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Dorothea doesn't have much confidence. She was bullied in high school and the man she married, and later divorced, made her feel bad about herself as well. There's only one person who always makes her feel good about who she is, Daniel. She already had a crush on him when they were both in high school, but she never let him know. Daniel often stays at Dorothea's inn, looking for privacy, having a different woman with him every time, which doesn't help her to feel brave enough to admit she likes him.
The army used to be Daniel's life, but he came back to Strawberry Valley to keep an eye on his father. Owning a business with two friends is giving him something to do, but Daniel doesn't feel complete. He tries to fill the void with as many different women as possible, but he secretly longs to be with just one person. Will he and Dorothea ever get a chance or will their pasts make it too difficult for them to be together?
Can't Hardly Breathe is a great romantic story. Gena Showalter writes with a lovely sense of humor and her main characters are wonderfully unique, which is something I love about her books. Daniel is a tough guy with a complex personality. He's afraid to lose and that fear often influences his decisions. Dorothea is good for him. She makes him feel better about the future and she makes the sad Daniel feel a lot happier. I loved her charming personality and her strength is admirable. She's hopeful, she manages to keep going, even if things are bad, and she's incredibly sweet. I enjoyed reading about her very much and I liked her bond with Daniel. There's plenty of chemistry and due to their shared history they connect on a deeper emotional level as well, which makes the story even more moving.
Gena Showalter writes about loss in a beautiful honest way. She doesn't stay away from the sadness life brings, but due to her warm writing style her stories never become too heavy. She's chosen an intimate setting, a small town where everyone knows each other, which makes it possible to learn a lot about her main characters. I loved reading about their feelings, thoughts, plans and fantasies. She makes everything come to life really well. Can't Hardly Breathe is sexy, captivating and sweet, it's an amazing story.
If you love small town romance with interesting main characters you will definitely like the Original Heartbreakers series. The books can easily be read as standalones.
About Gena Showalter
Gena Showalter is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of the spellbinding Lords of the Underworld and Angels of the Dark series, two young adult series--Everlife and the White Rabbit Chronicles--and the highly addictive Original Heartbreakers series. In addition to being a National Reader's Choice and two time RITA nominee, her romance novels have appeared in Cosmopolitan (Red Hot Read) and Seventeen magazine, she's appeared on Nightline and been mentioned in Orange is the New Black--if you ask her about it, she'll talk for hours…hours! Her books have been translated in multiple languages.
She’s hard at work on her next novel, a tale featuring an alpha male with a dark side and the strong woman who brings him to his knees. You can learn more about Gena, her menagerie of rescue dogs, and all her upcoming books at genashowalter.com or Facebook.com/genashowalterfans
Daniel, having served multiple tours of duty, had come back a hero.
His life had meaning, hers didn’t. He and two of his friends had started a security company right here in Strawberry Valley. He took care of his ailing father, and in his free time he dated a plethora of city girls.
Dorothea knew about the girls because he’d stayed at the inn every time a date had ended…successfully.
Her flush returned full force as she considered the other five rooms he’d wrecked since his return…all the pleasure he’d been having…all the pleasure she wished she could experience.
Not with him, of course. With someone she liked and respected. Someone who liked and respected her, too, despite the fact that she was still too round for society’s unhealthy standards, a lot too freckled and trapped in a dead-end job.
Daniel Porter would never qualify.
Dorothea found him attractive, yes, but to her, appearance would never outshine personality.
My man must be my equal. She had a lot of love to give. She’d even grown to like herself…kind of. Maybe. Fine, she was trying to like herself.
Avoiding Daniel’s gaze, she said, “No, you stay. I’ll go.” Words her mother had drilled into her shouted inside her head: the customer comes first. “I’ll finish your room later.” She rolled the vacuum toward her cart.
“You live here, right?” he asked. “You own the inn?”
“I… Yes.” Technically she lived in the attic. The more rooms she had available for guests, the more money she would make. At least in theory.
Money was the number one reason she cleaned the pigsties herself, rather than hiring a maid. She was saving her pennies to turn every plain, ordinary room into a themed paradise. Then Strawberry Valley residents would happily pay to stay just for fun.
Again, in theory.
So far she’d decided on six themes. (1) Four seasons—the weather, not the hotel chain. (2) An enchanted forest. (3) A techno dance club. (4) The underwater world of Atlantis. (5) A royal palace. And (6) an inner sanctum, aka a superhero’s wet dream.
Also up for consideration? A beach hut, an igloo, an insane asylum for her more daring patrons and a desert oasis.
With twenty-three rooms in total, she needed other ideas fast. And more money. A lot more money.
Maybe, when the transformations were completed, the feeling of accomplishment would finally chase away her anger and bitterness. Maybe she would feel alive. Happy.
“If any part of your stay was subpar,” she said, “I will personally—”
“No, everything has been great.” He looked over his shoulder and winked at her. “Just wanted to make sure you weren’t going to get into trouble with the boss.”
Every pulse point in her body leaped with excitement. He’d winked at her. Her!
I think you’re perfect just the way you are.
Red alert! She would not read more into his words than he’d intended. Not this time. He was a flirt, plain and simple. Always had been, apparently always would be.
“Why would I get in trouble?” she asked.
“For not finishing the room.”
Oh. Right. “Well, as long as you plan to come back to the inn, I won’t fire myself. Not because I’m desperate to see you or anything,” she added in a rush. “I’m not.” Dang it! “I mean, I’m always glad to see you here. I mean, I just want your money.” Okay. Enough!
He laughed, his amber eyes twinkling.
Air caught in her throat and sizzled. He had the sexiest laugh on the planet. His entire face softened. He pulsed with new life; fresh and vibrant, he was the epitome of spring.
Then he frowned, as if he couldn’t believe he’d found humor in, well, anything.
Her brow furrowed with confusion. Why the doom and gloom?
“In that case,” he said, his tone flat, “I think I’ll stay another night.”
“Really?” She licked her lips. “What about your girlfriend?”
He stiffened. “She isn’t my—”
“No, don’t tell me. I’m sorry I asked. Your love life isn’t my business.”
“I live in Strawberry Valley. My love life is everyone’s business.”
His wry tone made her chuckle, and he stiffened all over again. Great. What had she done wrong this time?
“I’ll be alone tonight,” he said, looking anywhere but at her. “Apparently I hover over my dad when I’m home, so he’s asked for another night off. But I swear to you, this room will be clean in the morning.”
She snorted. “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
The corners of his mouth twitched. “Doubting Dottie.” A pause, then, “Would you like a cup of coffee before you go?”
“Oh, uh, no, thank you.” While she no longer viewed Daniel through the wounded eyes of high school betrayal— he’d been a nice boy doing a nice thing for a vulnerable girl in desperate need of a white knight—she’d endured too much heartbreak over the years to risk getting to know him better and reigniting her crush.
Look at the way she’d reacted to him already.
He appeared…disappointed? No, of course not. A trick of the light, surely. “Well. See you around, Daniel.”
“Yeah. See you around, Dottie.” He returned his attention to his toiletry bag, dismissing her.
Irritation had her snapping, “My name is Dorothea.”
Before he could respond, she stepped into the hall and closed the door with a soft snick. Hands trembling, she hooked the vacuum to the cart and rolled the cargo to the supply room…where her younger sister Holly was smoking a cigarette.
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