Just Breathe by Janette Paul

Published February 1, 2013 by  Random Romance, the new digital line of Random House Australia 

Many thanks goes to the publisher and NetGalley for the copy of this book I received to review.

5/5 stars

Jaye Ford is a well known Australian crime/thriller writer. What isn’t very well know about her however, is that when she first decided to write a novel, she thought she would try her hand at writing a romance. How hard could it be right? Well as Ford will tell you in personal (I’ve attended a number of author events where she has spoken at length about it) it’s a lot harder than it appears. Just Breathe is Ford’s first novel, written under the penname of Janette Paul in order to distance herself (I assume) from her more criminal and thriller based novels.

Having read the authors previous work, and having heard her speak about this novel a few times now, I was curious to see what it would be like. Paul herself was bit reserved in her dealings with this book prior to publication – as all authors are – and possibly a bit hesitant. After all a straight romance novel is rather different from her previously published works of fiction. All that said though, Just Breathe is a brilliant novel that is sure to make the inner romantic in you sigh and jump around in joy. I know a smile never left my face whilst reading this novel.

Dee Nichols is a bit of new age hippy, she’s reserved and she doesn’t like to think of life more than two weeks ahead of where she is. Pathologically she can’t without breaking down. For while smiling, beautiful, yoga-teaching Dee is confident on the outside, she has some pretty big inner demons lurking just below the surface filling her life with anxiety. With money problems shaking her foundations Dee is forced to make some tough decisions, and led to take what life throws at her. Luckily for her, Dee’s high profile client, Lucy Roxburgh, has a short-term solution; she wants Dee to star in a health insurance Ad. Initially Dee is wary. The shameless self-promotion and glamorisation goes against just about every principal she holds near and dear in life and in yoga. But when fate forces her hand, Dee finds herself facing a whole new set of issues and dramas, the biggest being financial dramas and those newly created by multi-millionaire businessman Ethan Roxburgh.

As I have come to expect from this author, her characterisation is strong. Dee is such a strong character for example with her anxieties and complexities that its really not that hard of a jump to see her step right of the page into our world of the living and breathing. She is unique character in many ways because of the ideals she holds near and dear and the way in which she lives her life in the here and now. While this is largely seen in the book as a character flaw, I think as a society it is something we could all benefit from learning from Dee in certain respects. Of course, that is without the constant threat of a breakdown hanging over our heads. Although Dee spends a lot of the novel worried about one thing or another, she is a very relatable and three-dimensional character whose interactions with other characters and persona’s is not hard to imagine. Although emotional wounded, she is a likeable and strong independent character who has trouble letting people in and seeing a positive future. Although not a pessimist at heart, she is unable to view and live life to its fullest because of her fears and the black cloud of the past that’s constant hovering over her head.

Ethan Roxburgh is an interesting character in himself, and is not happy to let Dee steal ALL the spotlight in this novel. Described as a dreamy heartthrob of a businessman, Ethan is sure to appeal to fans of the romance genre on many levels for he ticks all the right boxes: handsome, friendly, sensitive, successful and devoted. What I particular loved about his character and the way in which he was dealt with, was the way in which Paul explored his character’s two dimensions: his tough and strict businessman front, and his inner sensitive and gentle personal side. If that’s not enough to make you swoon over a fictional character, I don’t know what is.

The story line is compelling and well paced, letting the characters and readers get to know each other gradually, all of which helps to create a natural feel to the romance. Unlike many other romance novels that are about, there is none of those giggling, over the top girls who ooze their own brand of fake. Instead we have honest every day people whose emotions are tangible and real, who allow the reader to witness first hand the start of their relationship, and its consequent many ups and downs in an honest and believable light. The sugar coating and plastic settings of many stereotypical type romance novels is absent here and because of that I think this novel really works.

Simple put, Just Breathe is a feel good romance novel that will not disappoint. Ideal for fans of contemporary romance novels and a good old chick lit novel.

This review will also appear on my goodreads account.

Read as part of the Australian Women’s Writer’s Challenge 2013

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