Too often it seems when a book is labeled “romantic suspense” the story is either light on one or the other. If the romance is developed fully, frequently the suspense is lacking. Or, the romance suffers as a consequence of the suspense plot. Sleepwalker fell into the latter category for me.
Micayla “Mick” Lange is a Detroit cop who has suffered episodes of sleepwalking since witnessing her mother’s murder as a child. Now, while spending New Year’s Eve at her Uncle Nicco’s housesitting, she interrupts a robbery in progress. During her attempt to apprehend the thieves, she spies photographs in her uncle’s safe that are damning evidence that a high-profile murder/suicide was in actuality a mob hit orchestrated by her uncle.
Mick knows that now that she has seen the photographic evidence of a major crime to which she cannot turn a blind eye. Thinking quickly, as her uncle’s armed guards swarm the estate, she pretends to be the hostage of the thief. As she and the thief make their escape from Nicco’s henchmen, they form an unlikely alliance and discover a mutual attraction.
The action scenes are exciting and well-choreographed. The sense of danger is high while they are on the run, with Nicco’s men out to stop them and a winter storm brewing. Mick’s fear is palpable though she puts on a brave front. As her episodes of sleepwalking and night terrors arise she begins to recall details of her mother’s murder that may assist the police department in solving the long cold case.
My feelings toward the hero Jason were ambivalent. On one hand, he is quite a likeable hero, protecting Mick and soothing her through her nightmares. But at the same time he’s an unabashed thief, which made him difficult for me to connect with as a reader. For most of the novel his motivation for stealing is ambiguous. By the time the reasons behind his thievery were revealed, I found it was too late to properly redeem him in my eyes. Though he has many good qualities and his own code of ethics, he still came across as being such a shady individual for most of the novel. While I like a little moral ambiguity in my heroes and heroines, I still want to respect them. I had a hard time doing so with Jason.
The suspense here is good though. Robards imbues the plot with a sense of serious danger as Mick and Jason go on the run. Nicco’s thugs are frightening and the reader instinctively knows that should the pair be caught their time on earth will be limited. This is a thriller novel that earns the designation.
Unfortunately, as is the case with many suspense novels, the development of the romance is on the light side. Mick and Jason share a strong mutual attraction. Both are above average in looks. Jason is charming and it’s easy to see why Mick is attracted to and fascinated by him. Mick is tough and capable and Jason admires her strength and competence even as she makes a formidable foil to his plans. But due to the nature of the story, two people on the lam and not trusting one another, there is not a lot of development of the romance beyond mutual attraction and some mild physicality. This was slightly disappointing for me since both main characters were interesting and I would have enjoyed watching them really get to know one another.
Yet this was an enjoyable read for me. I’ve read far too many romantic suspense novels lately that had lackluster suspense and/or a silly, unbelievable resolution. I particularly become annoyed when police officer characters do not think or behave like cops. And though Mick ends up aiding and abetting a thief, she is still one of the most believable cops I’ve encountered in fiction lately. If you are searching for a fast-paced suspense and don’t mind the light development of the romance, I can recommend Sleepwalker.