Publisher: William Morrow
Published Date: July 2011
Genre: Contemporary Fiction; Women's Fiction
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Book Summary: To what lengths would you go to keep a past buried?
Samantha Moore is the golden girl—with a perfect job, a perfect man, a perfect life—until a random act of violence changes everything. Unconscious for two months, Sam awakens from her coma a different person—bitter, in constant pain, and forced to endure medications that leave her nauseous, paranoid, and struggling to keep a grip on reality.
Furious with her family for sending her away to a small, remote town to recuperate—placed completely under a physical therapist’s care and robbed of what little freedom she has left—Sam lashes out at the “nice people” all around her who claim to have only her best interests in mind. But are her violent outbursts the by-product of her condition . . . or something else entirely? Strange things are happening here—and either Samantha Moore is losing her mind or her friendly new neighbors are far more dangerous than they appear to be. . . .
My Thoughts: Samantha Moore was the victim of an extremely frightening and vicious crime 8 months earlier from which she is still struggling to recover. She has some lasting physical problems and needs to regain strength and flexibility in her legs but her major problems, at this point, are psychological. Sam suffers from terrible nightmares and when awake every strange sound upsets her. She's also afraid to go outside, even in the company of other people. Her fiance, Jackson Van Horn and her father, Lawrence Moore, the head of his own advertising agency where Sam used to work, have decided that Sam should continue her recuperation and therapy in a cabin in a small remote town in Northern Minnesota. They hire a local woman, Anne Weaver, a nurse and physical therapist, to work with and watch over Sam. It is of no concern to them that, at 35, Sam might want to, at least, be consulted about these plans. Ever since she was attacked, to her utter annoyance, she's been treated like a child.
Sam is frustrated, angry, afraid, paranoid and impatient most days. She's very different from the woman she was before she was attacked. Sam's difficult to like at first, behaving like a spoiled child as she does, but when we get to know her and understand her, it becomes easy to sympathize with her. Eventually, I found myself rooting for her when it becomes clear she's in danger. The pages flew by while Sam tried to improve her health and then figure out who's tormenting her and trying to prevent her recovery.
Sam wants to be the woman she was before the attack but has a ways to go before she can return to a life similar to the one she had and be that same Sam. This doesn't help her bad mood, compounded by constantly being treated like a child by the two most important men in her life. Sam agrees to the cabin in the small, remote town as well as to spending her days with Anne because Jackson and her father will be away in the city. Sam also knows she's not strong enough to cope with life on her own, yet. Her irritable, peevish attitude blocks her recovery. Before any more healing can get underway, Sam will have to change how she's acting. Sam isn't an easy patient to work with but left on her own Sam does little more than lie in bed and pout. Fortunately, Anne's dealt with worse personalities than Sam's and knows how to challenge her. There came a point where I almost stopped reading this book because I was tired of Sam's behavior. I didn't like Jackson or her father but I began to understand why they treated Same as they did. The attack on her was not a good reason for the extent of her tantrums, outbursts and cruelty to others. It was as if Ms. McConkey knew my breaking point because Sam suddenly seemed to have a change of heart, helped by Anne and an adorable dog.
It's not long before Sam and Anne form a tenuous friendship. On her good days, Sam believes Anne is the only person she can trust. As the novel progresses, Sam realizes she needs a friend and Anne makes a good one. Anne's a likable woman who's easy to identify with. She gets through her days by working hard and minding her own business. Additionally, as a single mom, her focus is on caring for her son Caleb and making a good life for him. Having lived in this small town most of her life, Anne knows all the residents. She stays away from the gossip but she can't help but know some of the stories and so is able to help Sam figure out a little bit of what's happening around her. A few of the town's residents try to malign Sam's character but Sam's, hopefully, smart enough to know who she can truly count on and who she needs to watch out for. Ms. McConkey does a remarkable job of making us full suspicious and unsure of each and every character including Anne and Sam, at one time or another during the story
As the days go by, Sam meets and learns about the residents of the small town and the questions she has about life in the town over the past years multiply. Most of the residents are hiding secrets from her and from each other. Sam finally discovers that there's a big mystery involving the last person to live in Sam's cabin, Blanche. Something happened in this town years ago that somebody(s) wants to remain a secret. For reasons Sam doesn't know or understand, Blanche is a taboo subject for most of the town's long-time residents. The more Sam learns, the more things become suspicious and dangerous. Somehow, someway Sam has ended up in the middle of it all. The more Sam learns and investigates the more surprised and scared she becomes. She realizes how little she knows almost everybody in her life. The mystery has one advantage, it's taken Sam's mind off the attack and its repercussions and made Sam want to get out of bed most mornings now!
Jess McConkey has written an exciting fast-paced psychological thriller filled with suspense. Several of the small town's residents have issues with Sam partly because she's a stranger but more so because she's living in Blanche's cabin. It doesn't matter to them that Sam didn't know Blanche. There are some wonderfully chilling scenes during which Ms. McConkey's imagery caused the hairs on the back of my neck stand up! Sam has Anne squarely in her corner and through Anne meets a few other residents she can trust but can she really trust these people she doesn't know? We can only hope that Sam figures things out before she's a victim again! Ms. McConkey's writing flows smoothly and entices us to keep reading. My concern for Sam increased as the pages fell away and it became clear that somebody was out to get her. This story has some great twists and turns and I thought several different characters were centrally involved. I finally gave up trying to figure things out and just enjoyed the book!
I wasn't satisfied with the endin to Love Lies Bleeding. After such a compelling, powerful story, the ending was felt flat and uninspired. Sam disappointed me, too. She thought she'd figured things out when she hadn't. The Sam I knew throughout the story, wouldn't have believed she'd figured things out. She would have known parts of the puzzle were still missing. When I finished this book and thought about the story, I also realized I had questions that were never answered by the result to the mystery. There were some gaping holes and loose threads that were never resolved by the end. I didn't realize this at first because the story moved at such a quick pace and I was caught in the action and Sam's role until the end. Overall, I enjoyed the book for a fast-paced, entertaining read and I liked Jess McConkey's writing. I hope, although, her next book doesn't leave me feeling that I didn't finish the book or missed some parts of the story.
Jess McConkey's website
Thank you to William Morrow for a copy of Love Lies Bleeding and the opportunity to review this book.