Lexi Jewell left Scarlet Springs twelve years ago, vowing never to return to the eccentric Colorado mountain town where she grew up. Now, here she is—over thirty, out of a job and with little choice but to move back in with her father. Lexi knows it’s just a matter of time before she runs into Austin Taylor, her first boyfriend and her first heartbreak. She’s determined to show him she’s over him—until he steps out of a pickup truck and back into her life, looking sexy as hell in his mountain ranger uniform.
As far as Austin is concerned, Lexi can turn her snazzy little convertible around and drive back to Chicago. After all, she ripped his teenage heart apart and turned her back on the town he loves. But from the moment he sees her again, he can’t get her out of his mind. Even her smile messes with his head.
When an evening of conversation turns into something else, Lexi and Austin agree to be friends again—with benefits. But as Lexi starts making plans to return to the big city, Austin realizes he’ll lose her a second time unless he can show her that what she’s searching for has been right here all along.
A much beloved romantic suspense author has decided to try her hand at a new direction, taking readers into the small town of Scarlet Springs where the men are beyond gorgeous, the women are spunky and the weirdos have just the right amount of oddness to make life interesting. I admit to being skeptical when I first heard about this because Pamela is just so good at writing her characters into overly intense and terrifying situations and I wondered if she could bring out the emotions in just everyday life, even as she made her men exciting, adventurous and still kind of dangerous. But I was definitely proven incorrect in my fears! Pamela manages to keep the badass lifestyle of her hero, who while admittedly isn’t in the most deadly branch, is in fact a law enforcement official that finds himself in danger more than once. And that doesn’t even take into account what the crazy man does for fun! If you aren’t the type of person that enjoys climbing deadly rock faces and hanging from ropes 300 feet off the ground, a lot of the appeal and even some of the lingo will be lost on you, as it was me, but luckily Pamela included a glossary for those of us that have never even seen a rock gym in person. :) All that being said, the important parts of Pamela’s past stories are still very much in evidence here. Alpha heroes with just enough flaws to keep them human, heroines with an inner strength they never expected they had, and the love between two people that will transcend all issues that come up in their lives. My only complaint was that the story was too short and I’m dying for the next already.
Austin and Lexi have a past, one that has haunted them both for most of their adult lives, and when Lexi returns to their small hometown in Colorado to help her father neither of them expected their lives would collide once again. Lexi has hit a serious speed bump in her professional life, and honestly doesn’t have much of a personal life anymore, so when her father and stepmother split up, she decides it’s time for a trip back home to help in the best way she can. Austin was her first in every way, including her first heartbreak, and seeing him again is traumatic, especially when he is so cold and unwilling to even treat her with civility. Austin can’t believe his eyes when he arrives to a dispatch call to find the girl who broke his heart a decade earlier standing on the side of the road. His life has been much simpler without her, working as a Ranger, volunteering for the Search and Rescue team, and avid rock climbing in his free time, not to mention the women in his life are never allowed close enough to break him like she once did. Now that she’s back the chemistry between them is still undeniable and as fate and friends throw them together again and again they both decide to throw caution to the wind. But can two people that once meant so much to one another have a simple fling and then go their separate ways, or are they both just setting themselves up for an even bigger heartbreak? And when Lexi finds herself in a truly dangerous situation will Austin be able to hold it together long enough to save her life to give them a chance to love one another?
I can honestly say that I loved both of these characters from the very beginning and just learned to like them more and more as the story evolved. Lexi is obviously not the type of woman to let many people beat her up. The only two men that have ever been able to truly hurt her are Austin and her father. Seeing her take her stand against allowing her father to hurt her, getting herself away from that situation and deciding to let him fix his own mistakes in my opinion made her a better woman and daughter. She has grown so much since she made the awful choice that separated her from her lover, but that change in her will allow a truly deep and adult love to grow. I also loved seeing how brave she was and willing to face fears to learn to embrace something so important to Austin and show she is willing to do what it takes to spend more time with him, and let’s be honest who doesn’t love a woman that wants to volunteer at a wildlife rescue? Certainly not someone I would snub my nose at. Austin, at first was a bit of an ass, but once he was able to get over his youthful hurts he shows readers just how good of a man he has become, making him a true match for Lexi. His real sexiness is in how he cares for those around him, be they two or four legged (though we’d have to have a talk about his friendship with things that slither), and when he allows himself to care for Lexi again he becomes an even better man. His friendships with his team members show a true ease of self and confidence that is very rare. I enjoyed seeing him fall in love with Lexi again, even as his adventurous and playful side took them into some extremely sensual and fascinating experiences. Gotta love a man that knows what he’s doing with ropes!
Barely Breathing is the type of contemporary romance that readers crave and will draw fans that might never have tried some of Pamela’s work that was marketed as romantic suspense. While it lacks the constant life and death draw that some required, the excitement and action isn’t lacking in my opinion at all. Lexi is a woman that has had to come home to find out that her place in the world was right where she began and with the man that always held her heart. She has grown and changed and finding her place again in her hometown and even in her family was a journey that readers will enjoy taking with her. Austin has to learn to let go of grudges in order to embrace the second chances that many of us never get and when he does he sees that life without Lexi might be worth living, but it’s certainly not as fulfilling or vital without her by his side. The passion and sensuality between Lexi and Austin jumps off the page from the very first moment they clap eyes on each other again, undeniable to those around them and certainly to the readers. The drama, both physical and emotional, keeps the story from being too sappy or bland and there is no way that reader will be able to put this story down once they start it. Pamela has blown me away again, with an all new world, and I cannot wait to learn more about the characters in this small Colorado town. Her obvious love for her state and rock climbing shines through and you can feels true connection to her through her words and her characters. Thanks for proving me wrong Pamela and giving me another fabulous series to look forward to. Now get your butt back in front of that computer and give us book 2! :D
*ebook provided by author (via netgalley) for the purpose of an honest and unbiased review. No compensation was provided.