Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Susan Crandall

REVIEW:  Sleep No More by Susan Crandall

REVIEW: Sleep No More by Susan Crandall

Dear Ms. Crandall:

I liked Pitch BlackCover of Sleep No More by Susan Crandall, a romantic suspense enough to buy two other backlist titles of yours: Seeing Red and Back Roads. I found I liked your overall balance of suspense and romance so I was excited to read Sleep No More.   The   tone of this book was quite creepy, particularly in the beginning.

Abby Whitman sleepwalked as a child.   One night she apparently starts a fire which results in her younger sister suffering terrible burns.   Abby thought she grew out of the sleepwalking but she’s been forever touched by her family tragedy.    She lives alone in a smaller house in her family property, close to her father who has been increasingly forgetful.   She fields phone calls from her bitter, lonely sister.   She misses her mother and she is alone.   While she never suffered a sleepwalking incident as an adult, she always feared it would return so she lives by herself so as not to endanger any other person, as she endangered the lives of her family members.

As the story opens, Abby finds muddy footprints in her house and realizes that she has started to sleepwalk again.   The situation escalates when Abby awakens in her flower delivery van to find a body of a young man laying near the road.   He’s dead and she cannot remember if she struck him.

Jason Coble, a local psychiatrist, is struggling to be a parent to his daughter and former stepson after Jason’s divorce.   His former wife was an alcoholic who simply could not or would not stay dry.   His stepson, Bryce, misses Jason’s presence in his home.   He’s convinced that if he and Brenna are good enough, Jason will return and they will be a family again.   But his mother is drinking again and she was gone missing the night of the young boy’s death.

You present more than one possibility for the young boy’s death.   Certainly all points seem to implicate Abby and her inability to remember, the return of her sleepwalking, the crisis with her father, all provide good tension for the story.   Complicating this is that Abby becomes the target of some increasingly scary vandalism.

Jason has seen Abby around but was either married or unready.   When she delivers flowers to a funeral of the young boy and the parents are distraught and attack Abby, Jason intervenes.   In short order, Jason finds himself deeply attracted to Abby.   While all the characters voiced the right reservations about the speed at which their feelings developed, I was never really convinced of their attraction.

I wondered if you recognized this because the story often references how Jason and Abby grew to care so quickly for each other. Jason:

Abby Whitman had already crawled more deeply under his skin than he should allow-’and astoundingly quickly.

Although it was far too soon to make such a statement, he felt he could fall in love with her.

It blindsided him how quickly he’d become emotionally involve with her.

Later Abby notes “Even after this short time, Jason Coble was going to be a bad habit to break.”   It’s possible the multiple references to how fast the romance was progressing actually emphasized this point to its detriment.   On the other hand, significant attention was paid to the emotional conflict in the relationship which added depth to the romance.

Another problem I had with the story was that Jason seemed more like a detective than a psychiatrist.   At one point, he smelled gas when no one else was able to.   He noted that the glass inside Abby’s van indicated that it was broken from the outside rather than from the inside out.   He was able to shoot a handgun like a sharpshooter.

I really like the portrayal of Bryce who was suffering from the loss of his father figure and struggling with his mother’s alcoholism.   His reactions to his family disruption were believable and   provided another good emotional layer.   I also appreciated that the local police were competent and not corrupt.

I worried about a possible pedophilia aspect when the Jason’s daughter and a down syndrome girl were introduced and thankful the author didn’t go down that path.

There was some spark missing for me between Abby and Jason.   While the suspense plot was good and lacked the usual serial killer, I felt that the romance was forced.   C+

Best regards

Jane

This book can be purchased at Amazon (affiliate link) or in ebook format from BooksonBoard or other etailers (no affiliate link).

This book was provided to the reviewer by either the author or publisher. The reviewer did not pay for this book but received it free.

REVIEW:  Pitch Black by Susan Crandall

REVIEW: Pitch Black by Susan Crandall

Dear Ms. Crandall:

Pitch Black by Susan CrandallYou are a new to me author. I do love a good romantic suspense but I’ve often found the balance between the two to be somewhat lacking. Either the book has really good romance but the suspense is light or the suspense is very good but the romance is too light. In recent years, though, it seems that there has been a good collection of romance suspense authors who are striking the right balance and you are definitely one of them.

Madison Wade, a big city journalist, took in a foster boy Ethan at the age of 13. She decided that continuing to live in Philadelphia would endanger Ethan so they moved to a small southern town of Buckeye. (I actually have no idea where that is but I don’t think it is Ohio).

Sheriff Gabe Wyatt has been slowly but steadily pursuing Madison since her arrival. She’s been reluctant to do anything about the simmering low level attraction because of being a new single mom with a teenage boy to parent.

When a local and well known man takes Ethan and three other boys on a camping trip but only the boys come off the mountain alive, the town begins to turn on Madison and Ethan. Madison and Ethan’s situation is even further exacerbated by Madison’s foray into investigative journalism and the possibility of rife steriod use amongst the high school athletes. The two are first threatened and then ostracized.

Gabe is torn between his feelings for Madison and his suspicion regarding Ethan’s involvement. On more than one occasion he must balance what might be his future with the duties of his job. I particularly enjoyed that the romance conflict was intertwined with the suspense. While not exactly a gothic because Gabe doesn’t present physical harm to Madison but he does present a danger to Ethan and therefore, in some ways, a villain of sorts.

Trust issues loom large against that backdrop. The flirtation was lovely.

“Not that I know of.”
She pointed across the table. “Then get your ass over on the other side of the booth before people start talking.”
With a heavy sigh, he moved.
Madison looked around the crowded café and saw knowing grins, raised eyebrows, and a few lips pursed in disapproval. The damage had already been done.
She leaned across the table and said in a hushed voice, “”Everyone thinks we spent the night together.”
Gabe glanced around, then grinned at her and whispered back, “Of course they don’t. What man in his right mind would be out of your bed at this early hour on a Sunday morning?”

Ethan was fairly well developed for a kid who had been abandoned and lived on the streets. Madison and Ethan arrive on stage with a well formed bond. That’s something the reader simply has to accept and I was fine with that. Maybe in a book without suspense, I would have longed for a greater insight into how the bond was formed. In all, though, this is a good read for romantic suspense fans. I’ll be checking out the backlist. B

Best regards,

Jane

This book can be purchased in mass market from Amazon or Powells or ebook format.