Author: Tiffany Schmidt
Series: Once Upon a Crime Family #1
Blurb: Penelope Landlow has grown up with the knowledge that almost anything can be bought or sold—including body parts. She’s the daughter of one of the three crime families that control the black market for organ transplants.Penelope’s surrounded by all the suffocating privilege and protection her family can provide, but they can't protect her from the autoimmune disorder that causes her to bruise so easily.
And in her family's line of work no one can be safe forever.
All Penelope has ever wanted is freedom and independence. But when she’s caught in the crossfire as rival families scramble for prominence, she learns that her wishes come with casualties, that betrayal hurts worse than bruises, that love is a risk worth taking . . . and maybe she’s not as fragile as everyone thinks.
"I'd only just convinced myself to hope - and like me, hope was a fragile thing that would break far too easily."
I never expected just how emotionally invested I got in this book and these characters. Crime families are the sort of thing that always catches my interest when reading but I often find them more entertaining than emotionally engaging. This somehow managed both.
There wasn't nearly as much crime family activity as I had expected for this book. At the beginning I found myself getting frustrated by the romantic angst. But then something happened and everything after that point became tense and exciting and a little bit heartbreaking. For the majority of the middle of the book Penny is living as a normal(ish) person in New York. Yes, she is technically in hiding, but she goes on dates with a guy, she goes shopping for food, makes friends with her neighbours. All normal non-criminal activities. But there is always that threat in the background and I loved that even those activities could become tense when I was wondering if that guy she bumped into was a threat. However I would have liked more actual danger and crime in the middle part of the book rather than having it all at the beginning and the end.
I grew to really love Penny. For the first 10% or so of the book I was so annoyed with her for not being more understanding to her parents. I got how stifled she felt but I also wanted her to understand how hard it must be for a family who are, as criminals, probably under a lot of threat to be sure that their daughter, who is so easily hurt, is safe. But by the end of the book I felt I understood her a lot more and I found I admired her for her strength, her courage and her kindness. I loved that she always thought her choices out, she didn't seem to rush into anything, she considered and then made what she believed the be the best choice. I felt for her with all she went through and I hoped so hard for her to get some semblance of a happy ending.
Tiffany Schmidt was fairly ruthless with the other characters. There is a fair bit of tragedy in poor Penny's life and that definitely kept me on the edge of my seat desperate to find out who was double crossing who and who could wind up dead. There is obviously a lot of threat to be expected in this kind of life and I liked that it was a lot more ruthless than some other crime family novels I've read. Which is probably my own fault for primarily reading young adult books and not true crime novels.
There is romance in this book and what could be considered a love triangle although for me it never really felt like one. I don't get on well with love triangles so I really loved how this one was handled. It also helps that I completely agreed with Penny's choices with regards both of the potential love interests. I really loved the ending which allowed for some independence for Penny. She got the chance to make her own decisions and I thought she did really well with it. I would say there is a little too much emphasis on romance in total when what I really wanted was lots of danger.
Overall, Hold Me Like a Breath was nothing like I expected it to be. It was so much better. I have seen fairly mixed reviews for it so I was nervous going in but I absolutely should not have worried. I would recommend this to anyone who, like me, is intrigued by crime family stories.