Sweet Dreams, by Carla Stewart

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Carla Stewart’s most recent novel, Sweet Dreams, is yet another sweet read from one of my favorite authors. I appreciate Carla’s soft, strong way with just the right words and the masterful touch of raw real life she adds to each story. Her characters jump off the page and resonate in the heart, and she creates the setting in such a way that it becomes a character within the story.

Her absolutely gorgeous book covers are a book-lover-eye-candy bonus.

A little about Sweet Dreams:

It’s 1962, and Dusty Fairchild, daughter of a self-made millionaire and oilman, wants to go to college. Instead she is sent to a private finishing school in East Texas. Although she’s never wanted for material possessions, Dusty longs for independence and adventure. The only upside to attending Miss Fontaine’s is having her cousin and best childhood friend, Paisley, join her. Paisley has traveled the country with her bohemian mother, but she dreams of putting down roots and living a settled life. At Miss Fontaine’s, their loyalty to each other binds them, but when they fall in love with the same handsome young man, their relationship teeters on shaky ground. Only after a tragic accident do they learn where their true hearts-and dreams-lie.

Sweet Dreams delves into the hearts and minds of two very different young women on the verge of adulthood in the early 60s. Dusty is a rock-loving daddy’s girl who has grown up in relative luxury; Paisley is a free-spirited young woman who longs to have the kind of steady life her best friend and cousin, Dusty, had. Though I identified more with tomboy, rule-following Dusty initially, by the book’s end I was rooting for Paisley and understood her skittish heart and the burdens she carried in her luggage and life.

Carla creates a building tension in the frame work of her stories that keeps the reader turning pages, and this is especially evident between Paisley and Dusty, who share a life-long bond that’s tested while they’re attending Miss Fontaine’s finishing school. As family secrets are unearthed and an affection sparks between Paisley and Dusty’s hometown boyfriend, the girls’ must decide what – or whom – is most important in their lives. The author handles the delicate, at-times overbearing emotions of familial ties and first loves with tenderness and finesse, and the final pages are gripping and heart-warming.

Carla’s stories are robust with emotion and detail and sweetly satisfying, but also laced with the truth of life’s messiness. Sweet Dreams is another keeper that I highly recommend. I always finish her books with a smile on my face. Her books – Chasing Lilacs, Broken Wings, Stardust, and Sweet Dreams – and all are gems well worth opening and savoring for their multi-faceted literary beauty.

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