Contains very mild spoilers
Once Upon A Crime Family Book One
Written by Tiffany Schmidt
Contemporary, Romance, Mystery
Published in Australia July 1st 2016
Thanks to Bloomsbury Australia
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In Penelope Landlow's world, almost anything can be bought or sold. She's the daughter of one of the three crime families controlling the black market for organ transplants. Because of an autoimmune disorder that causes her to bruise easily, Penny is considered too delicate to handle the family business, or even to step foot outside their estate.All Penelope has ever wanted is independence, until she's suddenly thrust into the dangerous world all alone, forced to stay one step ahead of her family's enemies. As she struggles to survive the power plays of rival crime families, she learns dreams come with casualties, betrayal hurts worse than bruises, and there's nothing she won't risk for the people she loves.
Penelope has always been the darling of her family, born with a rare autoimmune illness that leaves bruises upon her skin when touched. Her family own a cartel of illegal underworld organ donation clinics, saving lives of the wealthy. Penelope spends her days drinking tea, visiting her very own house physician and pining for a glimpse of her brother's long time best friend in Garrett. Penny is a paper princess locked in her tower, dreaming of fairy tales and a life beyond the estate grounds. Until the only world she's ever known is destroyed and Penelope is forced out into the streets of New York.
Determined to not only survive but thrive, it isn't long until Penelope is immersing herself within the bustling city streets and it's there where she meets Charlie. Keeping her identity a secret, Penelope and Charlie explore the city while beginning to fall in love. But Penelope is about to discover that her past cannot be outrun.
Hold Me Like A Breath is a difficult read. Despite the poor reviews and multiple cautions, but seeing reading is subjective and there are so few book in young adult that feature organised crime and in this instance, illegal organ trafficking. But even having lowered my expectations, I was mildly entertained. Hold Me Like A Breath promises an enthralling read and delivered little more than a thinly veiled mystery and instant romance.
Penelope suffers from a rare autoimmune disease known as idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, where her body destroys its own Platelets. She is kept within the secure estate due to the nature of her condition and is never to be touched. But lately she's been restless and although her health fluctuates, she dreams of a life outside of the estate which she now sees as a compound. Although I couldn't connect to Penelope as a character, I understood her frustration at those around her being overly protective and the freedom she longs to experience. But it's how she's perceived on an intellectual level in which I took issue. Physically she's unwell, but she's an intelligent girl who is simply brushed aside when she attempts to ask questions, wanting to understand what the family business entails. It doesn't aid her that she's referred to as Princess.
The storyline doesn't delve into the family business beyond Penelope's understanding, with the focus is placed upon the attraction between she and her brother's best friend Garrett. They share a flirtatious friendship, stolen moments of almost kisses and it's then when Penelope's brother discovers their connection. But before they can explore the new boundaries of their tentative relationship, Penelope is forced to flee the compound for New York City, with her life barely intact.
This is where the storyline took an unexpected and unwelcomed twist. Up until that moment, I was enjoying the storyline for the most part and had expected Penelope to develop self confidence and begin to be treated as an equal. But as she explored the city, she meets Charlie who is also seeing the city as a tourist. Charlie is secretive, but latches onto Penelope to the point of waiting outside of her apartment for a glimpse of the girl he's already falling in love with.
The romance was terrible, not to mention predictable. While pining away for Garrett, she's falling in love with Charlie despite having only known him for days. As a reader, I found it painfully obvious what Charlie was hiding and although she had lead a very sheltered life, Penelope seemed to have forgotten her family and spent her time making the most of her time in the city.
Indeed. That's when the storyline had lost my attention. For a girl so frail she wasn't allowed to leave her estate, her health is failing and yet she strangely has time for a whirlwind romance. She barely gave a second thought to her family. Although Penelope has very little experience with affairs of the heart, being able to trust Charlie so easily was dubious at best considering her family's illegal business. The romance was a deal breaker. It was obvious, predictable and lacked chemistry or any genuine connection between Charlie and Penelope.
Writing a less than positive review gives me no joy, because as many issues as I had with Hold Me Like A Breath, the writing wasn't one of them. I found the overall storyline engaging with an incredible amount of promise, but I just couldn't move beyond the romance. I felt cheated out of what could have been an epic read from a genre in young adult that seems lacking.