Published by Swerve on August 7, 2018
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo
Captain Ian Bell is a tortured man fighting through grief and guilt over the loss of his sister. When she went missing, he searched for months until he found her remains. Now, three years later as the Deputy Lieutenant of Fife, Ian still hunts for her murderer in the dangerous criminal underworld of Edinburgh. He is the ‘Night Watch’ bent on revenge even as he saves others from the same violent fate that claimed his sister. Then one night, a young woman narrowly escapes death and lands at his feet...his late sister’s best friend, Phoebe Pennington.
Lady Phoebe Pennington—dreamer and storyteller to her family—is a committed reformer writing articles anonymously for an Edinburgh newspaper. One night, in an effort to acquire documents embarrassing to the city’s political leaders, Phoebe descends into the corrupt and seething netherworld known as the Vaults. When she tries to save a street urchin from an assailant,she becomes the target of a violent attack, only to be saved by the one man she has desired for years.
Ian’s attraction to Phoebe is as undeniable as it is unexpected,and she awakens in him passions he thought long dead. Fearful that she doesn’t understand the dangers of this criminal world, he is determined to save her from the risks she takes. Phoebe’s blood burns for Ian, but when she learns that he may be implicated in the scandal she is set on exposing, she finds herself torn between love and truth. But even as they strive to find the meaning of trust,fate is taking a hand. For Phoebe is the only one who has seen the face of the killer, and the sinister shadows of evil are closer than they imagine.
~~Reviewed by Monique~~
Phoebe Pennington writes anonymously for a newspaper and has been investigating a story about the corruption going on in orphanages. Her quest had taken her, that evening, to Edinburgh’s most disreputable district, but instead of meeting her source, she is attacked while defending a youth, to be rescued by Captain Ian Bell. Ian has been on the trail of his sister Sarah’s killer for three years, and Phoebe was in the vicinity of where Sarah vanished. Sarah was Phoebe’s best friend, and Phoebe has secretly pined over Ian for years, but he never seemed to notice her. Until now.
Well, SLEEPLESS IN SCOTLAND was not what I expected. I thought I would see Phoebe and Ian join forces to capture Sarah’s killer. Nope, never happened. Or that they would face danger together because of Phoebe’s war against corruption. This barely caused a ripple in the story. I had previously read a novella by May McGoldrick, and I was enthralled by the incandescent and glorious prose of which, alas, there was very little to be found here. After a slow start, I hoped, in vain, for the pace to pick up. The lovely romance was nearly lost amidst endless repetitions and inner ruminations, and numerous and often irrelevant descriptions and backstories. The research and historical accuracy are, of course, irreproachable but, it felt to me that, SLEEPLESS IN SCOTLAND was meant as a novella but later on the page count was padded to stretch it into a novel; the best example was the whole issue with Mrs. Bell – Ian’s mother – which served no purpose whatsoever.
What makes a gothic novel succeed is that atmosphere of impending doom, of danger and dread that constantly looms, and in the best of cases, makes us look over our shoulder. I think SLEEPLESS IN SCOTLAND was supposed to be a gothic novel, but because the writing is rather dry and the short, clipped sentences, that feeling was never achieved. It not only impeded the flow of the story, but it made me feel disconnected from the protagonists; I never felt engaged or involved. A couple of revelations left me underwhelmed; there was a painfully awkward almost-sex scene, that thankfully was cut short, and the identity of the villain – your typical nutcase – did not come as a surprise either. It’s a shame, really, because Ian and Phoebe are both very engaging, charming, and sympathetic; they have chemistry to spare, their romance felt genuine and progressed naturally – without the miscommunication or misunderstandings I anticipated at the beginning of the book. If you are not looking for a gothic mystery, you will probably enjoy SLEEPLESS IN SCOTLAND.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.