Sleep No More

Sleep No More - Susan Crandall Susan Crandall has created a complex heroine in Abby Whitman who while impressed me with her strength of character and resolve with respect to her life choices also tugged at my heart strings. Abby is a gifted and well known florist who lives and operates her business from a cottage and shop housed on her family's property which is isolated from the small town of "Preston". When I first started this novel, I thought Abby was a character with some type of psychic gift, I was wrong. She suffers from a sleep disorder called somnambulism, more simply, she sleepwalks. Abby believes, (as does her family) that she set a fire that burned the family century old plantation home to the ground during one of her "episodes" when she was a child. Her sister, Courtney, was badly burned and horribly scarred in the blaze and Abby has therefore shouldered the burden of guilt regarding this event all her life. She will not sleep in the same house with anyone for fear of harming them, thereby suppressing her sexuality and any hope of a 'normal' life. Abby is a very lonely woman, but she finds solace in her work and does have a kind nurturing way that is especially evident in her interaction with "Maggie", a young woman with Down's Syndrome, whom she has befriended.

Dr. Jason Coble, is a psychiatrist with his own truckload of personal baggage. He is a divorcée with two children who are dealing with the aftermath of the family breakup, and an ex-wife who is an alcoholic. What I liked about Jason is that he is a consummate professional regarding his psychiatric practice and he is devoted to his children. In addition, Jason thinks things through in his personal life and his expertise allows him to deal with Abby's 'issues' in a methodical and supportive manner as they become emotionally involved. Essentially he gains an understanding of her and earns her trust (which isn't easily given) as their relationship develops.

"Sleep No More", is certainly a romantic suspense, but moreover it is a psychological thriller and I was kept on the edge of my seat during plot twists, turns and unexpected developments as the story progressed. This novel is about a woman who has insulated herself from the outside world because she feels she is "fundamentally flawed", due to her sleep issue. Abby had grown out of her sleepwalking once she passed puberty, however it reemerges during the aftermath of her mother's sudden death. On the heels of it's reoccurrence she becomes the victim of a chain reaction of events that would test the sanity of the strongest of individuals. She is involved in a car wreck and a young high profile individual is found dead at the scene, Abby has no recollection of the events leading to the accident. Her father's memory is failing and he requires vigilance and medical attention. Then someone begins stalking and threatening her and there is a break-in at her home.

Jason, who in spite of Abby's attempts to reject him, stands by her and instills calm and sanity into an otherwise out of control situation. I don't mean to make Jason sound dull, because he isn't in the least, he is charismatic and strong and Abby revives a passion in him he thought long extinguished. Abby, in turn responds to Jason with a fervor she had no idea she possessed. This is not an erotic novel, there are love scenes but they are not sexually explicit. There is major conflict instilled in the romance plot that as a reader I thought there was no hope for this couple having their HEA. However, at the end of the day, Ms. Crandall did resolve one of the major issues particularly for Abby.

There are a couple of niggles for me regarding this story. The first is there are a number of characters introduced at the beginning of the novel who played minor and major roles in the plot. I did have a little trouble keeping everyone straight, but as the story progresses Ms. Crandall did develop these characters and their roles in the story became clearer. One character, Deputy Trowbridge, a particularly arrogant, decidedly unpleasant man, who lacked an iota of compassion is the officer who comes to the scene of Abby's accident. This character has a minor role in the novel, and I didn't quite understand why he was introduced in the first place and had to be so obnoxious. I have to say that I found him particularly annoying and it detracted from my overall enjoyment of the book, but that is just me and I'm sure the author had a reason for involving him in the storyline.

Ms. Crandall is a new to me author and I found "Sleep No More" to have a number of unexpected surprises and she kept me guessing concerning the identity of the antagonist until very late in the story. In addition, there is quite a twist with respect to the car accident and the identity of a "third" party that was quite unexpected. If you enjoy a romantic suspense novel, you may like to give "Sleep No More" a try.