Just Remember to Breathe by Charles Sheehan-Miles

Publisher: Cincinnatus Press (August 29, 2012)

Format: Kindle

Reviewed by: Judith

Final Score: 10/10

“It’s a MAN, baby!” I will be the first to admit that this was pretty much the most consistent thought running through my head as I read Just Remember to Breathe. This beautiful, thoughtful, highly romantic book was written by…a MAN! Who knew that guys had this sort of sensitivity and depth of feeling in them. I kind of imagined all men thought along these lines: “hmmm, food. Beer and pool/darts/bowling/insert random sport here. Girls, pretty. Nice body. Fooood. Oh look, a tv! … Beer.” It is so rewarding to realize that there’s so much more going on up in there, at least in Charles Sheehan-Miles’ brain that is.

Plot: Pretty and smart Alex Thompson is the middle sister of an affluent West Coast family. She’s been groomed to follow in her father’s illustrious footsteps and everything is going according to plan until she meets Dylan Paris. Their attraction is instantaneous and becomes something more over time, forging a bond between them that can’t be broken by distance. When Dylan graduates and enlists, the two decide to stay together no matter what.  He is ultimately sent to the front lines of Afghanistan and their relationship becomes strained. A misunderstanding forces them apart and it’s only by chance that they meet again when they’re both assigned to the same work study while at Columbia University. Out of the army, Dylan is now a bitter war vet still recuperating from the aftereffects of a roadside bombing. While the attraction is still there, these two are now very different people who must overcome so much more than distance if their love is going to survive.

Review: OH MY GOD! A man wrote this! I said it before and I gotta say it again: a man, a heterosexual man who was once in the army himself, wrote this gorgeous and poignant book. Who’d have thought it was possible but it is and get ready to be blown away!

Just Remember to Breathe is a very eloquently and lushly written book. Its basic premise isn’t anything extraordinary, in fact it’s one we’ve all read before. Boy meets girl, boy loves girl, miscommunication drives the two apart, boy and girl meet again and rekindle their love even after much time has passed. At its core, this is a love story but it’s also a story about acceptance, redemption, and forgiveness.  In addition, much of its focus is on a rather taboo subject: men in the military and the consequences of their time served at war. To be honest, that was the most interesting aspect of the book for me: the very candid look at war and how it effects our soldiers. In the end, we might not all agree with American presence in other war torn countries, but we can all agree that the effects of time spent there are far-reaching and not easily overcome.  Charles Sheehan-Miles grapples this very difficult subject delicately and with an extremely judicious hand. The book doesn’t make you question whether we should have a military or whether we should be fighting instead focusing on how we should handle the soldiers and their problems once they’re removed from the army and war.

The core story, that love between Dylan and Alex is extremely believable and beautiful. It’s tumultuous and hard won and you will be blown away by its depth of feeling. Both characters are well drawn out and the alternating voices/viewpoints are effortlessly written. We really can see the differences between male and female voices and it adds a great deal of nuance to the overall story.

I always love a well written love story and in Just Remember to Breathe you’ll find that. You’ll also find some hard hitting social commentary that will make you question how you view the military and war; plus there’s some difficult to stomach relationship scenes which will make you think long and hard about what constitutes abuse. All in all, this is a love story that will give you more than just sexy times and lovey dovey stuff.  It’s an awesome accomplishment and I promise that if you just give this a chance, you will absolutely adore it.

In the end, I’m giving this: 10/10.

How much did I like the heroine: 10. Alex seems annoyingly perfect with the perfect family, perfect career path, and perfect dreams. But we soon learn that she’s not and she’s a whole lot more than the perfect life that’s already been mapped out for her.  She’s a strong heroine with a clear voice and a lot of guts.

How much did I like the love interest: 10. Dylan was totally the tortured hero! And we all know how sexy that is! He’s the bad boy we can’t wait to fix cause he’s so broken and in need of love. All that was missing was a bunch of tattoos and he would have been absolutely perfect. His brand of dreamy angst was tempered by how much he wanted to right all the wrongs in his life. He was the perfect foil for Alex.

How believable is the plot: 10. Wounded war vet hoping to rekindle something with his long lost love and get his life on track? Girl hoping to break free from the set path and do something completely different with her life? Totally believable! Add in all the angst of righting a huge wrong in a past relationship and you have this extremely believable story.

How much did I like the writing style/editing/etc: 10. Beautifully and poignantly written with highly believable dialogue and just the right amount of tenderness. So good! Pitch perfect pacing as well.

How much did I want to keep reading: 10. It’s a series about all the Thompson sisters! You’ll want to keep reading if only to get snippets of what’s up with all the girls you’ve read about before.

Final Score: 10/10. Charles Sheehan-Miles is a voice to watch out for: powerfully written and lyrical in a way that I haven’t seen a lot of lately. Get it get it get it. You won’t be disappointed.

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