“Lake of Dreams”, a novella by Linda Howard in the anthology Everlasting Love, has always been one of my Howard favorites. It’s haunting, romantic, suspenseful, and very erotic. Lake of Dreams is about a young woman on vacation in her family lake house and encounters a man she has never met before, but something about him is naggingly familiar. She dreams about him night after night and the dreams are increasingly erotic, but each one somehow ends with her pleading for her life and him killing her. She is afraid of him, but also obsessively drawn to him and finds herself seeking him out when she should be running in the other direction. It’s not only my favorite “love never dies” story, it’s one of my favorites, period. I just love the idea of a love so strong, so passionate that not even death can tear the couple asunder. Basically, the two lovers come together twelve times and each one has ended in tragedy. On the thirteenth try, they get together and remember everything that had happened in the past because this is their last chance to be together and therefore the last time to get it right. This is the premise of Emma Petersen’s “Make Me Remember,” a novella about a doctor in a small reservation town who falls in love with a Native American sheriff because of the sexy dreams she’s been having about him, apparently stemming from a previous life they may have shared together. Whereas Ms. Howard’s “Lake of Dreams” was emotionally resonant, however, Ms. Petersen’s novella is not as effective because not only is the story too short for the narrative to work, it is also seemingly bogged down by the numerous sex scenes, which oddly enough, prevent the hero and heroine from getting to know each other in a way that rings true to the reader.
Hannah Bryant has always been different. Since she was a child, she’s had vivid dreams of death and loss. Years later, Hannah is a successful doctor who’s gotten past the terrors that used to plague her. In a flash, everything she has worked so hard for is in danger when the dreams return with a vengeance.
But the dreams haunting Hannah’s sleep now are nothing like the ones from her childhood. No longer does she dream of death and destruction—now her dreams are of a man who elicits a reaction from Hannah’s body that’s strangely familiar and startlingly brand new at the same time.
Hannah Bryant has worked hard to be where she’s at. She’s a doctor, engaged to a nice man, and it’s been a while since she’s had one of those “episodes.” Much to her parents’ protests and dismay, she is currently working in a clinic in a reservation town in South Dakota because in return for a six-month commitment, the clinic will pay off the rest of her student loans. She doesn’t love her fiancé Marcus because as her mother told her, “feelings were fleeting and didn’t make for a long, lasting relationship,” but compatibility and similar interests are the key. Her mother, who she describes as “elitist,” believes “Women who not only acknowledged but let their baser needs control them don’t get anywhere in life.” I believe Hannah’s mother, if she weren’t such a prude, would enjoy a song by Prince ingeniously called Pussy Control:
Our story begins in a schoolyard
A little girl skipping rope with her friends
A tisket, a tasket, no lunch in her basket
Just school books 4 the fight she would be in
One day over this hoodie
She got beat 4 some clothes and her rep
With her chin up, she scolded “All y’all’s molded
When I’m rich, on your neck I will step”
And step she did 2 the straight A’s
Then college, the master degree
She hired the heifers that jumped her
And made everyone of them work 4 free?
So what if my sisters are triflin’?
They just don’t know
She said “Mama didn’t tell ’em what she told me
‘Girl, U need Pussy Control'”
Hannah has worked hard for the past 20 years to suppress the psychic flashes that feel like memories—memories of a previous life as a young Mulatto woman who falls in love with a Native American warrior. Now as a doctor in a tiny reservation town called Two Kettles, the mental defenses she has put in place over the years seem to be crumbling. While tending to an old woman, Hannah gets the shock of her life when she finds herself speaking in Dakota even though she insists on only knowing English and it is not until the grand-daughter of the old woman points out that her grandmother doesn’t speak English that Hannah freaks out and leaves the room. When she comes upon the police chief in her exam room, a hot Native American named Gabe Leader Charge, her initial reaction to him is so intense that something shorts out in her brain and she passes out. She wakes up in Gabe Leader Charge’s arms, aghast by the closeness of their bodies, and pulls away from him. He calls her Sunshine, the nickname her mystery lover calls her in the dreams, and she panics. She’s afraid people will find out about her delusions, take away her medical license, and stick her in a mental institution. Much to her consternation, she is crazy-mad for Gabe Leader Charge and he appears to be crazy-mad for her. But she does NOT believe she is the reincarnation of a young “Negress” named Sarah Jane and that Gabe Leader Charge is her long-lost love Mahpiya.
Meanwhile, in the dream/flashback mode interspersed with the present, Sarah Jane, the pampered daughter of a rich man, is on the run from some mercenaries that her step-mother had sent to capture her. Her beloved father had just died and her money-grubbing step-mother wants to get rid of her. She is rescued by a Native American hottie named Mahpiya. Sarah Jane is quick to point out that she’s not a slave and Mahpiya reassures her that he doesn’t believe a human should belong to another human, no matter what color. He brings her back to his tribe, they get to know each other, sexin’ ensues plenty of times, they form a family together, and… bad stuff happens.
Back in the present time, Hannah refuses to believe Gabe Leader Charge’s assertions that they were once the doomed couple, Sarah Jane and Mahpiya, even though Hannah’s traitorous body responds to Gabe’s touch like it never has for another man. She resists, they fight— No, she is not Sarah Jane. No, he is not Mahpiya. It is madness, I tell you, madness! They kiss, sexin’ ensue, Hannah still won’t believe, Gabe gets mad. Hannah wonders if she’s not better off in a loveless, passionless marriage with Marcus because at least she won’t be feeling such a crazy, all-consuming need for another human and therefore, run a risk of losing her sense of self.
Hannah suffers from insecurity issues, the bulk of which should be blamed on her mother:
Naked, I stood in front of the mirror and studied my body. I was pudgy. It was the only word I could think of that fittingly described my body. My breasts were more than a handful and, as a teenager, a source of embarrassment to my petite mother. She thought my breast size bordered on vulgar and had said so on more than one occasion. Must have come from your father’s side, she’d say before she’d put her hands on her slender size-two waist and shook her head sadly.
My waist size was the only thing I had inherited from her. It was small, though not as tiny as hers, and unfortunately flared out into hips too wide to be considered fashionable.
Gabe Leader Charge is described thusly:
Mussed coal black hair tumbled to his waist and was held back from his face by a leather thong tied at the nape of his neck. Déjà vu swept over me—there was something familiar about him. I dismissed it, thinking maybe it was his hair—not too many men in the area chose to wear it that long.
Only his profile was visible from the doorway. A sharp cheekbone slashed downward toward full lips. His top lip was slightly bigger than the bottom and an insane urge to run my tongue along the seam sent heat spiraling through me.
And here is Mahpiya
Black hair hung free to his waist, along with two small braids on each side of his temples. He wore breeches and a shirt instead of the animal hides like the characters in the novels. He didn’t look bloodthirsty or savage, but I knew better than most that looks could be deceiving.
Gabe reveals to Hannah that they are “recycled souls”:
“As a little boy, I had nightmares. Horrible dreams I would wake from screaming. At first, my mom thought it was because of the fights I witnessed between her and my father. But even after my parents were gone and I went to go live with my unci I still had them
“At first my relatives had said I was crazy…but my grandmother knew better. She took me to a man who knew a lot about dreams and told him about the nightmares. He explained to her that our souls last forever and are capable of being recycled, and that the dreams I had were more than likely memories.”
The sexin’ is very hot and plenty. In fact, there is an actual bodice-ripping scene, which had me hootin’ and hollerin’:
My nipples beaded, stabbing into the immovable force that was his upper body as I fought for breath. Before I could blink, my back hit the bed and he was on me. Shoving my legs apart, he didn’t bother with preliminaries as he bunched my dress around my waist. He gathered the sides of the bodice and ripped it down the middle, leaving me bare to my navel. I gasped as buttons flew.
This is a novella that could have benefited from being a little longer. As it is, we have Hannah experiencing the dreams, meeting Gabe, refusing to believe they are the reincarnation of the lovers, Gabe persuades her otherwise though hot lovin’, and they have an HEA. Emma Petersen writes well and her descriptions are quite evocative. I think if some of the sex had been cut out in favor of the expansion of the plot, it could have been quite good. The fact that the story is also told from a first-person point of view of Hannah is an impediment to understanding Gabe’s motivations and true beliefs. We don’t really get to know him or his background. We find out a lot more about Hannah: she possibly only became a doctor because it would impress her mother, fears displeasing her mother in any way, has probably tried some yo-yo dieting that did not work and suffers from negative body image, only got involved with Marcus because her parents believe he would be a good fit for her, and lastly, is probably just waiting for the right moment to tell her mother to get out of her life because she’s a grown woman and can take care of herself. She is seemingly emotionally fragile and easily manipulated. Gabe seems like he can run roughshod over her and nothing in the text indicates that he wouldn’t otherwise. He basically bullies and emotionally manipulates her into admitting that they are the reincarnated couple.
While Emma Petersen writes well and is capable of creating evocative and vivid scenes, this story left me a little bit cold. I thought it ended rather abruptly— it would have been nice if there had been a denouement of sorts, maybe a scene where Gabe treats Hannah like a queen and shows us that he is as sincere about loving her as he says (I always look out for the heroine, yo!). I want to know that this love is true and not just residual of the love they had felt before. What kind of relationship can they develop without the ghost of the previous love affair haunting them? I would have liked to have seen the aftermath. As it is, the entire courtship of Gabe and Hannah is so crazy and quick and loaded with previous emotional baggages, that I don’t think these two even had the time to sit down, have coffee, and talk about their favorite colors or TV shows. I just wasn’t convinced that their relationship could be anything more than some craziness brought on by dreams and past lives. While this one didn’t quite work for me and I’ll have to give it a C+, I’m looking forward to reading more of her work.
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