie Brown’s homage of Daphne du Marner’s Rebecca. A lightweight romance that amuses but does not contain the atmosphere or the weight one might expect.. A rather cute opening line…“Last night I dreamt of Jake Gyllenhaal again, “ introduces our heroine and leaving me curious to see how Brown would choose to frame this story. Set in the present, the story stays modern with a few character quirks that Brown tries to convince us are quaint when really they are just odd. The first couple of chapters lay the foundation, setting the romance in motion and alerting us to it faint similarities with Rebecca while Brown attempts to stamp her own personality on the story.
Mandy is the personal assistant to a famous screenwriter who’s also her best friend. She has two younger siblings whom she acts as pseudo mother to. While walking the cliffs for privacy and almost falling, Mandy meets a handsome yet elusive Frenchman, Xavier de Maloret, who thinks she is suicidal and jumps to her rescue. As the weeks pass, Xavier and Mandy spend more time together with Xavier rescuing her from various emotional and physical calamities. She may feel his mercurial personality is a bit overpowering, but his debonair attitude and sweet kisses slowly win her over and they marry. He takes her to their new home, she meets his odd housekeeper, hears all the gossip over his first wife, and decides to discover the truth by facing her greatest fear, forcing Xavier to rescue her for the umpteenth time, rather than just asking him.
And that my lovelies is the end. There s no grand reveal, no hidden agenda, no real meat to sink your teeth into. This is the Disney version of a classic. Pretty, shiny and scrubbed down.
Regardless of its cotton candy like substance, the story has it’s moments with strong characterization, amusing narrative, and an sub-storyline that focuses on friendship and family. Mandy’s relationship with her bestie, Olivia, and her sisters, Tara and Emma, is overflowing with wit, charm, some pretty astute insights, and endless text messages.
“Why am I Honey Ryder? I would rather be Vesper Lynd. She was clever.”
“Vesper Lynd was cold. You are not cold, Manderley.”
“But Honey Ryder was merely boobs in a bikini.”
“Honey Ryder was MORE than boobs in a bikini. She was a beautiful, mysterious, sexually liberated woman!”
“Still…I’d rather be Vesper Lynd.”
“Fine! But you know she betrayed Bond and then died, prompting him to speak one of the cruelest lines ever uttered, ‘The bitch is dead.’”
Mandy is the poster girl for what romancelandia likes to call the Mary Sue. Low self confidence, innocent, naive, clumsy with a light stutter to boot. She is one who lives to serve others and its here we see just how ingrained that attitude is and why. When Mandy’s mother died, Mandy’s father made her the one they all turned to. She raised her sisters, took care of their father, and essentially set aside her life for theirs. Even now she plays mommy while taking care of Olivia. There is a rather sobering scene where Mandy gives her opinion on women, men, and society that is quite antiquated yet only furthers serves to show us how much she longs for someone to love and care for only her. I did like that none of these women were made villains of the piece in order to elicit sympathy for our heroine.
The romance moves pretty fast for how cautiously Mandy is written but again, she’s subconsciously looking for a savior and once she finds him, she’s not letting go. Xavier is the perfect match for Mandy but we really go to know him well. Brown writes him as the ultimate hero. Dashing, heroic, commanding, handsome, rich, and mysterious. He sees the real Mandy and lavishes her with the affection and attention she’s always wanted but never felt she deserved. Yet, it’s all very superficial. He is written to elevate the heroine. As the main protagonist, Mandy is far more developed and it shows.
Dreaming of Manderley promises more than is delivered but has potential. The adaptation of Rebecca, in my opinion, doesn’t work but the secondary characters and additional storylines help to keep the book from stuttering to an uninspired finish. There are two more sisters and I have a feeling their stories will also be modeled after a classic.