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Breathless by Laura Lee Guhrke

Friday, February 10, 2012

Breathless

Laura Lee Guhrke
Historical Romance
Published in 1999

H/h - Daniel Walker/Lily Morgan
Setting: Shivaree, Georgia, 1905.

Read in Feb, 2012.
My rating:


                                                                [spoiler alert]

Hands down, it was a GREAT book. I loved the story, I adored the characters and I loved everything that says ‘courtroom drama’ in it. LLG did a brilliant job and I’m so glad I gave this book a try! Breathless reminded me so much of Lorraine Heath’s books and if you read my reviews, you’ll know that I LOVE her writing and a huge fan. I’m definitely going to give more LLG books a try later on.

Lily lives in the small town of Shivaree, Georgia all on her own. She’s a divorcee (story takes place in 1905) with a reputation for being a scandalous woman who got the divorce on the grounds of adultery. She’s no lady to anyone. But Lily acts as if she doesn’t care. She goes on with her life, does all things slightly scandalous, like wearing fuchsia colored dresses in the church and doing whatever she likes. It’s been 5 yrs since her divorce and still, the gossip-mongers of the small town, who have nothing better to do, belittle her with every chance they get. But Lily gets by. She has only one good friend, Rosie, who also shares the jilting of her husband and the censure of the society. But her situation is not as bad as Lily. Still she and Rosie are bests of friends, have been true to a friendship that has seen its trying times. Rosie has a café of sort and earns her living from it. Lily runs the library that was originally established by her deceased father-in-law and takes care of it. The bane of Lily’s existence is the Shivaree Social Club, a very posh brothel in the area because it was the reason for her ruined marriage. Lily’s husband, Jason was a cheater, an irresponsible and worthless cad, who never cared for her since she wasn’t his choice for a wife. So, after the 1st yr, he started to stray, leaving Lily alone and miserable. Still Lily tried to work on the marriage but it just didn’t work when the man you think you love and is trying to work it with doesn’t give a sh*t about you. So, after 5 yrs, Jason brought in his childhood friend Daniel, who was already an accomplished lawyer, in to give Lily a divorce on the grounds of adultery. God, I was so pissed reading this! Daniel did his best to prove that Lily was, indeed, an adulteress. She was blamed of cheating on Jason with a man whom she thought was her good friend. The man took money from Jason and lied about their relationship, which was nothing but chaste. Lily faltered through her interrogation and the ruthless lawyer in Daniel just grabbed the opportunity. She was blamed and sentenced. The divorce was done. Jason left Shivaree, never to return again (thank God and good riddance!). Lily was supposed to get a good marriage settlement but Jason left her with nothing but the house she lives in. Every year, she’d go to the judge of the town to make a petition for closing the place down but never succeeded since the said judge was one of the customers of the brothel. But this year, she has as the judge has remarried. When she was spending her day talking about it with Rosie, the janitor of her library, the simple headed Amos informs her (from the town busybodies, you GOTTA read how they live their lives) that Daniel has returned to Shivaree after a long time. Oh BTW, Lily HATES Daniel with all her being as well.

Daniel is not only brilliant, hard working and successful but also, ambitious to become the next senator (equals to he made me w..... er, sorry but had to get it off my chest). He loves law and nothing would be better than taking part in establishing a few. Daniel was born and brought up in Shivaree, with a poor drunkard for a father. His mother left him with his worthless father, to seek out a better life. I’m not sure if she left with a lover or not but she died soon thereafter. Daniel’s father beat him something bad whenever he was on a drunken binge, which was almost always and the poor babe had to hide away as a kid. When he turned 10, he found kindness in Samuel, a young man who was a new lawyer in Shivaree. Samuel took him in, gave him works and so on. But Daniel wanted to learn to read and practice law. He wanted to erase his humiliating past and become someone. As promised to himself, he’d tried and succeeded with his hard work and determination. But, Samuel didn’t have the money to help Daniel with the law school, which is where Jason comes in. Jason, being the son of a wealthy banker, soon became Daniel’s best buddy. They went to the school together and done almost everything together for a long time, including losing their virginity on the same whorehouse. Jason paid for Daniel’s law study, which is why he was grateful. So, Daniel believed in what Jason told her about Lily and defended him with his best. Now, after 5 yrs, Jason didn’t communicate with him as he’d promised when he left Shivaree. Daniel never gave a thought as to why, but soon enough, he gets an incentive to re-think his friendship with Jason. A man named Calvin Stoddard comes to him about the case of Shivaree Social Club. Stoddard is the owner of it, runs is alongside the madame of the house, Helen. Stoddard is also powerful and wants to support Daniel in his ambition to run for the senate. The story starts with an impressive scene of Daniel’s brilliance as he was defending the son of another powerful man in a murder case and wins it too. With Stoddard and those other men’s support, he can go a long way. Daniel knows he’s got the ruthlessness, the focus and a very strong hold on his passions, the perfect blend to become a politician or at the moment, to run for it. So Daniel agrees to take on the case of the social club and comes back to Shivaree to have a look at the situation. He knows who did the petition because Lily’s ‘outrageous’ behavior was well-known. Daniel finds it amusing, even though he still thinks Lily cheated on Jason. What I liked the most was Daniel’s outlook on life, to take things in stride and easily, without losing his focus. I found LLG’s portrait of Daniel was as richly drawn out as a character could ever be. I have to say the same about Lily’s and many other secondary characters in the story. Lily had her own set of vulnerabilities, along with a temperament that reminded me a lot of myself. I totally adored her.

The 1st thing Daniel gets from Lily is a great wallop on his face. It was SOME scene and I was simply laughing. There were plenty of humorous scenes such as this in the book. Daniel isn’t offended, just amused and intrigued at the same time. He’d always thought Lily was beautiful and spontaneous, yet so vibrant. He finds that he still likes the combination. But they are now the enemy, as Lily made it abundantly clear in front of everyone in Rosie’s café. The story spread like wildfire through the community and war was declared. At first, Lily tries to convince the ladies of the community to help her in her cause. But she was not received and was totally humiliated throughout this trip by all of them. Lily was on the verge of breaking down in front of the most notorious busybodies of the community, Dovey McRae but instinctively, she fought back. Dovey was/is the one who led this war on belittling Lily for being a ‘scandalous’ woman and ostracizing her, calling herself the ‘moral’ backbone of the community. Women listened to her so Lily couldn’t do a thing. But help comes from an unexpected place. Judge Billings’ new wife Marie Alice is totally interested in the cause and promises with all sorts of help. With her backing, Lily finds her pace again. In between, verbal banter with her and Daniel was still going on. Daniel was living in Samuel’s house and his window faced Lily’s own. Oh what a delicious situation! Umm, yah, there were some equally delicious checking outs from both parties which I enjoyed so much, can’t explain! (this was probably me checking out Daniel’s delicious muscles>> ). But I digress! Anyhoo, it was Daniel who tells Lily that she lets Dovey pull her by her strings so that she gets all unsettled and acts rash. Lily heeds Daniel’s advice and becomes very polite to the woman, just so that other women also got involved in her cause. It works like magic! They set up this Ladies Temperance Society and took the town by storm. You have NO IDEA how much I loved these scenes. Daniel just went back to Atlanta, where he practices, to take care of other business. He comes back to find the town in disarray, women kicking men out of their houses (no food or sex either) so that they vote against the favor of opening up the club. All men came to blame heavily on Lily and took out their rage by demeaning her in their gatherings. Daniel didn’t find their talks funny. The more he learns about Lily, the more he knows her personally, the more his POVs of her keep changing. But Daniel won’t back down. He’s come so far and so close to his goal and he would win, as he threatens Lily is one of their delicious face-offs.

Lily is determined too. She’d let Daniel know who’s the boss and was doing a splendid job of it. Her Ladies Society was running great. And yet, sometimes she couldn’t help but think about him. He makes her yearn for things she doesn’t understand, things even her husband never made her feel. In between, they kiss and Lily was so aroused, she got scared. How can a man like Daniel, whom she abhors, bring out such strong emotions in her? Yes, of course, he’s very handsome and big, has enough charm to get his way all the freakin’ time. It makes Lily madder and they fight, yet they can’t help but be drawn to each-other like moths to flames. There were so many scenes I loved and was reminded over and over again that these two belong together. But, Daniel and Lily didn’t really know about each-other yet. I mean, they didn’t know about their vulnerabilities and still taking things at face value or presumptions. That was sorted out soon enough when a prostitute of the social club was killed amidst all these hullabaloos. Amos Boone, the simple headed janitor was arrested because he was caught with her body, he himself all bloodied with her blood and the knife that killed her in his hand. He was previously seen with the woman more than once, taking strolls and stuffs in the woods. Of course, Lily knew it was a humongous lie. Amos didn’t have the mentality even to hurt a fly. But the sheriff doesn’t care much, neither does the people of the community itself, who think Amos is crazy and his hanging would be a good-riddance of sort. Only Rosie supports Lily. Now, Lily has only one option to save Amos’s life, to find the most successful and brilliant lawyer in and around Georgia. Lily gives up her enmity for a while and begs Daniel to take Amos’s case. Daniel wouldn’t at first because of the complications for his original case of the social club. But he already started to care for Lily (as was she). Then he learned of Amos’s childhood that quite matches with his own. Painful memories flash through in his mind and Daniel promptly decides to defend Amos.

Lily is now eternally grateful to Daniel since she really cares for Amos, who is definitely something of an outsider here, much like she and Rosie. She offers to help Daniel at first as his law clerk. Daniel kinda waves off her offer but asks her to try talking to Amos, who won’t talk to anyone after his arrest. Daniel was planning to bring back his own clerk to Shivaree but the man had some personal problems so couldn’t accompany him. This time, Daniel takes Lily’s offer which was still open. This marked a big shift not only in their personal relationship but also the community altogether. The case was a huge one, murder being a rare occurrence here. I really enjoyed the scenes where Daniel and Lily would work together on the case, very hard and determined, yet very very aware of each-other. And they were falling, no doubt. Daniel, who wasn’t a womanizer even before (a fact I totally appreciated) was amazed to find his libido in a chaos whenever Lily was near. And I’ve already talked about how Lily’s emotions were in turmoil where it concerned Daniel. By the time the case was almost resolved, Daniel knew he had to do something about this situation. So did Lily as sparks flew with hot, intense kissing. Once again, I totally loved Daniel’s brilliance in the courtroom. I was simply hooked and didn’t want the story to end!

When the case was won by Daniel (duh!), they both make a decision. I can’t say I agreed but what could they do? A divorcee isn’t the type of woman a politically ambitious man would ever marry. Even though they give into the passion and opens up to each-other about their past (by now their POVs about each-other have totally changed), things still went wrong. This leads to some painful scenes later on and Lily realized she was building castles in the sand by thinking their relationship has a future. She leaves Daniel. But then came the ending and boy oh boy, didn’t I just lurrrrved that? It was sooo beautiful; I was crying, had a silly grin on my face and held the book tightly in my arms after I closed it. Good God, can the ending for a book be more adorable than this? 5 stars and I can only say READ IT NOW!
Favorite Quote:
From one of the window scenes, will tell you why I loved these two and their banters so much!
She averted her eyes from his naked chest and reached up to close her window. He lifted his arms, curling his hands around the sash of his own window. Between his upraised arms, he stared at her, and his smile widened. "What's wrong, Lily? Are you shutting your window because you're afraid I'll breathe the same air you do?"
She met his gaze across the short distance that separated them. "I didn't know leeches could breathe." He didn't get angry at the insult. Instead, he laughed. "You're a worthy opponent. I don't think I've ever met a woman with a quicker wit than you. If you'd been a man, there's no telling what you might have accomplished."
"If I'd been a man, I'd have called you out in the fine old Southern tradition five years ago and shot you. That would have been a fine accomplishment." She slammed the window shut and closed the curtains. Daniel was right, of course. Within minutes, the room became suffocatingly hot.
She desperately wanted to open the window again, but she didn't want to give him any victory, no matter how small. So, she waited in the dark as her bedroom became an oven, listening to the clock on her dressing table tick away the minutes. When the clock chimed the quarter hour twice, she got out of bed and walked to the window. He was sure to be asleep by now. She slipped the curtains open, and as quietly as possible, she raised the sash.
"Told you so," a sleepy male voice murmured.
Lord, she hated him.

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I love to read in my spare time and do reviews the books I read. My blog Punya Reviews just turned 6 in 2017 and still going strong. I love music and traveling. Sometimes, I wish I could live inside a book, having my own HEA. :)
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