New York Times bestselling author Gena Showalter returns with an irresistible Original Heartbreakers story about a woman who’s never felt desired and the man who wants her more than air to breathe…
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.
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Can't Hardly Breathe
By Gena Showalter
Harlequin Enterprises LimitedCopyright © 2017 Gena Showalter
All rights reserved.
Dorothea Mathis studied the last room on her cleanup schedule and groaned. The bed had been wrecked, the comforter and pillows tossed haphazardly on the floor. A pair of panties hung from a bedpost. The TV remote had been busted, the pieces scattered across the nightstand. Wet towels created a path to the bathroom door, and the trash can ...
Oh, gag me! The trash can contained used condoms.
The place needed to be decontaminated by people wearing hazmat suits.
Am I up to date on my vaccinations?
With a sigh, Dorothea anchored earbuds in place, keyed up her iPod and donned a pair of latex gloves. One — germs. Gross! Two — she was protective of the green nail polish she'd applied only that morning.
She selected color based on mood. Green = irritated.
Somehow she'd known today would suck balls.
Her mom must have checked in Mr. and Ms. Pigsty last night after Dorothea had gone to bed. Since she had a 4:00 a.m. wake-up call, she tended to hit the sack by 9:00 p.m. Granny hours, her sister Holly liked to tell her.
Dorothea picked up the dirty towels, removed the panties from the post, emptied the trash, changed the sheets on the bed, straightened the pillows and covers, and tossed the remote remains, planning to bill the Pigstys for a new one.
Time was limited this morning. She'd promised to drive her mother into the city in ... crap! Less than an hour. She rushed through dusting and began vacuuming. As the machine swallowed dirt and debris, she tried not to envy her mother. Carol would soon be enjoying her fourth "singles retreat" of the year. Her fourth, but certainly not her last. She stayed at the Michaelson, a five-star hotel owned by the richest guy in Strawberry Valley, Dane Michaelson. Dane was married to a local girl Dorothea had gone to school with, and he allowed Carol to stay free of charge. No doubt about it, she took full advantage, attending speed-dating sessions, mixers and a plethora of themed parties.
Her busy love life was just one of the many reasons she'd given the Strawberry Inn to Dorothea.
The wheels on her cart suddenly squeaked, the sound louder than her music. Yanking out the earbuds, she spun.
Surprise expelled the air from her lungs, leaving her gasping. This so wasn't happening right now.
It couldn't be happening.
Nightmares didn't really come to life. Nor did pornos. Not that she watched those ... very often. But dang it, this had to be one or the other.
The sexiest man on the planet had just strode into the room. He was shirtless, sweat glistening on his eight pack — and his name was Daniel Porter.
The Daniel. The childhood crush she'd never forgotten. The first boy to break her already fragile heart.
She gulped. What was he doing here?
Wait. Like she really needed to ponder this one. Welcome back, Mr. Pigsty.
Her hands trembled as she yanked the vacuum cord from the electrical socket, the room descending into silence as the engine died.
I think you're perfect just the way you are.
She smoothed her trembling hands down her "uniform," a pair of blue scrubs that could take a licking and keep on ticking. "Uh, hi. Hello." Oh, wow. Could she be any lamer? Definitely in a nightmare, not a porno. "Welcome back."
He pulled the earbuds from his ears and gifted her with a small smile that failed to hide the lines of strain around his mouth. "Sorry about the mess. I planned to clean up before I checked out." His gaze darted throughout the room, and he cringed. "I also plan to pay for the remote."
What kind of sexual acrobatics had placed the poor remote in harm's path, anyway?
Oh, my stars. A warm flush poured over Dorothea. In danger of overheating! She almost fanned her cheeks for relief, barely stopped herself.
Look away! She tried, she really did, but Daniel was just so freaking beautiful. He was even taller now, and stronger, with a rough, tough face. His cheekbones were sharp, and his nose boasted a small notch in the center. Been broken a time or two? Dark stubble dusted his angular jaw, though the shadows couldn't disguise the fine tracery of scars on his left cheek.
He was a modern day warrior — literally. After high school, he'd joined the army, defending the country he loved.
This wasn't the first time Dorothea had seen him since his return to town a few months ago, but her body reacted as if she'd never seen any man, heating and tingling in all the naughtiest places.
Act naturally. He's just a customer.
A customer who'd wrecked a room during his most recent stay. An-n-nd he was waiting for her to respond to his offer.
Let's do this. "Yes, thank you. Payment would be appreciated." She wound the vacuum cord around her arm, her motions clipped. "As for the room, I just need to tidy the bathroom, and I'll be done."
With his back to her, he stuffed his toiletries into an overnight bag. "I'll get out of your way, then."
During his senior year of high school, he hadn't just slept with Madison Clark; he'd slept with a string of beautiful, popular girls, as if banging-and-bailing had finally been dubbed a national sport.
Good thing Dorothea hadn't pursued him. He would have taken all her firsts and discarded her like garbage.
Instead, Jazz Connors had taken all her firsts and discarded her like garbage.
Anger boiled her blood until bitterness swept in, leaving a glaze of frost. Fire and ice. This wasn't the first time they'd battled it out, and this wouldn't be the last. The biggest downside? They ensured the wounds inside her hollowed-out chest never really had a chance to heal.
After graduation, she'd moved to the big, bad city, enrolled in the University of Oklahoma's meteorology program, met Jazz and gotten hitched, just as she'd always dreamed ... only to return home several years later with a divorce and no degree.
A washed up has-been by the age of twenty-four.
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.
Coughing, Dorothea claimed the cigarette and stubbed the tip into an ashtray.
"Hey!" Eighteen-year-old Holly glared at her. "I wasn't done."
"You mean you weren't done giving our guests lung cancer and stinking up the inn?"
"Exactly." Ever the smart aleck, Holly tossed a piece of gum in her mouth and popped a bubble in Dorothea's face. "Besides, we don't really have guests, now, do we? Since you took over, only four people have stayed here. Mayor Trueman and his side slice, and Daniel Porter and whatever bimbo he happens to be banging."
Not true! A few months ago, Dorothea had hired Harlow Glass, and everyone in town had rented a room to witness the former bully's downfall.
Dorothea hadn't wanted to like Harlow, but dang it, something bad had happened to the girl in the years since high school, and she'd changed. More than that, Harlow had done everything in her power to make amends, and eventually Dorothea had warmed up to her.
Now the beautiful brunette was married to reformed playboy Beck Ockley. The happy couple expected their first child in a few months.
A razor-sharp pang cut through Dorothea. Won't think about my own —
Nope. Slam the breaks.
To ward off the oncoming pity party, she drew in a deep breath ... slowly released it ... Good, that was good.
She focused on her sister. Holly had pinned back the sides of her jet-black hair, the remaining locks tumbling all the way to metal links anchored around her biceps. She'd paired a crimson corset top — her first pop of color in months — with a ruffled black skirt, ripped fishnet stockings, and combat boots caked with mud Dorothea would have to clean from the floors.
In a town as small as Strawberry Valley, Oklahoma, Holly was a legend. Unique.
"My inn, my rules," Dorothea said. "No smoking. Ever." Besides, she suspected the teenager only ever lit up to aggravate her. Not once had Dorothea witnessed an actual puff.
"You're worse than a Mogwai that's been fed after midnight."
A Gremlins reference? Seriously?
"No wonder Jazz left you," her sister added.
Air hissed between her teeth. Holly might hate her guts, but the teenager loved to insult her, and this barb hit harder than most.
Rather than waiting for love, as Dorothea had dreamed, she'd settled for companionship, marrying the first guy to pay attention to her. Worse, she'd believed his words rather than his actions. I adore you and only want what's best for you ... for us.
Jazz Connors had been a master at manipulation. He'd cajoled and charmed ... and then he'd cheated.
Holly had no idea. To this day, she idolized him and blamed Dorothea for the split. And that was the way Dorothea preferred it. The girl distrusted too many men already. Starting with their snake of a dad!
When Joe Mathis divorced their mother to marry his side slice, as Holly liked to say, he'd cut all ties with his daughters. Dorothea had been hurt, but Holly ... she'd cried herself to sleep for weeks.
Carol had shut down so completely, Dorothea was ultimately forced to step up and act as both mother and father. A role she'd played until the day she moved to the city.
Biggest mistake of my life.
She'd promised to stay in constant contact, but every time she'd visited, every time she'd called, Holly had treated her like, well, this. Insults and rancor had abounded.
Eventually Dorothea stopped coming around, and even stopped calling, unwilling to deal with a new bombardment of vitriol ... not realizing until too late that young Holly had interpreted her move as yet another rejection.
Now Dorothea longed to repair their broken relationship without damaging her sister's perception of Jazz. The two were like siblings. Loving siblings.
Jazz called Dorothea at least once a week to report the things Holly texted him — and also to beg Dorothea to give their marriage another chance.
He missed her worship and adoration, nothing more.
After saying "I do," he'd somehow — and easily — convinced her to drop out of school, work two jobs and support him until he graduated. That way, he could get a job at a news station and one day become the state's premier meteorologist. Then Dorothea could return to school. And after she graduated, Jazz would do her a favor and recommend her to his boss.
I'm such a fool. He'd finished school and gotten a job, no problem. But before she could return to school, he'd also gotten his side slice.
"Jazz and I didn't love each other," she finally said, whisper-soft. "Love is the difference between success and failure."
"Love is a myth," Holly said, her tone as dry as the last two Oklahoma summers. She arched a brow, the silver hoop pierced at the edge glinting in the light. "Sex is what makes or breaks a relationship."
Excerpted from Can't Hardly Breathe by Gena Showalter. Copyright © 2017 Gena Showalter. Excerpted by permission of Harlequin Enterprises Limited.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I really couldn't put this book down. I loved it from the start. Gena is why I started reading romance again. Her charcters are funny, and real. Her books make me laugh, cry and feel happy... in the end..lol they are also very hot and steamy, my favorite thing. Can't wait till the next book, on all her series.
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
Book four in the Original Heartbreakers brings us the first of the next three damaged men, this time ex-military instead of ex-foster care. We met Daniel in Jessie Kay’s book. He is her really good friend and he and his two pals run a security firm from Strawberry Valley. Daniel has been using Dorothea’s inn as his personal stomping ground with his dates. We met Dorothea in Hallow’s book. She is a sweet curvaceous beauty who hasn’t had a lot of good fortune in her life. She has loved Daniel since he was a senior and her a sophomore in high school, but she has kept her distance because she doesn’t believe he could truly like her when he seems to go for stick thin tall blondes and she in nothing like that. Daniel does find her attractive, but her shyness has caused him to keep his distance; however, when she shows up at his hotel door in nothing but a trench coat, he can’t believe his eyes and he behaves poorly. He almost ruined any chance with her from the get go, but he works to rectify the situation pronto. I enjoyed watching them grow together, learn about each other, and become stronger individuals because of their relationship with each other. This series is just so enjoyable, real and down to earth, yet still has the tense emotional strife that pulls the reader in and keeps you turning the pages. Love it and am ready for more.
Dorothea finally grew into her looks and curves. After she dumped her sleazy husband, other guys noticed her for the first time. She starts finding herself and figuring out what she wants from life. Her high school crush, a vet with PTSD, finally decides he wants a real chance with her. This story is hilarious, touching, very sexy, realistic, and romantic. Highly recommended!
The next story in Gena Showalter's Original Heartbreakers series is here and it's hot, hot, hot! Can't Hardly Breathe is a deeply moving romance that will take your breath away and leave you gasping for more. Tormented in high school and constantly feeling the pain of rejection, Dorothea Mathis struggles with deep-rooted insecurities. After the end of her marriage, she decides to finally build up her self-confidence and take the new and improved Dottie out for a whirl. The chance to proposition her long-standing crush comes, but she doesn't get the one night stand she dreamed of. Instead, Daniel Porter decides to pursue her for the challenge and intrigue she presents. I love this story for the many deep layers involved that I don't usually see packed into one romance. Dorothea is a sad, young woman that experienced a real trauma, more than just the end of a bad marriage, but she learned to build herself up and learn to be happy. She doesn't allow the love of a man to deter her from her passion. On the other side of things, Daniel and his two army friends are struggling to adjust to the real world and deal with PTSD. Of all the drama and twists and turns the story takes there's never a dull moment. Can't Hardly Breathe is remeninscent of Lori Foster's Hard Justice and her style of writing. It's fun and interesting and gives you just enough heartfelt emotion to keep you grounded. Even if you're new to The Original Heartbreakers series, don't fret. Can't Hardly Breathe is the fourth in the series and there's more following! Enjoy! *ARC provided in exchange for an honest review*
I love romance books with a kick and this is one of those books. Author Gena Showalter does an outstanding job incorporating PTSD and bullying into this storyline drawing the reader into the parts of Dorothea and Daniel that are broken. As the reader rapidly progresses through this book they will be ecstatic with the chain of events and the resolutions the author presents. More people than not, have had the same experience as Dorothea did throughout her school year ages. I did. Not about weight but my unusual looks. So for me this book brought back my pain, then slowly eased it away while leaving me with the feeling of winning over the bullies once again. Well done. I don't have much experience with PTSD but from friends I have stories of how it affected their relationships. Most of their stories had some similarities such as Daniel and his friends. For me this book showed the struggles, triumphs and then the struggles again. It was realistic. I give this 5 STARS for hitting hard subjects in a compassionate manner and creating a realistic love. Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review.
Oh my goodness. I felt like my emotions were on high the entire time I was reading this. Daniel and Dorothea were such rich, deep characters, I loved them. These two together had an awesome story with an exceptional slow burn. I thought it was a fantastic read! Dorothea and Daniel seemed to be such tortured soles, trying to work though past issues. I could really relate to Dorothea and I loved her strength and perseverance to pick herself up and keep fighting to stay strong. She was such an amazing heroine, a real fighter. And Daniel, this guy was so sweet but in so much pain. He was so freaking stubborn too as he battled his demons. I loved him and wanted to hug him but wanted to shake him to wake him the heck up all at the same time. Dorothea and Daniel coming together was emotional, sweet, loving, and sometimes heartbreaking. I thought there was great character development for each of them as we learned about their past connection. It was just this beautiful, yet heart wrenching story as they come together, truly growing, and working out their issues, fighting their feelings and falling in love. I really liked all the descriptions and thought there was a great build. I was filled with so much anticipation for them to come together. There's a nice amount of drama and tension mixed in too keeping me turning the page. There were some good moments of humor mixed in as well which I was thankful for. It was really emotional so those small moments of lightness were appreciated. Nice heat too but a defined slow burn, it was totally worth the wait. I loved the other characters in the story as well. I’m excited for what has been set up for future books and where it all could go. I'm enjoying this series immensely. This was such a great read. I loved the complex characters, the personal battles they were fighting, and this loving relationship that grew and grew. Heck of an ending too. From start to finish I was all in. Awesome read! Complimentary copy received for honest review.
Can't Hardly Breathe takes us back to Strawberry Valley, Ok where we get to watch Dorothea and Daniel try and figure out what they want, or don't want, from each other. Dorothea was bullied and picked on not only during school but has also faced much heartache and abandonment in her life. She is on the brink of truly discovering what she wants and is determined to not let anyone undermine or hurt her again. She took over running the family inn from her mother after her divorce. Daniel has always been the golden boy. He was popular all through school and came home from the military a war hero. He was over seas on multiple tours and has the scars, both physical and mental, to show for it. He does not believe he would ever be good for any woman long term due to his PTSD. Along with two of his military buddies, Daniel has started up a security company. Katie takes us on a emotionally charged ride through out this book. Not only do we get to laugh and cry along with Dorothea and Daniel while they maneuver lost and found dogs, theme rooms, and tornadoes but we also get to catch up with some of our favorite Strawberry Valley characters from the previous books. I would definitely recommend this book along with the others in the series.
I thought this series was completed but Gena Showalter is back with Can't Hardly Breathe about Dorothea Mathis and Daniel Porter - the innkeeper and the sexy army ranger. Dorothea was picked on in high school but her one bright point was Daniel Porter, her high school crush. Unfortunately, Daniel's kind words are quickly replaced in Dorothea's mind when she sees him with another girl and feels foolish for believing he might have been interested in her. Now years later with a failed marriage under her belt, Dorothea is back in Strawberry Valley trying to rebuild her life, her self-confidence, and her relationship with her sister Holly. After giving up college and her dreams of becoming a meteorologist to work two jobs and pay her husband's way through college only to have him cheat on her, the last thing Dorothea needs is Daniel walking back into her life and twisting her feelings all around again. Daniel Porter's nights are terrorized with crippling PTSD so as a rule he's made relationships lasting more than a night or two a no-go to protect himself and his father, who he doesn't wish to disappoint when a relationship goes sour. But one look at Dorothea Mathis all grown up has him throwing his rule out the window. He shouldn't want her, shouldn't taint her life with his issues, but he can't stay away. Will Dorothea agree to give things a go between them without any strings attached? Or will Daniel risk losing the one woman he could see himself building a future with? Will it take a life-or-death situation for them to see clearly or tear them apart? I loved Dorothea and Daniel's story and the introduction to (I hope) the next two "Original Heartbreakers" to get a book. The story moved away from the original three couples in the series but we still saw glimpses of Jessie Kay and Harlow, which was great. Both Dorothea's self-image issues and Daniel's PTSD were both realistically written, although I wish for once that an author would write a plus-sized character that is confident in herself instead of always seeing everything that's wrong with themselves. As a plus-sized woman myself, I don't constantly harp on whether my thighs are a little jiggly and I would never demand a man to turn off the lights before taking me to bed. I did, however, love Dorothea's passion for the weather and her cool ideas for the themed rooms at the Inn as well as how cute Daniel was with the dog he found on the side of the road. Overall, I really enjoyed this book, almost more-so than the first three books!
Can I just say, I haven't read any of the previous books in this series, but I somehow fell head over heels for every single character in this book. Small town romances are my favorite. They don't only portray gorgeous familial love, but also express how beautiful it is to live in a small town where everyone knows everyone and people consider each other as family; again, I can relate a lot to that. But this one was heartbreaking and hopeful and hilarious all at the same time. I'd find myself laughing every five minutes and my sister would look at me like I've grown two heads. And that's because books rarely succeed in making me laugh. It takes a lot to do that. But I'd literally give this book a 5-stars-rating for the hilarious scenes and the witty writing-style alone. There were a lot of tropes in this one, and I'm glad to say that the author absolutely nailed it! I loved new Dorothea. Okay, well obviously, she didn't turn into 'new Dorothea' in a blink of an eye. But that's what I loved; her character transformation. It only requires a decision, once you take it, you're halfway there. Then there's her asshat of an ex-husband who made me feel all sorts of erratic. What I didn't understand was how Holly just suddenly turned into this moral person once she realized that Dorothea's baby's middle name was 'Holly'. And why was Holly close to that idiot, anyway? Then there's Daniel, who I cannot stop thinking about. His constant fear of losing the people he loves, although appeared to be the main problem in his relationship with Dorothea, was the sweetest thing ever. And his relationship with his father was a sight to behold. Mr Porter (Sr) was the most hilarious person in town. Like, seriously, you cannot underestimate that guy's powers. Friendship was represented beautifully, too. Whether it's with Daniel and his gang or Dorothea and her squad.
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.
I LOVED this one! It hooked me right from the beginning and had a hold of me until the end. I didn't want to finish because I didn't want the story to end. It has left me wanting the next book in the series. I really liked Dorothea. I could relate to her a lot. She could have been kicked down by all the she's been through, but she has a inner strength that's inspiring. Daniel is been the one who Dorothea always wanted, but never had. Now back in town Daniel's will finally open when it comes to Dorothea, but he doesn't do relationships. This book had me laughing, crying, and down right mad. It's a well written story with well developed engaging characters. The last scene is quite memorable and just so perfect to end this book on. I can't say enough how I recommend giving this one a read.
Awesome book loved it love the whole story line between Daniel and Dorothea and how she got over being bullied in high school and got the guy she had a crush on in high school and got rid of her idiotic ex-husband and got the right guy in the end thanks for an amazing book and Gena is an amazing author can't wait fir the next book in the series
In a world with so many authors and stories to choose from, Gena Showalter keeps me coming back, and many times, longing for more. Why? Because she is one hundred percent, primetime talented with characters and places readers care about, identity with, and wish they could be! Ms. Showalter’s recently released, Can’t Hardly Breathe, is the perfect example! The story of Dorothea Mathis and Daniel Porter, high school acquaintances who rediscover one another in adulthood. Their road to love is not an easy one: Dorothea at times struggling with extreme low self-esteem and self-worth, Daniel battling PTSD from his time overseas, protecting his country. They have to fight their tendency to withdraw from life to truly understand love. While Jessie Kay Dillion from book three of the Original Heartbreaker series, The Harder You Fall, is my spirit character, Dorothea Mathis IS me. Her need to break free from her feelings of never being enough and the consistently second place holder in the lives of her friends and family are understandable and relatable. I'm envious, yes, envious, of her growth as she learns to love herself for who she is, flaws and all. Can’t Hardly Breathe is the fourth book in the series, it can be read as a true standalone.
Cannot wait to read more from this series.
Told from dual points of view, Can’t Hardly Breathe follows the story of Dorothea and Daniel. Dorothea’s life has never been easy. All she’s ever wanted in life was to be a meteorologist. She tried her best to keep her head down and make it through school, but high school was anything but easy. Subjected to bullying for many years, Dorothea has lots of doubts and self esteem issues. Through it all, there was only one shining light in her eyes, Daniel. He made her feel special in a world full of doubts, but in the end, he too proved to disappoint her…Flash-forward a few years into the future; Dorothea finds herself back home running her family’s Inn after her marriage failed. She’s desperately trying to improve her life and become a better version of herself. But, all it takes is one run-in with Daniel to see that her school girl crush never went away and this sexy bad boy could only spell trouble for Ms. Dorothea…..Daniel has his own personal demons that he’s trying to run from. He’s only returned home to care for his sick father. Daniel is the epitome of a bad boy, just wanting to have his fun with no strings attached. However one encounter with Dorothea will have the power to knock him on his ass and make him suddenly want more. Will Daniel be able to overcome his past and see that Dorothea is a woman worth fighting for? Will Dorothea put her heart on the line despite the risk that it will get broken? There is only one way to find out… Overall, I thought this book was a good read. I found this story to be really well written and was intrigued by the characters. Their story was interesting and made me want to know more. I appreciated the way the author dealt with the tough issues such as bullying, self-esteem and PTSD. I was intrigued by Dorothea and Daniel’s history and thought the two them had some intense sexual chemistry. As much as I enjoyed this story, I did have some issues with it. At times, I was a little put off by Dorothea’s self esteem issues. Please don’t get me wrong. I totally understand where she is coming from and why she feels the way that she does, but at a certain point, I was like enough is enough. I felt like she had come a long way since high school and was trying to reinvent herself, but she never showed the strength that I wanted her to have. I wanted to see her stand up for herself, be happy with the amazing woman that she is and not let her family walk all over her or continue to treat her badly. Like I said, I get where she is coming from and know that change won’t come easy, but she just left me wanting more. My other issue was with Daniel and Dorothea as a couple. Now, I think these two would be great as friends, but I didn’t really buy their romantic connection. I didn’t really feel the pull. I know I said previously that I thought they had great sexual chemistry and I stand by that, but as far as anything else, I just didn’t feel it. I don’t know if it’s because both characters were so hung up on their pasts and their own issues, or if they just jumped in too fast. It just didn’t work for me and I found myself struggling with them as a couple. I think this story had a ton of good potential, but it just wasn’t the book for me. And though it wasn’t a hit for me, I’m still glad I checked this story out. I think this story has a great overall message and deals with some real, hard hitting issues.
I've never been a fan of contemporary romance books. With that said I absolutely adored Can't Hardly Breathe. Gena Showalter it seems can write any kind of book and it will suck you in! Bullied in high school, Dorothea Mathis (aka Dottie) a nickname she hates, is slightly overweight, has low self-esteem, and no confidence. After dropping out if college and a failed marriage Thea has moved back to Strawberry Valley to run the family Inn. Enter Daniel Porter Thea's high school crush. Daniel moved back to town after leaving the military and starting a security business with two of his old military buddies. He's trying to take care of his ailing father while dealing with his own personal hell. PTSD. On more than one occasion Daniel has stayed a night at the Inn with his flavor of the night. Note: if you stay at an inn clean up after yourself and don't leave your used condoms laying around! Daniel has eyes and he can't seem to keep them in his head or off Thea. He only does one night per woman other wise they get attached and he can't afford to have a woman attached to him other wise it might break his dad's heart. But with everyday that passes the more he wants her and the greater his risk of her discovering his past and secrets and Daniel just doesn't want to risk it. But as they say the harder you fall for someone more you cant imagine a life without them in it! With every page I fell a little bit in love with Thea and Daniel. With all their ups and downs and wanting to throttle each of them for their stubbornness I couldn't get enough. Thea stuck a deep cord in me. I was bullied all though school just like her and I also suffer from low self-esteem and no confindence. I have since built my confidence up for the most part. I'm still working on my self-esteem (I just started going back to the gym) and I just got to say she gave me the boost i need to try and get in shape! I would recommend this book to anyone who loves a good pick me up confidence booster or anyone looking for a good book to read!
Having been a fan of paranormal romance for many years, I love the Lords of the Underworld series by Gena Showalter. When I first head that she was writing a contemporary series my original thought was "no thank you." I felt it could never be as good as the LOTU so I never read it. One day while looking for something different to read I came across it again, this time I thought "why not." It was then that I realized how incredibly stupid I was. I loved it!!! This series grabs you from the beginning and doesn't let go. I love it so much I have read it through twice now. From the time we met Dorothea in a previous book, I felt an immediate kinship to her. She doesn't fit society's definition of beauty with her curvy body and dark cork screw curls. It's those traits that I share with her that made me love her more. Then there is the cute boy, turned man Daniel. The unattainable one with his with own demons who could not possibly go for a girl like Thea. Reading about their lives and what has shaped them into who they are during this book is one of the things I like best. These characters's quarks, what excites them, and what humbles them draws you in and makes you love them more. Daniel and Thea together are definitely swoon worthy. This story will make you laugh, cry, and piss you off. I wanted to personally shake a couple of characters and ask WTF??? This series makes you want to move to the small town in Oklahoma just to be near all the hotness. I absolutely recommend this book, this series, and this author!!! If you are a fan of Gena Showalter's paranormal romances and you are on the fence, jump on over sweeties you won't regret it.
A powerful attraction leads to a white-hot romance. You won't want to miss the crazy adventure of Dorothea Mathias and Daniel Porter. Would you take a chance on love or walk away forever? Find out in Gena Showalter's new book, Can't Hardly Breathe. Available now!
This book struck a cord with me..It drew me in at the first page..It took me back to a painful time just like Dorothea...My heart went out to her from the beginning. I too was bullied and pushed around in school just as she was..She held on to words that Daniel told her in highschool " I Think you're perfect just the way you are". She is running the Strawberry Inn for her mom..trying to repair her relationship with her sister. She is trying to make herself better.Boosting her own self esteem up. She is cleaning a room when she finds the love of her life standing there...This book will make you laugh, cry, sigh, laugh some more and cry a bit more...It is a roller coaster of an emotional ride that keeps you turning the pages to see what happens next. I recommend this book. You will be reunited with your favorite characters from the first three books in the series! You will fall in love with Thea and Daniel. You will root for them both to overcome their pasts to have a future together. Hope you enjoy this book as much as I did..It is a must read for the summer!
Gena Showalter is the queen of fun contemporary romances for me. This series is an all time favorite. I am not typically a fan of stories written in third person but Gena's writing is so amazing I don't mind it al all. Dorothea and Daniel's story is sweet and fun. The two had a rough beginning with Daniel using her inn for his hookups and Dorothea not over their past with her idolizing him in school and her being bullied by the other "popular" kids. Now she is older and running her family inn. This book is almost as much about her coming into her own as it is about Daniel realizing that she is the best thing that could happen to him. Daniel had me falling for his sweet moments and the book was so full of hilarity (as all the books in this series are) that I could not stop reading for anything. Gena is a master of words and each book of hers I read cement her in one of my top author spots. **reviewed for red cheeks reads
***I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for a review*** This is the fourth installment of the series. I've waited a while for this book. First things First, planning to read this? Bring a box of tissues! Because holy crap it will make you cry, and ache in ways you probably never imagine. I loved every word of this book from beginning to end. Everything in the book was an emotional roller coaster ride. I HAD to PAUSE in order to breathe and continue reading that's how GOOD it was. Dorothea Mathis was bullied in school almost all her life, family was barely any help to her so she had a lot of emotional baggage. The things that she endure made you cry, made you ache for her and made you proud of her. She was also VERY funny. I LOVED her character in this book. Daniel Porter was a hit em and quit em kind of guy, he joined the military after high school and came back dealing with PTSD. Daniel's torment got the better of me, I felt his pain. Not the war scars but the loss of his mother hit home for me. I cried so much in one of the scenes in the book. But Daniel was also stubborn all I wanted to do was be able to take the book and slap him with it! Lol. But overall I think he was an enjoyable character. So yes the book WILL make you cry, it will make burst out into laughter and even make you feel the rage/pain of the characters in the book. It was one of THE hardest and BEST book I've read so far. THANK YOU Gena for writing this book! Idk how you were able to write it with so much emotion. But it was FELT in the words. Definitely a must read!
I really love this series. Each book has completely broken my heart, as the series title suggests, but I've loved them all. The characters are flawed, and their relationships are difficult, and, at times, hard to watch, but there's always love. So much love. Dorothea Mathis has had a rough life. Her parents split when she was a teen and her dad never looked back. Her much younger sister has been a handful. Her mom has owned and run the local inn, and had to work a second job oftentimes to make ends meet. She was bullied in school relentlessly, and she suffered for it. She had no self-confidence, and no self-love. The one bright spot in her high school world was Daniel Porter, but even he broke her heart without knowing it. But, he was kind to her, and she's never forgotten that. Now that she's an adult, and she's running the inn in her small hometown of Strawberry Valley, Oklahoma, herself, not much has changed. She's a college dropout, and a divorcee, and she's got a ton of baggage from both, and more. Also, her 18-year-old sister has become much more that a handful, not to mention, she hates "Dottie's" guts. Dottie. She's always hated that nickname, and the freckles that caused it. Can you ever really leave your past behind? Daniel Porter is back in town to care for his ailing father, after leaving the army to do so. He joined up right out of high school, following the death of his mother, and he's not looked back until he was forced to. He remembers Dorothea, but he has no idea what he meant to her in the past. He fills his nights with empty flings, with women from Oklahoma City that he'll never see again. He can't date anybody from his hometown without his father getting the wrong idea. Impending marriage, being the "wrong idea". Virgil wants Daniel settled, and he bugs him about it constantly. He's started a security company with his 2 best friends from the military, who've both moved to his hometown as well. They like to be there for each other, as they all have their own scars, and some MAJOR issues living as civilians again. He's staying at the inn one night, to give his dad some space, when Dorothea makes a surprising offer. What would happen, if he took her up on it? Daniel and Thea both have a mountain of personal issues to overcome: she, her low self-esteem, and people pleasing mentality; he, his rampant PTSD and fear of losing those he loves. And those are just to start. They really have their work cut out for them to be together, especially as Daniel wants to keep it a secret, to protect his father, and Thea vows to never be anyone's dirty secret. It was heartbreaking, and refreshing to see them tackle many of their issues head on, but it was hard to watch them crash and burn sometimes too. Their chemistry was off the charts, but they both realized that is not enough to make a relationship real. All the side characters here were very intriguing, and I'm looking forward to seeing their stories play out in the future. Everyone in this town has a lot of issues, and some tragic backstories, but it makes the characters seem real, and it makes you relate to them on every level, and hope for them to find happiness. I am a staunch lover of epilogues, and I really wish we'd had one here. Still though, I really loved this book, and I highly recommend it, and the whole series.
Bullying can have a long lasting impact, even more so than a kind word. What happens here in Strawberry Valley is a classic example! Dorothea is the owner of Strawberry Inn. Having been bullied at school and after a cheating ex husband, she struggles with self confidence. She lives with her mother and a rebellious sister. Daniel has returned to Strawberry Valley to look after his father. He is exforces and owns a security business with his two best friends, Jude and Brock. He doesn't believe in permanent relationships. Daniel is a frequent patron of the Strawberry Inn, where he usually brings his flings. Dorothea has been crushing on him for as long as she can remember. She is convinced that she is not his type, whereas he is attracted to her. They have one thing in common. Fear! She has a fear of rejection. He has a fear of loss. His post traumatic stress disorder doesn't help. Dorothea makes an attempt at seduction! Daniel is lost for words, and of course, she takes it as a rejection. He, on the other hand is unable to get her off his mind. When they eventually get together, it's electrifying but, the battle with their fear gets in the way. As they get to know each other, they uncover the depth of their traumatic experiences. Their biggest barrier for having a healthy relationship. Can they overcome their fear and trust each other? I was hooked on this story from page one. Daniel and Dorothea are complex, but lovable characters. They are loyal and love relentlessly. This novel had me laughing out loud one minute and sniffling the next. It's an addictive and compelling read which had my emotions in tatters. I absolutely loved it and look forward to Jude's and Ryanne's story. I was kindly issued with an eARC from the publisher via NetGalley and the views expressed are my personal opinion.