New York Times bestselling author Gena Showalter returns with an irresistible Original Heartbreakers story about a woman who’s never felt desired and the man who wants her more than air to breathe…
Bullied in high school, Dorothea Mathis’s past is full of memories she’d rather forget. But there’s one she can’t seem to shake—her long-standing crush on former army ranger Daniel Porter. Now that the sexy bad boy has started using her inn as his personal playground, she should kick him out…but his every heated glance makes her want to join him instead.
Daniel returned to Strawberry Valley, Oklahoma, to care for his ailing father and burn off a little steam with no strings attached. Though he craves curvy Dorothea night and day, he’s as marred by his past as she is by hers. The more he desires her, the more he fears losing her.
But every sizzling encounter leaves him desperate for more, and soon Daniel must make a choice: take a chance on love or walk away forever.
Showalter's fourth Original Heartbreakers novel (after The Harder You Fall), set in present-day Strawberry Valley, Okla., is pedestrian at best. Dorothea Mathis used to be fat and unhappy about it; now slim, she styles herself after '50s pin-ups. She's coming off a bad marriage and a secret tragedy, and she hopes she may finally have her chance with Daniel Porter, on whom she had a crush in high school. Daniel is just as hungry for Thea, but he has PTSD from his time in the military. Concern that their inevitable breakup would destroy his fragile father, he wants them to date in secret, which feeds her insecurities about her looks. Lust may win out, but not if both are convinced a relationship between them is doomed. The self-fulfilling nature of this fear, unfortunately, feels more and more manufactured and inorganic as the story continues. It does not help that Showalter's attempts at sexy banter aren't particularly successful, and the extensive inner monologues fail to generate drama.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Gena Showalter is the queen of fun contemporary romances for me. This series is an all time favorite. I am not typically a fan of stories written in third person but Gena's writing is so amazing I don't mind it al all. Dorothea and Daniel's story is sweet and fun. The two had a rough beginning with Daniel using her inn for his hookups and Dorothea not over their past with her idolizing him in school and her being bullied by the other "popular" kids.
Now she is older and running her family inn. This book is almost as much about her coming into her own as it is about Daniel realizing that she is the best thing that could happen to him. Daniel had me falling for his sweet moments and the book was so full of hilarity (as all the books in this series are) that I could not stop reading for anything.
Gena is a master of words and each book of hers I read cement her in one of my top author spots.
**reviewed for red cheeks reads
A wonderful story that takes readers on an emotional journey that requires patience
The first I’ve read from Showalter, I’m wondering just how much goodness I’ve missed. See, this story combines all of the things that makes a story great for me: characters who need to find their way, deal with issues, friends, small towns where everyone is familiar, and plenty of humor and heat. It also helps if the couple is in need of some serious time to get their feet under them, seeing the other person as a chance for happiness. And Showalter brought all of that, and more, to Can’t Hardly Breathe, starting with the heroine.
Dorothea is a curvy girl with a huge heart and a genuine desire to make things easier and better for everyone around her: often to the detriment of her own self-esteem and confidence. And she didn’t have a ton of that confidence to go around: her father’s abandonment and mother’s refusal to deal with any issue that is difficult, bullied in school, bullied by an ex-husband who not only treated her as a support system while offering nothing, he cheated on her and requested that she leave university, and now, her little sister is focusing all of her own abandonment issues and anger on her. Stuck in her small town, still reeling from all of her own issues and now running the family ‘business’, an inn teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, she’s got plenty on her plate. Then she comes face to face with Daniel, her high school crush and man so out of her league she’s tongue tied.
Daniel was devastated by his mother’s death, and furthered that complication by joining the military in an effort to forget that pain. With repeated tours and actions, he’d been witness to the loss of many friends, carrying the guilt and screams with him. Now retired and in business with his two best friends, all three are suffering and hurting, but find some sort of comfort and solace in their togetherness. But Daniel is using every opportunity to chase, usually women, to allow him to find something else to think about, even has he doesn’t sleep, dreams are nightmares, and no woman lasts pasts the night he catches them. But he is intrigued by Dorothea, finds her presence comforting, and her discomfort (and honestly) often make him laugh.
Together these two are both oil and water and perfect for each other. Both so guarded about their pasts, the fear driving them in circles even as the desperation to make a left or a right is evident to everyone who sees them. Daniel finds Thea so different and intriguing: but he’s managed to convince himself that a relationship wouldn’t last, and that his father would be devastated by that disappointment. Deeper down, he can’t bear to lose yet another person, but perhaps he can make a go of things with Thea, quietly and secretly, and no one would be hurt.
Tons of growth: Daniel was good for Dorothea in many ways, he accepted her, he liked her, he liked her curves, freckles and corkscrew curls. Her heart is bigger than he ever imagined, and with a bit of digging he sees just how fiercely people seek to protect and care for her (with the exception of her family). Dorothea is quick to self-deprecate and accept blame for something that isn’t her fault. She slowly gains her feet, and her confidence takes baby steps to toddlerhood. No, all of her issues aren’t solved with one man’s appreciation, but her belief in Daniel’s words: that she is worth it, that she has good ideas and a good heart, that she is desired all start to work on her. Slowly the progress creeps forward, only to almost blow up in a catastrophic moment – where all of the fears that guide Daniel almost become a prison to which he is permanently confined.
A wonderful story that takes readers on an emotional journey that requires patience – oh you’ll want to slap each of them to wake them up to what is around them, but completely understand their motivation and concerns. A great introduction to Showalter’s writing, I can’t wait for the next book in this series.
I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Sweet, sexy, sorrowful, topped with a good dose of humor
Dorothea Mathis was bullied for your uniqueness while in high school and fell in love with Daniel Porter the day he came to her rescue in the hall. That same day her heart was crushed when she stumbles into his romantic rendezvous with another girl.
Years later, Dorothea is happily running the family inn. Her mother has turned the inn over to Dorothea’s control and she has plans to update, but finds herself short on cash.
Daniel, Dorothea’s high school crush, has returned to Strawberry Valley to care for his father and has been using the inn for his one-night stands. This pushes Dorothea to face night after night of her high school crush bring woman after another woman into her inn. But Dorothea notices that he’s not happy and sees a lingering pain in his eyes.
The chemistry sizzles between Daniel and Dorothea but Daniel has demons from his military past haunting him. While Dorothea’s past hurts and insecurities make a pretty big wall around her heart.
Sweet, sexy, sorrowful, topped with a good dose of humor makes Can’t Hardly Breathe a heartfelt romance that should not be missed.
Easily read as a standalone, Can't Hardly Breathe is 5th in the Original Heartbreakers series.
I received this ARC copy of Can't Hardly Breathe from HQN. This is my honest and voluntary review.