Sourcebooks Casablanca, $5.99, ISBN 978-1-4926-2817-0
Romantic Suspense, 2016
I am not going to lie – my finger was already clicking the “Add to Cart” button the moment I saw the cover. Oh, I know, a half-naked man in what seems like a polar landscape is just silly, but here’s the thing: this is one rare guy on the cover who actually resembles an action man rather than just another pretty boy with a stubble pretending to be Chuck Norris. The nipples are appropriately perky too, as it is cold, and I really like how the waistline of his pants is lowered to show off the upper curve of his rear. It is as if he was trying to take a poop in the water when he was surprised by a bunch of lascivious people immediately taking images of him on their phones – “Stop taking those pics or I will shoot!” – but still, hot.
As I’ve said. I’m not going to lie and I am not going to feel any shame about this, but I bought this book solely because of the cover and I had no idea until it arrived at my doorstep what the story is about.
Well, I can tell you now that Hold Your Breath may be marketed as a romantic suspense story revolving around the Rocky Mountain Search & Rescue, a rescue dive team, but the plot is basically another “protect me from my crazy ex and give me sex while you’re at it” story. It’s not the most exciting thing to read, and it’s certainly not a tale where the heroine Louisa “Lou” Sparks is about to drown when Callum Cook rips off his shirt, pinching his nipples for a second before lowering the waistline of his pants and jumping into the water, to clasp her to his muscular chest and… uh, where was I? The cover? Oh yes, the story.
Lou is the new girl, and she joins the gig, when she’s not being an overworked waitress, basically to start a new life after leaving a crazy ex behind. While training, she stumbles upon a headless corpse. When she is about to leave, she has a flat tire. Someone is trying to do her harm. Fortunately, there is Callum. Oh, and Callum is this very proper guy, all serious and stern, while Lou is that “Haha, watch me crack jokes and sass regardless of context because I’m so cool and feisty like that, hahaha, snort!” kind of heroine who keeps making Callum roll up his eyes. Of course, all those eye-rollings are clearly a prelude to all the rolling in the bed that will follow, and the author contrives to engineer calamity after calamity on Lou to make sure that Callum always has a reason to stick close to her – and in her, of course.
The thing about this one is that the whole thing feels cynical – very cynical. Every guy in the team, as well as the law enforcers and such, is all hot and sexy, to the point that the author has Lou sarcastically wonder about the probability of her being surrounded by so many hot guys. We all know why there are so many hot guys – the author is going to write books about each and every one so that we will keep giving her lots of money. The whole tone of the story has basically the author going, “Yes, I’m just throwing all the clichés and tropes from Band of Action Heroes series and I know they are all stupidly done, but who cares, you like these things anyway so show me the money, suckers!”
Also, there is the unfortunate implication from all the guys being hot that we romance readers are a shallow bunch who can’t accept heroes that sacrifice themselves to help or protect other people unless those heroes look like Calvin Klein models. Okay, that may be true for some people – present company excluded, naturally – but to have an author openly telling me that she is writing such a story for such people doesn’t sit right with me. It is just begging for a middle finger salute, even if I did buy this book only because of the cover.
The suspense is a pedestrian sort, complete with a villain who spends more time gnashing teeth and indulging in ridiculous ranting interior monologues, but the romance is dead on arrival. This is probably done by design, but there is zero POV from Callum – everything is from Lou’s POV. As a result, the romance jumps abruptly from Callum treating Lou like an immature noob to pawing and doing the bump and grind against her. How we get from here to there, I have no idea. I also have no idea what draws these two together beyond superficial lust, but who cares? Lou is annoying – she is often in-your-face in a “Look at me! I’m so sassy and feisty! Look at me!” manner, has acronyms and nicknames for everything; the whole nine yards of annoying territory all stuffed up her pert little ass, really, so she probably deserves being dumped by Callum somewhere down the road.
Hold Your Breath delivers neither good suspense nor romance, and in fact, the whole book is stringed together from fantastical and over-the-top premises and scenes. The author knows about the last part, and she doesn’t even bother to try making sense of things even a little, as she seems to believe that readers will not care about anything else as long as she delivers a story with all the items on the formula checklist ticked.
I can’t get too mad, though. I get what I deserved to being taken in by a pretty face and hot body. Okay, maybe I do feel a little bit of buyer’s remorse, but that’s because I eventually found a large enough image of the cover to be made into the wallpaper of my phone, hence making the actual purchase of this book unnecessary. I should have spent the money on a sundae and some chocolates.