Breathe Deep by Willa Okati

Breathe Deep by Willa Okati
Publisher: Pride Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (100 pages)
Other: M/M, anal sex
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Lilac

A golden-hearted mountain man. A nursing tech with a secret. Life and death are on the line—and they’re running out of time.

Shepherd knows what people think of him. He’s too big, too tall and too broad not to be scary. But though he looks like a grizzly bear, he’s all teddy on the inside. He’s dreamed of finding someone to love. Someone who can help him break through his shyness and who he can shower with all the affection in his heart.

Kit knows what people think of him. That he’s young, good-looking, and kissed by luck. He survived leukemia as a teenager, and he thought he had his entire life ahead of him. But now, the cancer might be recurring—deny it though he might—and Kit’s world has come crashing down. He needs someone like Shepherd. Someone kind and caring, who’s strong enough to lean on.

Kit’s falling fast for the big mountain man—but he hasn’t told Shepherd the truth. He’s afraid that knowing he may be sick will be more than Shepherd can handle. And now, after delaying treatment, he thinks he may be running out of time.

Secrets can be life or death—and when it comes to telling the truth, they can make all the difference.

A big shy biker taking a chance. A smaller tech nurse harboring a big secret. Can they make things work?

Relatively few authors can accomplish big things with a low word count, cutting straight to point and delivering a novel-sized package in a novella. Willa Okati is one of these authors. Her writing style is engaging, smart, and sexy, and her characters feel realistic, flaws and all. Shepherd is a big, big man who’s shy, and Kit is a cancer survivor with a heart of gold but a couple of insecurities due to his past. So, obviously the pairing offers some intriguing personality contrasts, and Okati delivers, giving us a cute romance. Their first encounter is fraught with immediate chemistry but though the attraction is instant, the relationship grows naturally. Kit and Shepherd together were so sweet I almost got a tooth-ache!

But (isn’t there always a but?) this story has a couple of issues. They may be a personal take of mine, so don’t be deterred from this story simply due to my say so. The first is Kit’s cancer—which he refuses to admit might be back and so he refuses to get tested. Yes, it’s totally understandable and relateable to feel scared at the prospect of a deadly sickness. But he works at a hospital and as a nurse has a better than average knowledge of cancer symptoms. So him turning a blind eye felt a little forced and it didn’t make much sense. Second, Shepherd is akward and shy because of his size and sweet nature, but he does something uncharacteristic when he learns of Kit’s condition that it kind of took me off the moment. It simply didn’t feel like something he would do.

Despite those issues, this book packs a punch. A romance under the threat of a recurring cancer? It’s not easy to show a story complete with both tears and humor, but Okati manages to do that. Of the side characters, especially Kit’s favorite patient, Gib, is one of the bright spots of the whole book with his cantankerous cussing. In fact, he’s something of a driving force of the plot.

In the end, however, is this a tearjerker? I suppose that’s up to the reader. I know I went through a couple of tissues while reading this. So overall a good romance with a healthy (pardon the pun) dose of realism to keep our guys on the edges of their seats, same as us readers.

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