I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Lexi couldn't wait to leave her hometown in the dust after graduation but that also meant leaving her high school sweetheart Austin behind. Their breakup crushed them both and twelve years later, the feelings are still there. When Lexi's work life goes up in flames and her dad having a breakdown after his wife leaves him has her returning to Scarlet Springs, she's unprepared to see Austin again. Austin knew Lexi was returning but he still wasn’t prepared to see her again. As circumstances throw them together, they realize that feelings of love never truly go away.
The first in a new series, Barely Breathing, introduces us to a Search and Rescue group in Scarlet Springs, Colorado. The first thirty percent of the story was a barrage of introductions to one hot heroic character after the next; it was slightly overwhelming with trying to keep track of everyone. I also understand that romance books are a fantasy but, I don't know, could someone be near sighted, have some split ends, or something? Having a group of around twelve characters whose hotness and goodness only gets topped by the next one, gets to be somewhat eye roll inducing when they keep coming one after the other. The setting up of all the characters also gave the beginning a crammed feeling as it fell to first book in a series syndrome.
Our main couple seemed to have had a solid relationship when they were in highschool, we don't get any flashbacks, only a recounting of how their breakup conversation went, and therefore their emotions and falling in love was missed. The relationship we do get to see was seeing each other for the first time in twelve years and thinking "Hey, they're even hotter than before!", "I wish we hadn't broken up", and "Sex with you is better than with anyone else." There just didn't seem to be a lot of emotion between the two, we're just told that they had it in highschool and the residual effects are still being felt today.
Lexi was a good character, she just felt kind of dry to me (I felt that way about the story as a whole). She had emotional trauma from losing her mother at a young age, an emotionally absent father, and distant stepmother but other than a few conflicting moments with her drunk father and snappy conversations with her stepmother, the depth of these issues was never delved into. Lexi also has a sister but their relationship was very much to the sidelines. Austin had the bullet points for being a great hero but he came off being a bit stiff. It was alluded to that he was angry at Lexi for the way things ended and even though it has been twelve years and his anger would have lessened, it felt like he just even keeled his way into being in love with Lexi again. There was no gradual build up either, they think each other is hot, remember how good the sex was in highschool, have sex, and then "Hey, I still love you."
Clare's writing is always good and she does make you want to keep reading but this story had a lot of rinse and repeat. There was both a rescue mission or training exercise, the group would head out to have a few beers at the local bar, and then Lexi and Austin would go back to his place to have sex; this pattern was repeated numerous times and made the story extremely monotonous. As I mentioned, with the introduction of several characters with heroine/hero potential, this series looks to be shaping up to be a longer one. I'll definitely be giving the next one try, a guest appearance from a Chief Deputy U.S. Marshall Zach McBride and the remembered amazing way Clare wrote his book assures that, but I'll also be hoping for more depth, emotion, and showing not telling.