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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.

Dear Author

REVIEW: Outcast by Joan Johnston

Dear Ms. Johnston:

I know I haven’t read you in a long time, but when I got an ARC of this book I confess that I just had to read it. Tall, dark, and gorgeous always does it for me.   Thankfully, the characters lived up to the cover and despite some small problems here and there, I’m pretty much hooked on the “Fabulous Fourteen”.

Benjamin Benedict is one of fourteen kids between the mixed marriages of Foster Benedict and Abigail Coates Benedict Hamilton.   Foster and Abby had five boys with the youngest, Darlington, dying at the age of 4.   In the emotional year after Darlington’s death, Foster dallied with a waitress once and got her pregnant. Abby left him.   They both remarried. Foster to Pasty Taggart and Abby to Senator Hamilton.   Foster took Ben and Carter. Abby kept the youngest, Rhett, and the oldest, Nash, refused to leave his mother.

All of the Benedect boys (including Black Sheep, Ryan, the bastard) have gone to military school and then into the armed forces.   Ben got out of the army and now is an agent for ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), a division of homeland security.   What Ben’s family doesn’t know is that he is suffering from severe PTSD. In the first third of the book, Ben suffers a series of horrific incidents. (I kept thinking during the opening scenes “Oh, this will not end well”).   He’s ordered to see a psychiatrist before he will be allowed back onto the streets of Georgetown.

Dr. Annagreit Schuster is a Georgetown resident with a practice specializing in PTSD.   She has her own demons which drove her to try to save those from personal tragedies.   She is half chagrined and half excited to see that her new patient is Ben Benedict.   She met him just a day before at a local vet when Ben had brought in an angry rottweiler he had found on the street, having been just struck by a vehicle.   They went home together but Ben had a PTSD episode and left her, leaving Anna to think she would never see him again.

Anna recognizes that her strong attraction to Ben might cause ethical problems but she sees him as a man worth saving.   As the story goes on, Anna sacrifices more and more of her principles and places her career in jeopardy to not only be with Ben but to see if she can help him. Obviously her motivation is a bit selfish, but it’s fascinating to watch Anna’s professional career unravel in an effort to save Ben while   Ben’s career seems to be unraveling because he can’t heal.

Ben finds Anna to be a port in the storm. He can actually sleep when she is around. He feels calmer, more at peace than he has before even though she picks at him emotionally.   Ben is a great character. It’s not that he doesn’t want to heal, but that he doesn’t know how. He recognizes his own PTSD symptoms which makes it easier for him to mask those feelings while in the company of others, but he is falling apart.   I thought the scenes in which he breaks down and the different ways that Anna seeks to assist him were fascinating.   Not every time called for comfort.

Anna does not want Ben on the streets because she thinks he’s a “ticking time bomb” but an Al Quaeda threat of a dirty bomb in DC requires Ben to follow up gang leads that he and his partner had developed.   The suspense plot relies a bit heavily on coincidence but I put those complaints aside because the story moved quickly and the suspense plot was necessary to drive the emotional character arcs.

Despite the abbreviated time length of the story (it takes place over a week), I really believed that Anna and Ben belonged together.   The romance and suspense were really well incorporated despite some contrivances and the speed at which Ben and Anna seem to recover from their respective emotional issues.   Further, there were so many people in this story that I felt like I needed a scorecard.   Non essential characters were given screenspace that I thought was unnecessary.   There was too much sequel baiting and too many random people that were introduced only to be forgotten beyond one scene.

However, as I said at the beginning, I’m totally on board for the remaining stories of the Fabulous Fourteen.   Their parents have screwed them up sufficiently that they will all have serious relationship issues!

I only have one request. None of the parents in this story but Patsy deserve a happy ever after ending.   Abby, Ben’s biological mother  was a heinous character.   I felt like she had every bad thing coming to her after the way that she treated her kids.   Truly what she did to Ben when his brother died was horrible.   Ben had a lot of apologies coming his way that never materialized starting with Abby and his sister, Julia.   B

Best regards

Jane

This book can be purchased at Amazon or in ebook format from Sony or other etailers.