Breathlessby Celeste Bradley, Susan Donovan
Published on June 12, 2018 by St. Martin's Griffin
Genres: Adult, Contemporary Romance, Historical Romance
She was "the Swan." London's premiere courtesan. Men want to be with her. Women loathe her success and yet admire her beauty, her riches, her independence. But when the jealous wife of her lover moves to have the Swan banished from her home on the high seas, she winds up crashed against Spain's rocky coast with no shoes, no clothes-and no name. Taken in by a tortured, sensuous man known as The Artist, the Swan comes to know the woman she wants to be—her artist's siren.
When Art Professor Brenna Anderson is in danger of losing her post at Harvard, the rule-following, prim professor is at a loss of how to salvage the shreds of her life. But when a new painting in the mysterious Siren collection is discovered in a dusty old house in France, Brenna does the unthinkable—hops on a plane to uncover the identity of the beautiful, enigmatic woman who is the subject of the paintings.
There's just one hitch—the frustrating, irritating, bold and beautiful art hunter, Fitch Wilder, is also looking for the Siren. He's been a thorn in Brenna's professional side for years, but when their individual quests lead them to team up despite being enemies, a whole new sumptuous world of art and culture opens up for the two of them. And with it, they enter a realm of passion and love…
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I hadn’t planned on reading Breathless originally. When I first read the synopsis, it was. . . interesting, but not enough to make me want to pick it up. But I read and review enough romance that I agreed to share an excerpt on the blog later this month to celebrate the book’s release.
Then a copy of Breathless arrived in the mail unexpectedly and I found myself in the mood for a romance one night, so I started reading. And reading. And then I finally had to call it a night because it was 3am and the words blurred on the page. The next day I finished the book.
They say don’t judge a book by its cover but perhaps we should be wary of judging by the synopsis too!
So here’s the deal: this book is a different kind of romance. I saw it categorized as “women’s fiction” too but I don’t know even know what that’s supposed to mean so let’s call it somewhere along the lines of National Treasure meets a Netflix rom-com (because I devour those things like candy). It follows two different stories, one set in the mid 1800’s, the other in present day exploring the events of that past.
Brenna is a Harvard professor dealing with a lot in the workplace and in need of a breakthrough, something to change everyone’s mind and keep her around. Fitch deals in fine art, reminds me a bit of Neal Cafferty from the show White Collar, and is after the prize of the Siren Series paintings. The same prize as Brenna. Obviously there’s going to be some trouble there.
I loved their (sort of) enemies-to-lovers vibe. Both have their pasts and Brenna, especially, guards herself against any potential pain but also love as well. Watching the two of them come to terms with working together and the chemistry between them had me hooked from the moment they met because I felt it. I felt Brenna’s walls start to come down and Fitch trying to be the good guy, which he succeeded at. He appreciated Brenna for her looks but even more for her intelligence and determination and wit. And Brenna found something entirely new with Fitch. She could relax and just be in the moment without judgment.
Running parallel to their story was that of the subject of the Siren paintings. . .
The Swan was a courtesan washed onto the shores of Spain during a storm. Her story was a bit different as it centered on her rediscovering herself before finding the love of her life. It’s told a bit differently, a first-person perspective rather than the third-person used for The Present scenes, and part of the Swan’s story is told through letters that Brenna and Fitch read.
To be honest, I didn’t care all that much about the Swan’s story in comparison to Brenna’s. The similarities between the two are very clear and I don’t think Brenna’s story would have been the same without some of the insight from those scenes in the past adding to the mystery. But the writing just didn’t capture me the same way and I found myself prepared to skim those sections near the end of the book.
On their own, the two parts of this story worked to varying degrees of success, but together as one complete story I loved it. There’s a bit of mystery, adventure, self-discovery, romance, all wrapped up in a pretty package. As far as a romance, the chemistry IS THERE and I seriously need another book like this! For everything else, solid writing, solid story, and I look forward to reading more by these two authors!