When Night Falls
Don’t get too attached to any of the secondary characters in When Night Falls. I made the mistake of having warm feelings toward some of the secondary characters and when one was horribly killed by Jeb Bassert, the villain of the piece, I felt downright betrayed. The body count in When Night Falls is pretty high and we spend a lot of time with Jeb – enough time to make me squirm. I’m not a squeamish person at all, but during the last part of this book, I spent so much time with Jeb that it almost made me ill.
Lannie Sullivan is a former lawyer, now living near the small town of High Falls, North Carolina. She has lived in seclusion after a series of blows in her personal life. She successfully prosecuted a former high school classmate, Jeb Bassert, who was convicted on a vicious rape/murder. Jeb left the court room screaming revenge against her. Her daughter accidentally drowned in a swimming pool, an accident for which Lannie blames herself. This led to the break-up of her marriage. All these blows have led Lannie to become almost a hermit. She lives up in the mountains with only her Irish wolfhound Bry for company.
Lately, Lannie has thoughts of rejoining the community. She begins by taking part in the High Falls little theatre group. While there she meets Drum Rutledge, a local timber baron and the two are attracted to each other. The attraction soon leads to a blazing affair, but Drum has a Very Big Secret in his past and Jeb Bassert is out of prison and stalking Lannie.
The suspense in When Night Falls is nail-biting high. If this were only a suspense novel, it would be a darn good one. But since this is a novel of romantic suspense, I’m afraid I have to mark it down in that department. I didn’t care a fig for Drum or Lannie. It’s not that they were unlikable, but, despite their terrible pasts, I had a hard time digging up any sympathy for them. What’s worse, I had no great desire to see them become a couple.
The love scenes in this novel are marked, not by prose that is purple so much as prose that is seemingly designed to make the reader stop dead in her reading tracks. Here’s an example:
“Lannie could have sworn the triangle between her legs glowed, and she burst through, screaming with joyous release. Drum bellowed, and his hot seed pumped into her. The precious liquid seemed never-ending, and spread in her bushy mound and over her shaking thighs.”I don’t know about you, but passages like that make me stop cold and it takes me a while to get back into the story.
As I said, I never warmed up to Lannie and Drum at all. Other little things bothered me as well. The novel is set in North Carolina; some of the characters speak in (badly written) Southern dialect and others don’t. Then there’s Jeb Bassert, as slimy and vicious a villain as I have encountered, but Anderson several times mentioned the horrid abuse he had suffered as a child. If she was trying to engage the reader’s sympathy for him, it didn’t work. The suspenseful ending section includes some terribly degrading episodes that were painful to read. Recently, some of the AAR reviewers have wondered if women writers of romantic suspense were trying to out-gore the men. I think Linda Anderson certainly tried to do that with this book.
While I haven’t read Linda Anderson before, my AAR colleague, Andrea Pool, has. Though she read and enjoyed Anderson’s previous book, The Secrets of Sadie Maynard, the level of violence, the lack of connection to the lead characters’ relationship, and the descriptions in the love scenes in this newer work were also problematical for her.
While I enjoy the occasional romantic suspense novel, out-and-out lovers of this sub-genre might like When Night Falls better than I did. I certainly don’t have objections to intensity or to violence per se – Dream Man by Linda Howard is one of my very favorite books of all times. But that one had a couple I bonded with and cared for. This one doesn’t.