Friday, May 13, 2016

Lisa Henry and J.A. Rock - When All The World Sleeps

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.
Like the rest of Logan, local cop Joe Belman doesn’t believe Daniel’s absurd defense. But when Bel saves Daniel from a retaliatory fire, he discovers that Daniel might not be what everyone thinks: killer, liar, tweaker, freak. Bel agrees to control Daniel at night—for the sake of the other townsfolk. Daniel’s fascinating, but Bel’s not going there.
Yet as he’s drawn further into Daniel’s dark world, Bel finds that he likes being in charge. And submitting to Bel gives Daniel the only peace he’s ever known. But Daniel’s demons won’t leave him alone, and he’ll need Bel’s help to slay them once and for all—assuming Bel is willing to risk everything to stand by him.

Comment: This was the May book selected for my book club. It's the first book I've read by the authors and I confess I got it mostly because it was the chosen title, otherwise it might not have caught my attention.

In this book we meet Daniel Whitlock, someone tormented by somnambulism. When he's asleep he has no memory of his actions or of what happens around him. But Daniel is severely ill in a way because he killed someone while in his somnambulistic state. 
Joe "Bel" Bellman is a cop and after Daniel makes up some trouble in a bar, he decides to monitor him in case he does something more dangerous. But Bel comes to realize Daniel is a victim and even his crime wasn't completely his fault. But the rest of the town where both of them grew up isn't as quick to understand and forgive and Daniel lives in fear of losing control of himself again. 
Can Bel help Daniel having a grip on his problem or will Daniel have to keep finding orthodox ways to not be dangerous to others?

Overall, I enjoyed reading this story. I think one of the best things about it is the narrative's atmosphere: we can tell how desolate and difficult it is for Daniel to withstand others' glares, depreciative comments and how ill at ease he is in social events, such as going to the coffee shop. Besides being labeled a killer, Daniel is also gay in a small town. These two factors, added to the difficulty of dealing with his own family and loss of his dreams, makes him terribly vulnerable. The way the authors did write about Daniel and his problems and how that affected his life was quite good because it gave some heaviness to the story but also the idea that things had to improve.

Daniel is a fascinating character. He has a sweet side but rarely shows it because of what happened to him. He has served time, he is sorry things happened like that but he is still scared he will loose control in his sleep and do something terrible again.
I really liked his character, I understood his problems and fears and why he chose to isolate himself so much. I was sorry his family didn't have the will to support or defend him. It's complicated when everything point out to one's guilt. The atmosphere was heavy and suffocating. I really felt Daniel's despair and desire to change and control things but deep down, his fear of causing more damage to people. He was terribly lonely and so I can accept why he would feel better in the positions he put himself into by having a sort of submissive lifestyle.
But BDSM isn't my thing and I would have preferred Daniel not to have given in to it. Yes, it might have helped him in the past, but now it's not helping and the way his relationship progressed with Bel with some elements from this lifestyle in the mix was the thing I liked the least.

Bel is a good man, he grows to understand Daniel, he tries his best to defend and help him, to protect him from his own fears. But in the beginning of their relationship he starts to embrace the bdsm ideas  - never totally, they never get to the point of being a dom/sub completely, they simply use part of that reality for a while - so he could make Daniel feel easier and at the same time he started to like how that made him feel. Sure, I get the point and the purpose but it's something that simply doesn't appeal to me. No matter how much talk they have about how good they feel or how plain they make the rules, for me it's always an unbalanced relationship and I don't enjoy story lines with such a theme.
However, it was interesting to see that it wasn't the sole focus of their alone time and they could grow up together separately from their sexual relationship. It was good to see Bel weight in his commitments and his need to be who he thought others saw in him with his love for Daniel.

The book ends in a way I liked, with both guys moving forward with their lives, still in love, still confident they could become better together.
Daniel learned how to improve, Bel proved he is a wonderful partner and I finished the book happy about their future.
The plot had some conflicts which were expected, but Bel was there for Daniel. There's a certain issue that wasn't solved the way I imagined and I think something different would have helped is what it is.
Daniel's problem isn't miraculous solved, but he is learning to not let it control him or his life and having someone by his side like Bel, someone who trusts and cares for him is half way to being a bit more in control of his fears.
It was a nice read, despite the darker issues and moments. But Daniel's despairing moments and thoughts in his lowest moments stay with us. How good to think there's always hope even if not an easy path ahead. Interesting book to read.
Oh and a gorgeous cover, by the way. Very suggestive and matching the tone of the story.
Grade: 7/10

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