CAN'T HARDLY BREATHE - Gena Showalter
The Original Heartbreakers , Book 4
HQN Books
ISBN: 978-0-373-78992-4
September 2017
Contemporary Romance

Strawberry Valley, Oklahoma - Present Day

After her divorce, Dorothea Mathis returns to her hometown to run the family inn.  Being an innkeeper was never Dorothea's dream, but now that it's her reality she'll do whatever it takes to make it a success.  The only drawback is having to clean up after Daniel Porter her high school crush who has brought one of his one-night stands to the hotel.  But when Dorothea decides to make some changes in her life, she takes a chance and offers to keep Daniel company on one of the rare nights he stays at the inn alone.

Daniel is stunned when a naked Dorothea comes to his room, and doesn't handle it very well.  The curvy beauty turns him on, but Daniel isn't willing to date any women from Strawberry Valley.  The retired army ranger returned home after his father's heart attack, and Daniel is still worried about Virgil Porter's health. The first time Daniel dated a local girl after his return, Virgil started talking about weddings and grandbabies.  Still battling PTSD, Daniel isn't looking to settle down and feels it's best not to get Virgil's hopes up.  But Dorothea is a temptation Daniel's not sure he can resist.

The fourth book in the Original Heartbreakers series, CAN'T HARDLY BREATHE brings together Daniel and Dorothea, both of whom were introduced in earlier books.  In high school, Dorothea was the girl everyone picked on everyone except Daniel.  After he defended her against one of the school's bullies, Dorothea's crush went into overdrive, only to crash and burn when she later found him making out with one of the girls who bullied her.  Her plans to get a college degree and leave the misery behind in her hometown didn't go much better, and now she's back, divorced, with no college degree and owner of a not-exactly-successful inn.  In spite of all of the heartbreak in her life, Dorothea doesn't really wallow in self-pity, she just keeps pushing on.  She's doing her best to rebuild her self-esteem and make some positive changes in her life, but Daniel's rejection sets her back a bit.  When he tries to convince her that he is interested, she's not entirely sure she can believe him.  Daniel's been trying to battle his PTSD by serial dating, but as much as he desires Dorothea, he's not sure dating her would be a good idea.  Yet, she makes him laugh, brightens his days, and when he can't sleep at night it's because of thoughts of Dorothea, not his usual nightmares.  It could be that she's exactly what he needs in his life, but can he convince her of that?

A fun yet emotional story, CAN'T HARDLY BREATHE can be read on its own; while Daniel and Dorothea were in the previous novels, we didn't get to know much about them until now.  We are also introduced to Daniel's business partners, Jude Laurent and Brock Hudson, as well as Dorothea's friends, Lyndie Scott and Ryanne Wade, and we get to see some sparks flying that set up the next two novels in the series.  Be sure to look for CAN'T HARDLY BREATHE.

Jennifer Bishop