Black Label Press

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By J Rose Black

IR Rating:
J. Rose Black’s LOSING MY BREATH offers engaging characters, a touching love story, and playful humor that help it transcend romance-novel stereotypes and become a welcome and heartfelt addition to the genre.
IR Approved
The shattered husk of an ex-Marine collides with a relentlessly upbeat spitfire across the hall in this enchanting romance novel.

The “opposites attract” trope in romance fiction is comfort food for the soul—a predictable but (usually) satisfying trip through a world of brooding bad boys and sunshine-filled heroines, where sparks fly but love ultimately prevails with a guaranteed Happily Ever After. J. Rose Black’s romance novel LOSING MY BREATH offers up just such a dance of contrasting personalities: Callan, a brooding, solitary ex-Marine (with a heart as big as his biceps, naturally); and his new neighbor, Meridian, a radiant force of nature with “impossibly long legs,” a quick wit, and unwavering sweetness. Callan and Meridian get off to a rocky start at the gym; Callan doesn’t so much offer as impose his fitness expertise on a less-than-receptive Meridian. Their sparring banter slowly develops into a tentative friendship as the pair (who initially know each other only as “Umbrella Boy” and “Prissy Neighbor”) become better acquainted. Friendship becomes something deeper when Callan rescues Meridian from a stalker. As the two grow closer, Meridian learns that Callan is a former sniper and war veteran suffering from PTSD after a string of agonizing losses. Meridian, who bears her own scars beneath her seemingly perfect exterior, comes to love Callan’s sweet, gentle soul. But can Callan overcome his past demons and allow himself to find healing and redemption?

While LOSING MY BREATH follows a familiar formula, Black proves an adept storyteller, giving complexity and depth to what could have been stock romance characters. Callan’s PTSD, for instance, isn’t merely tacked on to elicit easy sympathy but treated seriously, with a significant portion of the story devoted to his efforts at healing. Chapters following his therapy sessions, for instance, ring with poignant authenticity, as when Callan begins to open up about his trauma: “Silence filled the room like a lead balloon. It felt heavy and took up all the available air. Callan started to count, to measure his breaths. No. Sit in it. It sucks, but it won’t kill you.

Black’s narrative style throughout LOSING MY BREATH is relaxed and often playful—including frequent insertions of text messages complete with emojis. The dialogue is sharp (“You should hang a sign on your door in that case. To let the rest of us know ‘approach snapping, snarling neighbor with caution'”) and the descriptions are vivid (“aqua-colored irises” and “long, graceful legs shined with perspiration”). The novel suffers from a few chronic weaknesses: the duo’s romantic development feels a little rushed, and much time is spent on Callan’s internal thoughts (“I should get nicer sheets…”), which occasionally bog down the pace. A storyline dealing with Meridian’s parentage feels underdeveloped—as if it’s mostly there in order to set up a sequel. But with its engaging characters, touching love story, generous dashes of playful, crackling humor, and seriously steamy sex, LOSING MY BREATH transcends “brooding loner meets manic pixie dream girl” stereotypes and offers readers a poignant and ultimately heartfelt romance between two wounded souls.

J. Rose Black’s LOSING MY BREATH offers engaging characters, a touching love story, and playful humor that help it transcend romance-novel stereotypes and become a welcome and heartfelt addition to the genre.

~Edward Sung for IndieReader

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