Boundless Tales, $14.34, ISBN 978-1986163477
Romantic Suspense, 2018
Oh my goodness, LeTeisha Newton’s Whispers in the Dark is everything that I have always wondered about: will a romance story that breaks every single rule in the genre work? Of course, it will be great if I love this one, and it will also be a nice way to validate all my grumbles about the safe nature of the genre. But you know me, I have to be honest so sadly enough, I have to admit that my reaction to this one is sort of 50-50. I like a big chunk of it, but the technical aspects of the story leave me cold.
Alana Rose meets the hero Jacob when his father kidnaps her to be his sex slave and captive. She is eighteen at that time, and the story spans the years when she is brutalized by her father and finding what little succor in Jacob’s comparatively milder and gentler attention, and it doesn’t end when she finally manages to get away from the two men. I won’t say say more, as there are plenty of interesting twists and turns in the story line that are worth finding out on your own if you want to read this story.
Now, I like the concept of the story, and I love just how well the author doesn’t sugarcoat her story at all. Everything that can happen to a captive victim of a psychopath happens to Alana, and worse of all, she is not the only captive of that sick animal, and hence, the sick animal also uses the other captive to torment Alana with guilt and worse. For example, he will hurt the other girl if Alana doesn’t play along, and we are not talking about a slap on the wrist here. I also love the way the author manages to create a believable kind of bond between Alana and Jacob throughout the beautifully perverse and nauseating story.
However, as I’ve said, there are some technical aspects of the story that jar me out of it. One noticeable issue is that these characters don’t speak like a typical person in their situation. For example, when the other captive meets Alana, she tells Alana, “Welcome to Purgatory.” Huh? Of course, that kind of statement may work if we want that poor dear to make a dramatic entrance, but it’s all wrong for that scene. That girl should be blubbering instead. It’s the same for other characters – they can sometimes speak in a tone that feels jarringly flippant or showy compared to the situations they are in, and each time that happens, I am forcibly reminded that I am reading a work of fiction.
The author is also guilty of using short cuts at times to drive home the whole “Alana and Jacob are meant to be” thing, such as this:
“Don’t be frightened. I’m Jacob.”
Jacob. It was a simple name, but one I could hold on to in this place, like Celia’s.
Celia frowned at him. “Why are you here?”
Jacob winked at her, and my heart stuttered in my chest when he tossed her a lopsided grin. What the hell was wrong with me? When his gaze swung back to me, I shrank away. I didn’t want him to see me like this, and whatever he held in his hands wrapped in a paper towel terrified me. Was this a test?
This happens early in Alana’s captivity, too early for Stockholm’s syndrome to realistically set in. I don’t know about anyone else, but if I were kidnapped by a sadistic villain, the last thing I will notice is how hot a guy is. Or have my heart “stutter” when he smiles at someone else. Again, scenes like this one remind me that I am reading a work of fiction. Such unrealistic instances also happen later in the story, especially frequently after Alana and Jacob meet again a few years after she is freed from his father, and I can only wonder whether, even after making her story so twisted and dark, the author is still feeling a twinge of insecurity about readers’ reaction to this story if she goes to undercut the effect of her story with such unrealistic moments.
At the end of the day, I don’t think I will forget Whispers in the Dark for a while, so I can’t say that the author hasn’t done her job well. In fact, this has been a remarkably painless read that frequently thrills the part of me who loves watching violent B-grade horror flicks. I just wish the story had been put together a little better. Still, if you want a read that will take you screaming down a truly sick and perverse dark side, this one is worth a look.