Today I'd like to recommend you Just Remember to Breathe by Charles Sheehan-Miles, a very touching and inspiring New Adult Contemporary Romance:
Just Remember to Breathe
by Charles Sheehan-Miles
Release date: November 12th 2012
by Cincinnatus Press
Format: Paperback, 290 pages
(e-book released on August 30th)
Alex Thompson’s life is following the script. A pre-law student at Columbia University, she’s focused on her grades, her life and her future. The last thing she needs is to reconnect with the boy who broke her heart.
Dylan Paris comes home from Afghanistan severely injured and knows that the one thing he cannot do is drag Alex into the mess he’s made of his life.
When Dylan and Alex are assigned to the same work study program and are forced to work side by side, they have to make new ground rules to keep from killing each other.
Only problem is, they keep breaking the rules.
The first rule is to never, ever talk about how they fell in love.
You know I love writing quotes in my reviews. But sometimes, there are books I can't choose quotes from because they were so gripping or there was so much going on in them, that I couldn't be bothered to stop reading enough to save a few lines. And then there are books I can't choose quotes from because they were just full of awesome and I'd have to quote the whole thing. Just Remember to Breathe fits in the second category, no questions asked! Seriously, read it and you'll see for yourself what I mean!;) There's something so raw, natural and beautiful about this story and the characters that you can't not love!
Alex and Dylan had a messy break-up - and that's putting it mildly. They ended up on different sides of the world, heartbroken and not hearing from each other again. But when Dylan comes back from Afghanistan, he has to get his life back on track, and circumstances bring him and Alex at the same college. They haven't talked to each other since they ended things, but the pain of their lost love is still there, so they need to protect themselves against another potential heartbreak; they must do their best to be around each other without thinking or talking about their past, ignoring their feelings and trying not to kill each other. Not such an easy task.
They are forced to work together. And as time goes by, they spend more and more time together (and not only at collage), talking about things they shouldn't talk about, reliving things that should have stayed in the past... And before they even realize it, they start falling in love all over again. But they're not the people they used to be anymore; everything that happened in their life in the past few years changed them and their relationship could never work again (or so they think):
There was no question Dylan was not the same boy I’d fallen in love with. He’d grown, matured in ways I couldn’t have foreseen four years ago. [...] The Dylan I’d fallen in love with was gentle, and kind. Thoughtful. Funny. He was still all of those things, but had an edge to him that was new and, to be honest, it was frightening.
I'm not getting into any more details here, but I loved reliving their memories with them, good and bad. The past and the present blend together and create a beautiful story that will melt your heart!
I said in one of my updates on Goodreads when I read this book that it was like My Heart for Yours (Jolene Perry and Steph Campbell) met Something Like Normal (Trish Doller). Well, for those of you who are familiar with those stories (they are both awesome Contemporary books released this past summer), Just Remember to Breathe is not as depressing as My Heart for Yours was and it also had that something that I thought was missing in Something Like Normal. It's pretty amazing! The characters and their story are very realistic, it's like you're right there with them, feeling and seeing everything. It has a sense of raw and natural, a sensibility that makes all thoughts and emotions seem very authentic, both from Dylan and Alex's POVs (yes, we have alternative POVs). Their inner pain and struggle pull at your heart strings and you just want to reach into the book, hug them and promise them everything will be all right. Dylan's time in Afghanistan left him hurt and scarred on the inside and on the outside, and coming to terms with everything that happened and moving on is very hard for him. Only Alex with her love and understanding can help him move forward. And despite all their hurt and problems, they show an incredible strength too, all thing things considered. Many people would have probably given up at some point, but they don't, not even when the temptation is there and it feels like it's just. Too. Much.
Now, this story is not as sad or depressing as it seems. There's the occasional dry humor, banter and awkward situation between the characters, the way they affected each other and sweet moments that always made me smile.
Oh God, I was a mess. I was a mess because of his impossibly blue eyes, because of how in the Army his arms and chest had become … so developed. He smelled the same as always, and being around him was impossible. Sometimes when he was close to me I couldn’t even breathe. How in hell was I supposed to stay detached and professional when he set off every single nerve in my body?
They're both like-able characters and have great voices, it was very easy to connect with them and their story. I also really liked the secondary characters. They weren't there just for comic relief, but also to show their love and support and to help the main characters realize they're perfect for each other and to find their HEA. By the end, they're all like a big family who would do anything for each other.
Dylan: “Why? Why in God’s name do you care?”
Sherman: (his friend from the Army): “Because we’re brothers, man. We’ve been through shit no one else knows about. We’ve been through shit they don’t want to know about. And I don’t want to see you f*ck your life up. And, I care about Alex and her sister [...]!”
Alex and Dylan's relationship wasn't perfect before they broke up either, so seeing them putting together the pieces of their past, learning to forgive, trust and love each other again was bittersweet.
A tear ran down her face, and she said, “I don’t know what I did to deserve you.”
I gave her a half smile and said, “You’ve got that backwards, Alex. I’m the one who … who is undeserving.”
“Don’t ever say that,” she said.
“Why not? It’s the truth.”
She shook her head. “You’re wrong, Dylan Paris. About this, you are so wrong. We were made for each other.”
I had a few minor issues with the book (like some parts of the dialogue), but by the end, I forgot all about that - the ending was absolutely amazing! I almost feel like reading the whole thing again just to get to that part. :D
Just Remember to Breathe is the impressive love story of two people separated by long distance and war, pain and mistrust, who learn to forget and forgive, to get over the grief and betrayal of the past, to trust, help and support each other, no matter what, to believe in the power of love and in themselves, in happiness and second chances.
*ARC provided by the author in exchange for my honest opinion.
**Quotes taken from ARC and subject to change in the final edition of the book.
I have an extra ARC from the author to give away on the blog next week, so stay tuned!:D