A Willful Woman…

Thoughts about books from a romance addict.

TBR Challenge: More Than You Dreamed by Kathleen Gilles Seidel

The theme: a book you bought on impulse, or that you forgot why you bought. I picked this up just because it was a romance, never having heard of the author at that point.

Why this one: I used to be a huge old movie buff, so I was intrigued by the setting.


A bit before I started reading this, someone tweeted about how “show don’t tell” was overdone advice, which was ruining the omniscient narrator. I was very ticked off when someone downgraded The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Bates on that basis, so I certainly agreed; although the immediacy of deep POV can be a very effective technique, a good omniscient narrator has a real charm. This is a thick, “women’s fiction”-y sort of book more than a romance, which was a little hard for me to get into, but Seidel’s nonchalant voice really grew on me.

The main characters are Jill Casler, the extremely wealthy daughter of a Hollywood director, and Doug Ringling, the nephew (and spitting image) of the actor who played Jill’s first major crush. Doug also lives and works with one of Jill’s little known relatives from her father’s first marriage, in Virginia. When he approaches Jill about a mystery involving his uncle’s film, “Weary Hearts,” she finds herself being drawn into family life and questioning her adored father’s integrity.

This was a very leisurely read, especially by current standards. It just barely qualifies as a romance, and if you require lots of passionate words and sex scenes, don’t even bother. But it has a wonderful sense of time and place, vivid characters and a lot of humor. Some of the mystery is quite guessable and some is a real surprise — though the main point of it is to give a direction that makes both Jill and Doug realize how much they’ve been drifting.

I was a little concerned when I started the book that the Southern setting and Confederate soldier aspects of “Weary Hearts” might be uncomfortable. They were actually mostly okay: Doug even invites Jill to a Civil War reenactment by asking her, “Do you want to accompany us warriors as we march off to celebrate our Glorious, Noble, Sexist and Racist Past?” But ironically enough, there’s some no doubt well-intentioned interactions with Doug’s black college roommate that really made me squirm.

That was really the only part of the book that didn’t age well, for me. I enjoyed the glimpse into filmmaking, and the bits of movie trivia, and the imaginative power that brought a totally fictional movie to life.


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