I honestly don’t know where to begin with Ashley’s Dream Maker. About a quarter of the way through, I was looking forward to a snarky review, but having slogged through it (not an easy feat), I’m too tired for snark. This romance has much good to say about tossing off the bad and embracing the good (I can get behind the themes), but it says it so badly. If romance had manga, Ashley’s would be it: caricatured characters, thoroughly one-dimensional. Her characters remind me of those Hallowe’en suits, like a Superman one, you “blow up” and get puffy muscles. There’s a kind of breezy, down-to-earth, working-class tone to the novel and characters I found entertaining maybe for ten pages and then, the repetition, the language (woman are “bitches”, “shit” is always going down) and everyone speaks like wound-up comic-book characters. Maybe this novel turns some readers’ crank, but it is NOT a romance aesthetic I enjoyed. To start, plot-non-existent: hundreds of characters, all interchangeable, all men with their chicks, or bitches … and one of them, Lottie, I think, sets up our heroine, Evan “Evie” Gardiner with one of her “boys”, Danny Magnusson. These “boys” seem to run some kind of security firm, not sure what it was, but the room they worked in had a lot of monitors, so what else could it be? It’s insta-lust and like and love for Danny and Evan, so poof, that’s taken care of. Sadly, Evan has a TERRIBLE family and she sacrifices and sacrifices and sacrifices for them: her deadbeat brother in jail, her shrew of a mother, and it goes on. Thanks to the family’s nefarious activities, Evie is embroiled in a drug heist and some gun-running, all for the sake of saving her brother’s sorry behind. Bingo, this means Danny can go totally he-man protective on Evie and have her move in with him.
Many pages go by where Evie and Danny seem to eat badly: burgers and steaks and s’mores, I think. They watch movies and do the beast with two backs and Evie gets a lot of “big eyes” moments (see, manga) and Danny thinks she’s cute. Then, she is KIDNAPPED by bad guys and must be rescued. Then, more bad eating habits form, or are reinstated and enforced. In the meanwhile, lurve sweet lurve makes its way into Evie and Danny’s hearts. And Evie ASSERTS herself against her terrible family and now, the hundreds of hooked up, married, faithful he-men and beautiful women become her friends. Sadly, Evie and her new friends are KIDNAPPED. But all’s well that ends well and Danny and Evie and their couple friends can make manga-goo-goo eyes at each other forever.
I’m glad to have experienced the Ashley phenomenon because I have ascertained that, like manga, it’s not for me. I leave you with one snippet from Dream Maker that says it all. One of the many super-alpha-commando types is describing Danny and Evie and it pretty much sums up the novel’s themes, characters, and aesthetic: ” ‘Bitch is in distress, man moves her in, covers her ass– Then keeps her there, marries her and fills her with babies.’ ” Ugh. This level of awful and reading it is three hours of my life I will never get back. With the horror-stricken Miss Austen, Dream Maker “was badly done, indeed,” Emma.
Kristen Ashley’s Dream Maker is published by Forever. It was released in May 2020 and may be found at your preferred vendor. I received an e-galley from Forever, via Netgalley.