Bleak Nights: A Story of Intrigue, Love, and Revenge?
I’ll be honest with you; I didn’t have much experience reading romantic literature before I started Jenna van Berke’s suspense novella Bleak Nights. I don’t think, growing up as a cis-gendered hetero white middle class guy, I was socialized and/or naturally gravitated toward love stories. I remember I once grabbed a romance book (that I mistakenly thought was about vampires since a vampire woman was on the cover) when my 4th grade class took a trip to the library and other students made fun of me for it. So, avoiding ridicule, I put it back and rented Cat in the Hat for the up-teenth time. Getting older, I felt that certain types of writing were filled with clichés out the wazoo and did not dive deep into character development, side-plots, or include solid writing. I’m happy to say that Bleak Nights both beat and shattered my expectations.
Bleak Nights is the third book in the Northern Nights Series and follows protagonist Brooke, a successful suspense author, as she attempts to become a mother while hanging out in Finland. In her travels to find a great father for her child, she meets Antti and, you guessed it, things lead to another. Yet, this simple story unwinds around a larger plot surrounding Antti and his mysterious past.
I know it sounds a little cliché. And, at times, I felt that it was. But, in truth, van Berke’s writing style and effective storytelling kept me interested. I enjoyed the unraveling of Brooke’s own history with Paul and how both her and Antti’s past shaped them into who they were. A good amount of time was spent balancing the character development with the plot, which speaks well to a novella labeled as a “suspenseful romance”.
I didn’t feel as if Bleak Nights was difficult reading, either. At roughly 80 pages, the author set out and shined in writing a polished, well-paced love story coated in suspense. I cannot praise this enough, considering the notion of reading a “love story” might have put me to sleep a decade ago. Maybe it’s the maturity, but I do think that van Berke’s writing was a great introduction for me into the genre. And heck, maybe one day soon, I’ll go find that vampire book and give it a read.
Writing: 8/10. The writing is solid and well-done throughout the work.
Characters: 8/10. I felt that the characters were well-written and the development of Brooke’s character was great. I wish there was a bit more of her editor/foil, Carli!
Setting: 7/10. The author didn’t give as much detail on the various settings in the book, but I wasn’t necessarily as concerned about it considering the focus was on the characters and relationships.
Plot: 8/10. The dual plotlines were great. I felt that the one instance of foreshadowing was a bit too obvious, but it did build suspense well.
Overall: 7.75/10. Receiving four stars, I’d recommend Bleak Nights for anyone who wants to get in on a well-written romantic novella balancing itself on a tightrope of suspense!