Book title: Hold Me Like a Breath
Author: Tiffany Schmidt
Series: Once Upon a Crime Family, #1
Release date: May 19th, 2015
Format: egalley, 400 pages
Source: I received this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for review consideration. This in no way affects my review; all opinions are my own. Thank you, Bloomsbury!
Penelope Landlow has grown up with the knowledge that almost anything can be bought or sold—including body parts. She’s the daughter of one of the three crime families that control the black market for organ transplants.
Penelope’s surrounded by all the suffocating privilege and protection her family can provide, but they can’t protect her from the autoimmune disorder that causes her to bruise so easily.
And in her family’s line of work no one can be safe forever.
All Penelope has ever wanted is freedom and independence. But when she’s caught in the crossfire as rival families scramble for prominence, she learns that her wishes come with casualties, that betrayal hurts worse than bruises, that love is a risk worth taking . . . and maybe she’s not as fragile as everyone thinks.
Hold Me Like a Breath is a very loose retelling of The Princess and the Pea. The book felt refreshingly original, as it circulates around human organ transplants on the black market. Basically, think Mafia families. (Also think: everything is illegal.)
Our protagonist is Penelope (Penny), the daughter of one of the Families, and she has an autoimmune disease that causes her to bruise extremely easily. She’s always been fragile and sickly, and she hates everyone seeing and thinking of her as weak and helpless. Penny as a character grows immensely through the story. She grows into her own and takes charge of her own life after certain drastic circumstances occur. She refuses to be coddled and protected, and makes this very clear to those around her after said circumstances. She becomes a pretty tough chick, and I ended up liking her loads more than I did at first.
A huge downside of the book is the pacing: it is just off. It started of slowly, then it picked up, then it really picked up — but then it just about died around the middle, then it picked up again, then it slowed down again, and then BAM-CRASH-BOOM-POW the ending was terrific, like something right out of a real crime movie. Up-down, up-down, very inconsistent.
The first third of the book is pretty much set in Penny’s home mansion, where she mopes around and whines about things. I totally understood her position and her feelings, but I really wasn’t feeling it, nor did I like any of the characters except her brother, Carter. The middle of the book, which is set in the heart of New York City, was just so effing boring (even though this is the part some negative reviewers actually liked the most; go figure, I seem to be an outlier). This portion is basically the “romance” section, but everything that had been built up lost its steam and I found Penny’s situation to be pretty unbelievable. And then the last part of the book is where the plot kicks in again and things get real good.
To elaborate on said unbelievable situation… Penny’s time in New York City is nice and all, but totally uneventful (she completely neglects dealing with anyone or anything) and actually really stupid. Like, beyond stupid. I loved how she built up an adorable relationship with Char (yay for an Asian love interest, by the way! Thumbs up for diversity!), but for someone so sheltered and in as much trouble as her, I would have suspected Penny to be a bit more cautious (just a wee bit), and to actually get herself somewhere safe where she had protection. She’s living on her own in the city with a life-threatening illness without any means of medical help. She quite nearly died when Char accidentally ran into her and she fell down! Girl, get your act together and be smart about your condition and safety! Delusioning yourself into thinking you’re strong and no one knows where you are is going to make this worse and more dangerous. Use your head! *Gah. Rant over.*
Ah, yes, and let us finally talk about the romance in this book. It’s… fine at times, and completely scoff-worthy at others. Basically, there’s dude #1, Garrett (a long-time family/Family friend of Penny’s), and then there’s dude #2, Char (cute, adorable, semi-stalker-ish Char). Let me tell you: you’re going to jump to a different ship really fast. Or, at least, I did. Garrett is nothing compared to Char. I’m going to get mildly spoilery, but I don’t think it really matters in terms of this kinda-but-not-really-love-triangle. Garrett is, quite frankly, an asshole. A lying asshole, and tool, at that. But, thankfully, Penny’s brain comes back to her when she learns this about Garrett, and she’s smart enough to get the hell away from him. Any feelings she once had dissipate quickly, which I was so happy to read. And then there’s Char. He lied too, he’s not perfect, but he’s a good guy trying to accept himself and have others accept him (I’m being vague on purpose because of true spoiler reasons). Basically, I ship Penny and Char so hard, and that’s all you need to know.
Hold Me Like a Breath is not a perfect book, it’s got a lot of problems, but I personally really enjoyed it. It’s not as political as I’d thought it would be, though, and the pacing is just so uneven, but the whole concept is intriguing and I really liked Penny’s character development. There’s a slightly creepy vibe the book’s got going on, with that lingering feeling of “who can you trust?” This won’t be the book for everyone, as proven by the multitude of negative reviews I’ve seen out there, but I really liked it and can’t wait to have the story continue in book 2. ♦
So tell me…
Have you read Hold Me Like a Breath? If you haven’t, would you be interested to? What was the last fairy tale retelling you read? Comment below letting me know! And, as always, happy reading!