TBR Challenge 2013: New-to-Me Author

sleepwalker There are so many authors out there that one simply cannot keep up with them all, so finding a book in my TBR pile from an author I’d never read before seemed like an easy way to start this month’s TBR CHallenge.

And it was. Karen Robards has been writing romance for almost as long as I’ve been alive, but somehow I’ve never actually read one of her books. I must have gotten curious at some point because I had her 2012 thriller, Sleepwalker sitting in my stacks of TBR books. Robards’ chase across wintry Michigan has its moments, but it also frustrated me more than a little bit at times. Taken as a whole, I’d call it a pretty uneven and ultimately frustrating read, and I’d give it a C- if it were a review book.

The sleepwalker of the title is the heroine, Micayla Lange, and in the prologue, it’s pretty easy to see why she might have issues. At the age of 11, she sees her mother murdered in the streets of Detroit. Now grown, Micayla(“Mick”) is a police officer and over the holidays she is housesitting at the mansion of a family friend. The action starts in the wee hours of New Years’ Day when Mick hears a noise and goes to investigate. She finds Jason Davis and his partner hauling suitcases of money out of a safe. She does what one would expect any even remotely competent cop to do and intervenes.

It’s sad that I have to say this,but I’ve read so many TSTL romantic suspense novels that I really must point out that I was actually pleasantly surprised, impressed even, to see that the police heroine stepped in to stop the theft. Better yet, she actually had enough brains to bring her police-issue weapon along with her, she had decent hand to hand fighting skills, and the scene unfolds without us having to hear about the hero’s manly manliness making her lose all sense of perspective and becoming suddenly incompetent.

During the scuffle, Mick, Jason and Jason’s partner discover something else in the safe – pictures implicating Mick’s family friend in a brutal murder. Mick knows that if it comes out she’s aware of these pictures, she’s as good as dead. So, when Jason flees the homeowner’s security guards, she runs with him. The rest of the novel covers their flight together and along the way, the chemistry starts to heat up a bit, too.

If you like action, Sleepwalker certainly has its fair share of that. Mick and Jason are constantly on the run and so many things happen to them that I kept forgetting that most of this book covers a 24 hour span. And that’s where part of the problem kicks in. Jason is supposedly gorgeous and fit, so I could buy that Mick would be aware of this as they’re on the run together. Given that people have all kinds of extreme reactions to trauma and high intensity moments, I could even buy the two having sex if they managed to stay safe long enough to do it. However, the falling in love forever and ever part was going to need some major chemistry and emotional bonding to convince me – and it just isn’t there.

Given Mick’s background, I would have expected more investigative skill from her. Despite having familiarity with the owner of the mansion she housesat and despite her police knowledge, Mick seems remarkably slow on the uptake when its comes to figuring out what’s going on sometimes. There are some pretty big clues as to what might be happening, and misses them, leading her and Jason straight into the trap. And then there was the ending. That just strained believability and made me feel annoyed that I’d kept up with almost 500 pages of story.

I did get sucked into the action of Sleepwalker, and the unusual hero was both likable and clever. However, the heroine’s clluelessness and the growing ridiculousness of the plot just didn’t work for me. Not a total loss,but I can’t say that this book converted me into being a Robards fangirl.

– Lynn Spencer

PS Next month’s TBR challenge is for us to read a book by an author who has more than 1 book in our TBR pile. Who are you going to choose?

13 thoughts on “TBR Challenge 2013: New-to-Me Author

  1. If you haven’t read any books by Karen Robards, I wouldn’t recommend her more recent books. I agree with previous recommendations that One Summer is a great contemporary read, maybe even her best. Johnny Harris will hook you in the very beginning and keep you reading late into the night. It’s a book that I have read more than once.

  2. I second the recommendation to try “One Summer”, a really excellent romance.

    Haven’t tried Robart’s later works, but I have a theory that there comes a time in the writing life of an author when they just cannot properly fake the breathless interest in hot sex any more. The real professionals like Nora Roberts and J.A. Krentz carry on regardless, relying on their proven formula and stressing the thriller/mystery/fantasy sides more, but even so the results become more hit and miss. In some writers’ cases the quality drops so precipitously that the reader turns away forever, wondering if the author has used a poor ghostwriter for their latest work.

    • I think you’re right about this. Many other romance authors, including Sandra Brown, Catherine Coulter, Heather Graham, Tami Hoag, Linda Howard, Iris Johansen and Elizabeth Lowell, have switched from writing pure romance to romantic suspense. In most cases their later work is noticeably less steamy than their earlier novels. Some writers adapt better to the new genre than others do.

    • “… wondering if the author has used a poor ghostwriter for their latest work.”

      So very True!

  3. My new author this month will be Jacquie d’Alessandro ‘Sleepless at Midnight’. I don’t even remember why I bought it. It could be a good critic I read.

  4. I’ve read a lot of Robards’ books and wouldn’t condier “Sleepwalker” to be one of her better ones. Try some of her older ones: “Walking After Midnight” has humor and adventure and “One Summer” has great, unusual characters.

    My new-to-me author of the month is Sharan Newman, who writes medieval mysteries featuring former noviate Catherine LeVendeur and her Saxon husband Edgar. I’ve whipped through the first three in less than two weeks and am now on the fourth.

  5. I tend to like action-oriented suspense plots – but um, the rest of this sounds like it would drive me batty. And LOL! re: your reaction to the cop heroine not being brain-dead during those opening moments.

    I have no clue what I’m going to read for next month’s challenge – heaven knows I have endless possibilities. So many backlists I’ve collected over the years! Oy!

  6. One of the things I noticed while choosing my book was how many TBR books by favorite authors I still have, so I think next week I’ll choose one of those. I keep being distracted by what’s new and shiny!

    • Yes – me too! I’ll buy something new and feel like I need to read it immediately. I have way too many TBR books I should have read already.

      • Oh, goodie! An excuse to read another of the Carla Kelly reprints I’ve been assembling … :D

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