Breathe by Sloan Parker
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Breathe is a complex romance filled with difficult men, angst, betrayal, fear, and enough grief to drown in. Those readers that love meaty dramatic romances with the entire cast as suspect and love as redemption are likely to eat this up. It definitely has its strengths and the overall arc is good. I think the story and characters go too far into melodrama for my tastes and this not only pulled me from the engaging story but made me totally disconnect. However this will vary reader to reader and I think those that enjoy very dramatic, angst filled romances may like this.
Lincoln McGraw is just released from jail after serving six months for vehicular manslaughter. A tragic accident combined with a race car past left Lincoln a broken man. He’s not the only one suffering though as Jay Miller attempts to survive the loss of his wife exactly one year ago. Lincoln’s car may have killed Katie but both Jay and Katie’s families are determined to keep their grief alive and present. When threatening notes and actions start to become dangerous for Lincoln and his family, there is no end to suspects. Yet Jay and Lincoln, hurt most by this tragedy, attempt to find solace and comfort together though the price may be too high.
The story starts very engagingly as Lincoln and Jay meet without being aware of who each other is. This is a bit of a stretch as I imagine they would both know but with only a slight suspension of disbelief you can buy into the story. Plus this makes for a really great first meeting filled with emotion, angst, sexual chemistry, fear, confusion, drama, and tension. The beginning is the best part of the book for me as Lincoln and Jay circle around each other and deal with their opposing emotions. There is each man’s guilt over the accident and the parts they played. Moving on from Katie’s death is not something either man is doing well nor are they even putting any effort into either.
The spark between them is what wakes both men up to really see the accident for what it was, what it means for them and how they want to live their life. I liked that the story showed different ways of coping with the grief and how the anger and sorrow can consume people. Katie is a huge character in the story, although dead, as everyone wrongly attributes thoughts, desires, actions, and needs to her. Even Jay and Lincoln, who are no better than the grief stricken parents, use the death as an excuse to avoid life. This gradual process of forgiveness and realization makes for a heavy emotional story.
Not an easy one though as Jay and Lincoln are frequently doing the wrong things. They are the characters who break up because it’s good for the other person. Or they lie since they can’t face the truth. They ignore the problems since they don’t want to deal with the consequences. These are broken men filled with flaws, mistakes, overwhelming egos since everything is always about them, but they are redeemed with their honest actions. Both men genuinely want to move on by the end of the story and so no matter what they do wrong – and boy do they mess up a lot – they are given a happy ending you can believe in.
I do wish the story hadn’t added in the twist at the end regarding Nancy’s ex-husband as that is just over the top and one more detail that didn’t have to happen. There was more than enough going on without adding that. Additionally while the story is romantic and a true roller coaster to forgiveness and redemption, I think the success for the reader relies on wanting these men to succeed despite themselves. Several times I got frustrated with their overwhelming grief and refusal to really do anything about their circumstances. I understood their motivations and the characters are wonderfully complex and messy but I didn’t always like them. I couldn’t buy into the super evil villain at the end as their identity is obvious early on and just feels forced and manipulative.
However for these flaws I think readers will appreciate heroes that aren’t always perfect. In fact these two are almost too imperfect, too flawed. Yet I’ll take a too flawed character over a perfect one anytime. This isn’t a slam dunk for me but it’s a nice romance with a satisfying ending. I think there’s no doubt these will make it, though it will be anything but easy.