SPOILER ALERT ⚠
This review is of Dakota Dreams, a standalone Zebra Lovegram romance by Constance O’Banyon.
The book starts on November 1, 1833. On this day, in a blizzard, two lives will end and one will begin. The lives that end are those of Lady Cillia Remington and her husband, Lord Holden Remington, ninth Marquess of Weatherford. The life that begins is that of their son (Cillia gives birth to her son with the help of Two Moons, an Arapaho war chief. Before she dies, she asks Two Moons to raise her son). Two Moons names the child Dakota, and Two Moons and his wife raise Dakota alongside their biological son, Black Otter.
At first, the two boys are friends and brothers, but as they grow to adulthood, their relationship becomes strained, mostly from Black Otter’s end of the world. After Two Moons’ death, Dakota, now 23 and the hero of the book, leaves to go to England. (Two Moons asked Daktoa to do so before he passed for two reasons. One, for Dakota to truly embrace his heritage, and two, because he feared what Black Otter would do to Dakota). After receiving training from his friend, hunter and trapper Levi Johnson, Dakota goes to England, where he meets his cousin, John Donegal, and receives further instruction before meeting his wife.
Meanwhile, in England, Lady Breanna Kenton, the heroine of the book, discovers that she has been affianced to Dakota by her ne’er do well brother, Fielding. Needless to say, Breanna is not happy with the situation, and she’s also concerned about Dakota being raised as an Arapaho. Breanna meets Dakota’s grandfather, Quincy Remington, current Marquess of Weatherford, who bluntly tells her that she and Dakota are only in his life to produce an heir, nothing more. They are later married by proxy. Breanna and Dakota meet for the first time when he arrives in England. They are attracted to each other, but both are also dealing with being in a world neither understands nor wants.
As time goes on, Breanna and Dakota become lovers and fall in love, which of course means there are major storm clouds on the horizon.
Storm Cloud #1:
A long-running dispute between Dakota’s village of Weatherford and the neighboring village of Saffron. Ostensibly, the dispute is only over fishing waters, but what Dakota doesn’t know is that Martin Saffron, Lord Saffron, has a personal grudge against Dakota and his family. What Breanna doesn’t know is that Martin’s sister, Lady Rye Saffron, is scheming to break up Breanna and Dakota’s marriage and to have him for herself. As part of Rye’s plan, she manipulates Dakota into offering her lodgings. When Breanna sees them together embracing, she assumes the worst and runs off, later being hit by a carriage. She is rescued by Lord Stephen Glendon, Duke of Clandandon, and his sister, Lady Mary. They nurse Breanna back to health and she goes back to Dakota.
Storm Cloud #2:
Dakota learns that Black Otter, whom he thought was dead, is alive and terrorizing people. Dakota decides to leave England and go back to America to deal with him. After Quincy passes, Breanna, John and Levi go to America. Dakota isn’t happy to see Breanna, but he doesn’t send her back to England (she wouldn’t go anyway).
As Dakota pursues Black Otter, his relationship with Breanna is stressed. She is later kidnapped by Black Otter, who wants to use her as part of his revenge against Dakota. A final showdown takes place, and Black Otter is killed, not by Dakota, but by Breanna. After killing Black Otter, Breanna and Dakota separate again, and she has their son, Holden,
In the end, Breanna and Dakota reunite, reconcile and they have their Happily Ever After.
The best part of “Dakota Dreams” for me is Breanna. First, I love the name (If I had a daughter, that is what I would name her). She is a very sweet person who, like Dakota, was thrust into a situation she wasn’t prepared for and didn’t want. She is the best of the book.
I liked Dakota at first, but as the book went on, I liked him less and less. After being accused of adultery with Rye–he didn’t have an affair with her–Dakota became more withdrawn, moody, and uncommunicative with Breanna. In the interest of fairness:
- Breanna did see Dakota embracing Rye.
- He did invite Rye to stay in the family estate.
- He did buy her clothing and jewelry (this came about because Rye lied to him about being robbed. This was part of her unsuccessful plan to seduce Dakota).
- He did all of this while leaving Breanna at the Remington country estate (and not telling her what was going on at home).
- So, in a nutshell, while Breanna was wrong to accuse Dakota of adultery without facts, he is guilty of naivete, poor judgment and failing to communicate with his wife.
The Saffron storyline, the appearance of the Duke of Clandanon and his sister-are started and abruptly ended without being finished. There is also a noticeable lack of depth here; this is a story about two fish-out-of-water people that needed to be explored, but Ms. O’Banyon failed to do so in any meaningful way. As is the case with WAY too many romance novels, most of the issues Breanna and Dakota faced could have been resolved-or at least minimized-if they had actually TALKED WITH EACH OTHER! Of course, if romance authors actually wrote books like that, there wouldn’t be a romance novel industry.
The love scenes between Breanna and Dakota are so mild that they are almost non-existent.
Assault, battery, shooting and killings all take place in “Dakota Dreams”. None of the violence is graphic.
Dakota Dreams had the potential for a really good book. With Ms. O’Banyon writing the book differently, or a different author, it might have happened. Unfortunately, neither of those things happened, and, as a result, Dakota Dreams is far less of a book than what it could have been.