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Book CoverSandy M’s review of Can’t Hardly Breathe (Original Heartbreakers, Book 4) by Gena Showalter
Contemporary Romance published by HQN 29 Aug 17

While I enjoyed a few parts of this story, one major factor kept me from really liking it. Dorothea Mathis is one of those heroines who has had it rough – in high school, with her family, even an ex-husband. So she’s lived a little bit, and you would think that would help her later in life, but, unfortunately for this reader, she’s a heroine who rubbed me the wrong way on nearly every page.

At first I was a little sympathetic toward Dorothea. The bullying in school left her self-esteem in tatters, though one day the popular cute jock made her day with a few kind words. Her crush on him went even deeper after that. She married later, but her husband turned out to be another jerk of a bully, forcing her to give up her dreams, but at least she was smart enough to get out of that nowhere relationship. Now she’s back home in Strawberry Valley, Oklahoma, having taken over the family inn from her mother and also taking care of her bent-out-of-shape teenage sister. So, needless to say, Dorothea has had few bits of fun in her life, mostly to do with her two girlfriends she sees frequently around town.

Her long-ago crush is back in Strawberry Valley too, after a stint in the armed services, from which he suffers PTSD. Daniel is taking care of his father and has opened a business with two of his military buddies. All Dorothea sees in him, however, is the womanizer who brings a new one-night-stand into her inn off and on. I’m actually surprised she’s so judgmental even for for ten seconds, after all she’s gone through. However, she decides enough is enough, she’s wants a fling with Daniel, so takes matters into her own hands – only to be rejected.

And this is when the back and forth flip-flopping this woman does began to drive me insane. After she’s humiliated for some reason she can’t figure out, Dorothea tries to grow a better backbone, pump herself up to be the woman she’s always wanted to be. Daniel realizes he really hurt her with his rejection. Not being totally sure why, he strives to find out. But now Dorothea wants nothing to do with him, despite him doing everything he can think of to help her and get closer. For so long they’re never on the same page – even during those too-few steamy moments – for the relationship to progress, and that’s much too long for me. Daniel doesn’t want to force his post-war issues on any woman, so he’s never going to marry. It takes him a bit too long to get over that, causing more insecurity in Dorothea, but other than that I do like his character. I also like his attachment to such an unexpected dog in an unexpected way. That was a lot of fun, at least.

The secondary characters are about 50/50 good and not so good here. I really like Daniel’s dad and friends, as well as Dorothea’s girlfriends – she’s even friends with her bullier (yes, I just made that word up!) from so many years ago – but Holly, Dorothea’s sister, gets on my nerves just as Dorothea does, pushing anything and everything to its limit until you want to scream, “Uncle!”

Thus, with all the immaturity still in evidence and a relationship that should have helped these two develop much better together but didn’t, this is just a so-so book for me.

sandym-iconGrade: C-


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.

No excerpt available.

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