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.