I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Sleep Alone Published by Off Limits Press on 19 March 2023
Genres: Horror, LGBTQ+, Vampires
Pages: 127
Format: ARC, eBook
Source: Publisher
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four stars - Sleep Alone by J.A.W. McCarthy

For the past six years, Ronnie has worked selling merch for a perpetually touring band. Late nights, sweaty clubs, dingy motel rooms, endless roads—as rough as it’s been, there is no other way of life for this band of hungry succubi leaving bodies in their wake.

Until she meets the enigmatic Helene.

Helene is just as restless, just as lonely, and just as full of secrets. With Helene in tow, Ronnie and the band make their way across the Pacific Northwest, trying to outrun not only their mistakes, but the mysterious disease stalking the band, a disease that devours succubi from the inside out.

The hunger is as endless as the road, but maybe Ronnie doesn’t always want to sleep alone.

Sleep Alone gave me The Lost Boys vibes, sharp, atmospheric, and addictive. It grabs you by the genitals and doesn’t let go.

A rock band. A merch girl. Starving Succubi.

One sitting. An enraptured reader.

Ronnie and her band of misfits. Life on the road can be lonely. She’s spent a life lonely, and she refuses to sleep alone anymore. When she meets the enigmatic band, she realises that they are everything she’s been searching for. They tour the pacific Midwest and their youthfulness and zest for life reminds Ronnie of a life gone by. She wants to tap into that once again, live carefree and they make her hungry for it. The only problem is that Ronnie is a Succubi, she’s hungry to feed and she wants these men around for the long term. How easy it would be to turn them…

McCarthy has created characters that are well developed and with enough layers that you just know that it’s going to keep you going through the winter. It’s exceedingly hard to develop characters worth caring about in a novella sized story but McCarthy has excelled where others fail. Oh, and that cover. Well, don’t ask me why but I got the Mystery INC feelings. I was totally here for it!

Ronnie was an enigma to me. When you think of Vampires or Succubi, what immediately springs to mind? Dark and devious creatures of the night? Blood sucking beings that don’t care about picking off victim after victim. Bram Stoker’s Dracula? This was different. Ronnie taught the boys self-control, not only because if they went too far and left corpses in their wake some hotshot detective might put two and two together and get four. They feed to sustain, and Ronnie has taught them to take the victim’s negative memories from them. She sees it as a kindness whilst sustaining their unnatural lives.

When Ronnie spots the mysterious Helene at one of the band’s shows, she knows right there and then that she’s different. Her aura shines throughout, and she knows she needs to make some kind of contact with her. Her eyes…it’s all in the eyes. Little does she know that the connection she feels is something akin to home. They know each other on a deeper level, there is probably no-one that knows the other better.

Unfortunately, when you create something so unnatural, an abomination, such is what the boys from the band have become, it is an uncontrollable variable. Ronnie doesn’t know how they will turn out and so far in the six years that they’ve been together as this new dynamic, things have been good. However, one member develops this really nasty wound at his navel that only gets worse. Is this a sign of things to come or is it simply a feeding session that went wrong?


image 9 - Sleep Alone by J.A.W. McCarthy

J.A.W. McCarthy is the Bram Stoker Award and Shirley Jackson Award nominated author of Sometimes We’re Cruel and Other Stories (Cemetery Gates Media, 2021) and Sleep Alone (Off Limits Press, 2023). Her short fiction has appeared in numerous publications, including Vastarien, PseudoPod, LampLight, Apparition Lit, Tales to Terrify, and The Best Horror of the Year Vol 13 (ed. Ellen Datlow). She is Thai American and lives with her husband and assistant cats in the Pacific Northwest. You can call her Jen on Twitter @JAWMcCarthy. She is an active member of the Horror Writers Association. 

J.A.W. McCarthy

four stars - Sleep Alone by J.A.W. McCarthy