From the first page, I knew it would require a certain tolerance to enjoy Rebecca Paisley's Diamonds and Dreams. It turns out I don't have that level of tolerance. Diamonds and Dreams, you see, is the very antithesis of a Regency drawing room romance. It seemed to be an almost satirical version of a historical romance, throwing things like propriety and historical realism straight out the window. The reviewer who compared the heroine's dialogue to a "country hick" might have been a bit too harsh, but I could definitely see where the reviewer was coming from. The author seemed to feel she could have the heroine say or do absolutely anything as long as she chalked it up to the heroine being "American," and the behavior of each of the nobles was almost as ridiculous. The lighthearted humor kept me reading, though, and the novel almost worked for me. There were numerous moments throughout the book that were absurdly hilarious, I loved the unrealistically wonderful heroine, and there were some tender moments between the two protagonists. Unfortunately, there were far too many negatives to the book for me to recommend it to anyone.
If you've ever read a "duke in disguise" romance, you already know the plot basics for Diamonds and Dreams. The heroine is impossibly optimistic, impossibly kind, and - in many ways- impossibly naive. She has grown up with a drunkard for an uncle, her only family after her parents died. Her uncle is a verbally abusive drunk, and he frequently causes trouble in whatever town they are living in - prompting them to leave the town in a hurry. Her uncle's behavior has also cast shadows onto her, leading to further emotional abusive by the locals. After being run out of many towns in America, they've travel to a family member's cottage in England. The heroine doesn't want to move again, so when her uncle claims they personally know the local duke who has been absent for years... she decides she's going to find someone to pass off as the duke in the hopes of having a permanent home. What follows is a rollicking adventure of sorts, with the almost childlike heroine and her motley group of friends - a protective midget, a horse named "Dammit", and a dog she finds along the way. The person she finds to play the role of the duke is - surprise, surprise - the actual duke. This occurs right after he accidentally comes upon her naked, and after she tries to sic her dog onto him. The hero hasn't been to his main estate in about five years, ever since his betrothed died there. He is cynical about love, and spends his time having a meaningless affair with a coldhearted mistress. After a series of unlikely events, the hero ends up playing along with the heroine's scheme. As one might expect, he is gradually charmed the heroine's uniqueness, the couple falls into a deep but confusing relationship, the mistress causes some trouble, external mystery plots are handled, and everyone goes home happy.
There are quite a few complaints I have about Diamonds and Dreams. I already mentioned the biggest one - it's impossible to take the book seriously, and the whimsical/unrealistic nature of the novel started to annoy me. There's only so much silly humor I can enjoy before it starts getting old. The book was also one of the longest historical romances I ever read, and it achieves this dubious merit by dragging on incessantly in the middle of the storyline. It always bugs me when the hero goes on and on about he can not possibly be falling in love, despite the fact that he thoughts constantly prove the contrary and despite the fact that he's making love to the heroine frequently. Also, parts of the story were filled with these poetic monologues that were both unnecessary and slightly creepy. I always dislike extensive romantic conflicts, which this novel happened to feature. The ending was triumphantly happy, but was also fairly abrupt. The final thing that bothered me about the book was how the hero treated his ex-mistress. It's true that she functions as one of villains and it's true that he never made her any promises beyond an affair. But the hero knew what her expectations were anyway, and - if you really think about it - in some ways he took advantage of her only to throw her over later for the heroine. So that wasn't cool either.
All-in-all, I wasn't impressed with Rebecca Paisley's Diamonds and Dreams. I found both the silly humor and heroine fun to read about, but these positives were drastically overshadowed by absurdity, annoying plot elements, and a hero of questionable character. It's not a historical novel I will be reading again.