In Cook’s debut romance, an experimental sleeping pill allows thrilling, lucid dreams, which upends a married woman’s life.
A month ago, Vanessa “Ness” Brown’s husband, Pete, expressed his desire to start a family, and since then, she’s been in turmoil—as reflected in her terrible anxiety dreams. She notes that having children isn’t an unreasonable notion; she and her husband are both in their early 30s and have a strong three-year marriage. But Ness isn’t interested in children, and she can’t even bear thinking about it, let alone tell Pete. She has an undemanding job as a clinical drug trial assistant in downtown Seattle, and one perk is her daily banter with her handsome, laid-back co-worker Altan Young, on whom she has a “teeny, tiny crush.” She discovers that he’s been stealing leftover capsules of a new sleeping pill, Morpheum; his resulting dreams, he says, are “amazing.” Ness decides to try the drug herself, and she gets a great night’s sleep, complete with a delightful dream. She soon finds Morpheum too wonderful to give up—especially after she and Altan start sharing steamy, adventurous encounters within their dreams. Soon, Ness seeks further escape—which leads her into a nightmare. Cook concocts a fantasy with huge appeal; who wouldn’t want to have adventures where we can be our best selves without boundaries? Even Ness’ terrible mistakes, as the author describes them, seem to be a necessary part of her journey. The characterization falters somewhat due to Ness’ insufficiently explained feelings of shame, and Pete doesn’t seem to deserve her harsh treatment. She won’t even tell him about her desire to become a photographer; her justification is that “it felt wrong to want something other than” Pete. Meanwhile, her relationship with Altan seems effortless thanks to the dreams’ “mind meld”; a real-life relationship could never compete. The whole story feels a bit like a wish-fulfilling reverie—but it’s a well-written one, and readers will be glad about a promised sequel.
A gratifying romantic and personal adventure.