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Review – Sleeping Beauty by Elle Lothlorien

cover_sleeping_beauty

Publisher: Self-Published
Publish Date: Out Now
How I got this book: Purchased

Sure, Claire Beau thought about sleeping with her doctor. With his moss green eyes and sexy petulance, neurologist Brendan Charmant is definitely worth fantasizing about. But she didn’t actually do it…did she?

Claire should be able to answer this simple question, but she has no idea. All she knows is that she met him in a sleep lab for an appointment one day, and woke up at home seven weeks later to find that he’s suddenly her warm and loving boyfriend instead of her cold and remote doctor. According to Brendan, her brother and all their friends, Claire is in the middle of a whirlwind love affair with him, a claim bolstered by the weeks of steamy emails and text messages the two of them have exchanged. But to Claire, he’s just the arrogant doctor with only a passing interest in finding a diagnosis for her debilitating symptoms.

Claire Beau is afflicted with “Sleeping Beauty Syndrome,” a mysterious disorder that causes her to sleep for days at a time, and blackout for entire weeks. Dr. Brendan Charmant might have given her the best night (or two, or three) of her life, but she has no memory of ever seeing him out of his white coat. Still, she can’t help finding herself more than willing to fall for him (again). After all, doesn’t every girl deserve a Prince Charming?

But when Brendan’s arrested, and she discovers that she’s the alleged victim of a heinous crime that she can’t recall, she’s crushed to find that her dream-come-true was all just a cruel illusion. Despite having no memory of the actual crime, there are mountains of damning evidence against him. So why is she risking everything to save both of them from this hellish, waking nightmare?

*blurb from Goodreads

This book is far from perfect in the sense of small details being just a bit off and I could probably pick it apart if I wanted to. But I don’t and I won’t because I just enjoyed the heck out of it. I didn’t really remember what the book was about when I started it, but I gathered by the other Lothlorien title on my kindle (The Frog Prince) that there was a fairytale theme to her work. I’d purchased them long ago and left them languishing on my kindle – not intentionally, it’s just my TBR pile is a bit out of control. Fast-forward to me sitting on a plane, bored, and scanning my library for something to read. I decided to start with Sleeping Beauty. I figured if I didn’t like it, I’d move on. But that’s not what happened. I continued reading it on my trip, sometimes late into the night when I should have been sleeping. Yes, there are some aspects to the story that require suspension of disbelief but I really didn’t mind as I figured that would be the case going in. Any story built upon a fairytale construct will have a bit of that unbelievability as a central component to the story itself – otherwise, why call it a fairytale? But this story isn’t just a fairytale romance. It also has teeth and suspense, all peppered with a good deal of humor balanced by a few poignant tears. Much more Grimm Brothers than Disney, although it does have an HEA (bittersweet though it may be). At the end of the book, the author acknowledges all the areas in which she took artistic license to make details fit the fairytale she wanted to tell. I was ok with that.

Lothlorien’s clean, fast-paced writing style and voice hooked me in from the beginning. Then her characters grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. It’s written in first-person present tense from Claire’s perspective. I appreciate it when an author sticks to the rules of that POV and knows how to balance just a hint of backstory here and there without spoon feeding information to the reader. As a result, readers are left to puzzle things out since we are experiencing the story as Claire experiences it and are only given the information that Claire knows at that time. I like this form of storytelling and find it engages my imagination which in turn keeps me reading.

I enjoyed Claire’s approach to life and I loved the first scene with her at the doctor’s office. That scene set the tone for her character. I can think of a few instances in my own life where I would have loved to have responded in a similar manner. She’s outspoken in a straightforward way. Her humor is a bit on the dry-wit side (but not haughty about it) which I found hilarious at times. Especially when it would slide right by me until a couple sentences later and then I’d stop and say “wait, what?” and then have a good laugh at both the narrative and myself for missing it.

Now, I must say, I usually shy away from doctor-patient romance stories (and by “doctor” I really mean any medical professional that has been actively caring for the patient during which time a romance blossoms) because I just can’t get past the ethics of the situation. That boundary is sacred, the patient is vulnerable and trust must be upheld. Having said that, the way the doctor-patient relationship was handled in this story addressed that concern and seemed appropriate to me. Before anything developed between Claire and Brendan, he had already dismissed himself from her case (after only having been included on her case for a couple days) and was not involved in any of her medical care decisions from that point forward. To say why would be a bit spoilery but given her diagnosis and the circumstances surrounding her medical presentation, I think Brendan did the right thing by removing himself from the case. He did what was in the patient’s best interest and was thinking like a doctor at that time, not a potential love-interest (keep in mind, nothing remotely romantic had even yet to occur). He wasn’t the lead doctor on the case anyway so this didn’t leave Claire without proper care.

I think Lothlorien did a good job of imagining just what it would be like to unexpectedly lose consciousness at any moment not to mention lose weeks of your life at a time. It would be disorienting, traumatic and scary as shit. And while Claire’s behavior and response once she “wakes up” could at times seem a bit dramatic – what else could it be? If it were me, yeah, I don’t think I’d handle it any better. Perhaps with time, but in this story, Claire is still in the early phases of dealing with her medical disorder. So her response rang true to me. It was frustrating that the people around her would initially withhold information from her about her blackout episodes once she woke up, but I think they were doing the best they could with the situation as well. There’s no guidebook for caregivers on how best to break it to someone that they just lost seven weeks of their life. And given Claire’s obvious distress upon waking, I don’t blame them for taking the slow approach.

I also liked the local Southern California flavor included in the story by way of Claire’s best friend, Davin and the surfer culture to which he belonged. I found the surfer dialect fun and interesting and had a good time trying to figure out what Davin was saying (don’t worry, Claire translates in her head, often in a humorous way). What I found most intriguing about the surfer dialect was that Davin wasn’t talking about surfing most of the time. He was usually making philosophical observations or providing advice.

Around mid-way into the story, the fairytale takes its inevitable nightmarish turn. Suddenly, we are left to question everything about the first half of the book. All the good fuzzy feelings are now replaced with suspicion. As we are only privy to Claire’s perspective, the shift feels jarring and confusing as the anchor to the story becomes unmoored and we are set adrift. This is not a criticism on my part. I think this was a decisive move on the author’s part and it played into the the story quite well. Lawyers get involved leading to a lengthy court scene. Through the course of the legal proceedings, we finally get to learn about the other character’s perspectives and motivations during their testimony on the stand. Now, I have no idea how realistic the actual court scene was because I know bupkis about legal strategy but I was intrigued by it. It certainly highlighted how lawyers can use and manipulate information. Which, upon reflection, is actually just a bit frightening and I’m not altogether sure what that says for our justice system.

However, it was in this part of the story that I found my first true offense of the book. I did not like the way the assistant district attorney, Lucinda, was described. Lucinda happened to be an obese character. I have no problem with that. Lots of people deal with that issue. However, what I take issue with is that she was portrayed using every negative stereotype associated with that condition: she was unkempt, dowdy, sweaty, smelly, thinning hair (described in an unflattering way), had clammy hands, and doughy feet flowing out of her pumps, etc. And these negative references would be mentioned each time Lucinda came on scene. It highlighted for me the extreme contrast between Claire’s character who is supposed to be very short (fairy-like) and petite at five-foot-three-and-a-half (although since when is five-foot-three considered unusually short?) weighing in at a waif-like one-hundred pounds. I gather that Lucinda’s role in the story is to play the wicked witch of sorts, but where’s the fat-phobia coming from? I get trying to make a character come across as vile, but using only physical attributes based on negative stereotypes seems disrespectful and downright mean.

After I finished reading this book, I learned that Lothlorien wrote a second book called Sleeping Beauty Wakes Up! which is the same basic story but with an alternate ending. She wrote this alternate ending to appease some fans who disliked the ending in Sleeping Beauty. I was curious enough to check it out. Apparently there are some subtle differences to the story beginning in Chapter 11 but I didn’t notice a shift until around mid-way through. However, I stopped reading once I saw the direction the story was taking. I liked how Sleeping Beauty ended and decided I didn’t want an alternate ending.

All in all, I enjoyed this book. It was a good blend of romance and humor and suspense and (just a wee bit) tear-jerker. The version I downloaded had been well edited with very few errors – not always the case with self-published titles. I could tell Lothlorien takes her craft seriously. I will definitely be reading more of her work in future.

I give Sleeping Beauty a B.

6 replies on “Review – Sleeping Beauty by Elle Lothlorien”

Thank you for your very thorough and fair review. I am sorry that you had an older version of the book because the newer version includes a video in place of the description of the memorial service video. Some readers skip the video and read the prose description instead (a “workaround” I created because I anticipated that not everyone would enjoy the interactive content) but most watched it either as they read or when they finished the book and were pleased with it. If you’d like to view it yourself, it’s available here: http://ellelothlorien.com/davin-wibbens-memorial-service-video.

All the best,
Elle Lothlorien

@ElleLothlorien Thank you for the link to the video. It’s probably just as well that I didn’t have it at the time as I read that scene while eating dinner at the hotel restaurant. I was already trying not to blubber out loud too much;-) You must have had fun putting that together!

Although the concept was “fun,” I’m not sure I’d describe the process as “fun.” I did, however, learn a lot about music licenses, acquiring song rights, movie-making, and editing video. Believe it or not, that 4-minute video took 6 months to create–from conception to realization. By way of comparison, I wrote Alice in Wonderland in 37 days. 😉

Best,
Elle

@ElleLothlorien O_O I had no idea! I guess it becomes more a labor of love at that point, then. You must have been inspired during those 37 days of Alice’s draft:-)

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