After the Dreams was just an absolute lovely read, from start to finish.
What initially struck me about the story was the amount of care and detail put into making her story feel authentic. The palatial mansion, the typical domestic staff, and the elegant dominatrix are all standard story elements for the genre, but its what she does with them that makes the story so delightful. All too often it's like these stories are set in a museum, devoid of any warmth of personal touches, but Caroline's home is as comfortable as it is magnificent, and the domestic staff are 'normal' human beings, personable and pleasant, with even a bit of a back story.
As for Caroline, she is a charismatic and loving woman . . . a natural leader. There is a strength to her that doesn't need to be expressed with whips and chains and collars and all the rest. She is a woman of passion and elegance who expects to be obeyed, but who also understands that she is responsible for those in her charge. I think that sense of ownership, paired with genuine affection, is what makes the story so compelling.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't address the erotic elements of the novel. Rather than shock and titillate the reader with tawdry and explicit vulgarity, the sexuality here is subtle, suggestive, and sensuous. Rather than being told what the characters are doing, we are invited to share in what they are feeling. It's a powerful way to tell a story, and one that fits perfectly with the elegance of Caroline and her home.
I can't wait to move onto A Private Collection.