This book honestly just left me confused and disappointed. I’d read the first two books in the series, Strings Attached and Double Bound, and quite liked them. Plus I really like Nolan’s writing style so although it had been four years since I read DB, I knew I wanted to read Wide Asleep. Unfortunately this time the book didn’t work for me at all. Whereas I’d loved the characters and general mystery involved in the previous books, this time the plot felt convoluted and all over the place with no cohesion. I wasn’t entirely sure what the point of the book was when I finished. The writing repetition was odd and not something I’m used to reading with Nolan’s work. Although I tried hard to suspend disbelief with the fairy tale connection, the ghosts and past life regression just made me sigh. Neither one adds to the story and in fact diluted the main theme of the mystery. Sadly this ended the series on a bad note for me and I struggled to force myself to finish the last third.
The plot starts off with Jeremy and Arthur now four years older. Arthur’s relationship has ended and now he wants to get back with Jeremy despite the age difference that once was a problem. Jeremy has had a rough time with the separation and has spiraled into excessive drinking, drugs, and money problems. Arthur has come back to save him and the two quickly get back together to fix Jeremy’s problems and finally have a happy ending. They must deal with the crooked (evil) ex-boyfriend and Arthur’s health problems along the way.
What I liked most about the book was the characterization. All the characters have significant amount of effort put in to make them seem real and three-dimensional. Some of them are classically evil and way too stereotypical but I think the correlation to the fairy tale was done on purpose. I liked that the characters are deeply flawed. Arthur constantly shields Jeremy and treats him like a son versus a lover, which prevents Jeremy from actually maturing. At the same time Jeremy acts pretty immature a lot of the book so it’s not surprising he makes poor choices as well. The two men talk a lot about honestly and full disclosure but mostly keep things from each other. This didn’t bother me so much as pointed out how flawed and multifaceted the characters were portrayed. They’re not epic lovers in my opinion, despite the lengthy attempt to say so with the past life tangent, but simply a couple that wants to be together but doesn’t quite know how to make it work.
Beyond the characters I struggled with this book. The writing is really incredible in some places but then breaks down in others. There is a lot of repetition in the writing, “hay is for horses” nonsense, and general dialogue tags that are repeated to the point that I started to notice those details instead of the story itself. I didn’t like the addition of the ghosts, the fellating sirens, or the past life regression tangents as they seemed to derail the point of the story, which supposedly is about clearing Jeremy from the illegal habits of his ex-boyfriend. Instead the story became about the daily minute of Arthur’s disease, miraculously recovered, and their house. The pace was so uneven that it was tough to read many times. It would pick up with the action of Lazarro, then slow down when there was no tension between Arthur and Jeremy, then speed up in Greece, then slow down with the illness and house renovations, and on and on.
Overall I just found the story kind of silly and not anywhere near as compelling as previous books in the series. I don’t know what the point of keeping Jeremy and Arthur apart at all was considering they immediately got back together with no resistance or drama and the external dramas of the money, illness, and illegal activity seemed almost unimportant and easily resolved. This simply wasn’t the complex well developed and engaging story I’ve come to expect from Nolan. However judging by the numerous positive reviews, I may be alone in my thinking.