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Romance and other things

Eh. Confused.

When All the World Sleeps - Lisa Henry, J.A. Rock

Daniel Whitlock is terrified of going to sleep. And rightly so: he sleepwalks, with no awareness or memory of his actions. Including burning down Kenny Cooper’s house — with Kenny inside it — after Kenny brutally beat him for being gay. Back in the tiny town of Logan after serving his prison sentence, Daniel isolates himself in a cabin in the woods and chains himself to his bed at night.

 

Review.

Dear Lisa Henry and J.A.Rock,

I know I mentioned it before, but as much as I enjoy your writing, I am usually very careful with picking up the books from you, because most of your works seem to have the level of violence (sexual and otherwise) which is way above my comfort level. I did not buy this book; I received it as one of many gifts from generous Secret Santa at Goodreads Christmas Gift Exchange List. I decided that it had been a while since I read your book and for free I may as well take a chance. I could see that the blurb implied violence (murder, gay bashing), but it seemed like the kind of violence I actually could handle reading about (violence from a bad guy). I can say as much already – grading this book was a pain in the neck.

It is very well written as far as I can tell, but I just find the set up in order to get the guys together to be so eye roll worthy that this is the main reason why the grade took a dive.

As blurb tells you Daniel Whitlock is a sleepwalker, he had been doing so all his life and during his sleepwalking he can eat, talk, fuck (his words, not mine), basically most people did not know that he was sleepwalking even though he figured it out pretty early as far as I could tell. I have to tell you more about the set- up of the story; otherwise I would be unable to write this review at all because blurb really does not reveal much. Folks in the tiny town of Logan always considered him weird. That is till Kenny Cooper hurt him very badly because Daniel had the nerve to proposition Kenny in his sleep. And then Daniel also in his sleep burned the house with Kenny Cooper. Lucky for Daniel his lawyer managed to move the trial out of Logan and jury in another city believed that he did what he did in his sleep and has no recollection of it. Daniel was only convicted of manslaughter and received eight months in prison.

Now he is back in Logan and most people do not understand why he is not serving much longer time and why he is alive and Kenny Cooper is dead. Vast majority of people in this town treats Daniel as absolute crap. Not all, but *vast* majority, so whether intended or not, the impression left by that is that small town is a homophobic town. Again. I am just commenting on what I feel became another tiresome cliché in m/m romances.

Why Daniel is back in Logan instead of settling down elsewhere after serving his prison sentence? Well, he has to serve his parole (thank goodness his parole officer is one of the few people in Logan who does not treat him like crap), but he also seems to feel that he  deserves the scorn and punishment which assholes in this town seemed to continue to dish at him. Nobody punishes himself as much as Daniel does though – in his dreams he sees horrible nightmares – of what Kenny Cooper did to him, of fire, Kenny burning in there. As mentioned before, Daniel is afraid of going to sleep, so he chains himself to bed at night and even that does not always work, he had been known to get out of the cuffs and go wandering and he is always scared that he would do something bad again.

I am not sure what to say about how authors handled Daniel’s sleepwalking, because I am conflicted about it. On one hand, even from brief checking on Web MD and couple other sites it seemed to me that they did their research – what causes sleepwalking, what can help, what can cure (nothing) and what can make the symptoms be rare, almost disappear. This was all in the story, and it did not feel like a lecture, it was nicely integrated in the story. On the other hand, it felt like when they needed to get the guys together, common sense left the narrative.

See, Daniel seemed to like dominance/submission in his sex life; and he initially seemed to have conflicted ideas about whether he wants pain in his BDSM games. I mean, he was clear that he wanted to be hurt badly, but he also seemed to be pretty clear that he was not getting off pain, so I concluded that he was not a masochist. And eventually we hear from Daniel why he wanted pain – apparently pain exhausted him and he could sleep better without sleep walking when he was sufficiently exhausted. Eh, okay. But if one does not need pain in his sex life one can find some other ways to exhaust himself before going to sleep? And in the past Daniel used to run track. You know what was going through my head when this poor shmuck (because I definitely pitied him no matter how stupid he acted) was trying to find pain which he did not want but thought he needed from his lover in the past and from his lover in the present? TRY RUNNING FIRST. No, really, couldn’t he start running circles around his cabin if he was understandably uncomfortable running around town? And no, he did not even say that he was uncomfortable running around town, that’s me making excuses for him.

I can also try to excuse him based on the fact that we were told several times that Daniel was not getting enough sleep for years. Apparently in handcuffs he was sleeping three hours a night, because he put ice in the locks so it was hard to open them and ice melts and he could get out of them, so he put the alarm to wake up and sometimes he could do it for another couple hours. I think! I can excuse poor guy because he was so tired, he was not very capable of rational thought and his constant nightmares seemed to be the obvious sign of deep psychological issues because of what he went through when he was hurt and when he murdered the bastard who hurt him. As the narrative stated at some point – sleepwalking is not the sign of psychological problems, but Daniel’s other problems seemed to increase because of that (or something to that effect – I could not find the quote).

But then because obviously in order for the story to have some HFN ending, Daniel’s issues are played down. Seriously, I did not quite understandd the scorn at his parents who thought he needed much more help and maybe even in the psychiatric clinic. I did not care for his parents, because they did not seem very helpful overall, and seemed ashamed of Daniel, but were they really that far off the mark? To be fair, Daniel does start seeing a therapist during the story, but as I said it felt like he needed more than that.

Anyway, I am keeping quiet about romance because the blurb is quiet – I actually found them together to be sweet and romantic and their insecurities played nicely against obvious attraction. Sex was hot too, very hot I would say, but even though initially I thought I could at least buy them having some sort of the happy ending, now it all feels like a bit of a mess to me.

Grade: C-