Love Lies Bleeding by Jess McConkey

Love Lies BleedingReviewed by Douglas R. Cobb

Love Lies Bleeding by Jess McConkey is an intense psychological thriller that creeps up behind you, and make you question what is real and what is not. Samantha Moore, the main character does, after having been viciously attacked and beaten and left for dead. Sam is trying to move on with her life, yet she knows it will never be like it was before the attack by gang members. She was in a coma for two months, and despite having undergone rehabilitation and physical therapy, her left leg has been so severely injured that at the start of the novel she can barely use it.

Sam, the daughter of a wealthy businessman (Lawrence Moore), had had such plans for her life before the attack, including getting married in two weeks to her fiancé, Jackson, a doctor. However, all of her plans get put on hold indefinitely because of what happened, and her father and Jackson arrange for Sam to be nursed back to health while staying at a secluded Minnesota lake house. Sam soon learns that the residents of small towns have secrets, too, and that nowhere is truly safe.

Samantha and Jackson vacation at the lake house for a while, before Jackson breaks the news to her that her parents are coming to discuss plans they have for her further care. She is afraid to go outside, afraid of the shadows, afraid that her attackers will somehow be able to find her again and this time kill her.

Mysterious things start happening at the house by the lake. Jackson accuses her of placing a framed photograph of them face down, and a little later, a hiding it in the bathroom, though Sam tells her she didn’t do it. She hears whispering voices at night, and smells the odor of cigarettes burning. Then, she notices that the book Jackson has been reading is about haunted Minnesota lake houses. The medication which is supposed to make her sleep through the night, prescribed by Jackson, doesn’t, and instead Sam seems to have an even more difficult time of falling asleep, tossing and turning all night. And, glancing out of the window one night, Sam sees a lady with red hair in a nightgown, back turned to her, smoking a cigarette. When she looks again, shortly after this, the lady has gone.

Anne Weaver, a physical therapist whom Sam’s father and Jackson hire to stay with Sam during the daytime, has a tough job ahead of her. Sam resents what she considers to be her father’s and Jackson’s interference and limiting of her independence. She doesn’t want to cooperate with Anne’s attempts to rehabilitate her and get her out of the house more often. Anne considers giving up and quitting, but she’s a single mother laid off at a hospital and she has a teenage son, Caleb. She’s also trying to save money for his college education as well as making sure they have enough to eat and paying the bills. She is a very likable character, and eventually she becomes a great friend of Samantha’s.

There are other unusual and eccentric characters in the small town and living in other lake houses, like Esther Dunlop, who operates a convenience store and sells her goods at outrageous prices, and Fritz Thorpe, who lives in a lake house and seems to know everything about everybody. Then, there are some chapters narrated in the first person by an unknown man who acts very egotistically. Who is the man? Is he actually Lawrence, or Jackson, or Fritz; or, is he someone totally different?

Slowly, little by little, Samantha grows from at first having hated the idea of needing a therapist or any help at all, to supporting Anne when Lawrence threaten to fire her because during a walk Sam twists her right ankle and suffers a mild sprain. Although Anne couldn’t have prevented the accident, Lawrence still blames her for it. The growth of their unlikely friendship, in my opinion, is one of the things that really adds a lot to the novel.

Things get even more interesting and suspenseful when Fritz goes to the dock to investigate whether there is any evidence of a woman having been there, and returns with two cigarette stubs. He tells Sam he thinks someone might be playing a cruel joke on her. He also tells her a little about the house’s history where Sam is staying, about a love affair between Blanche, a woman who had lived in the very cabin Sam is staying at, twenty-five years ago, and the wealthy Teddy Brighton. The affair didn’t end well, and Blanche has been missing for twenty-five years. She also smoked and had red hair.

Love Lies Bleeding is a novel that will keep you up until late into the night, and make you want to check under your bed and in your closets for prowlers. It’s a taut, well-written thriller with three-dimensional characters, and if you enjoy reading suspenseful novels full of twists and turns, I highly recommend that you read Love Lies Bleeding. It’s a Must Read novel for anyone who loves thrillers.

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