Complimentary copy given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review
I would like to start my review by saying that I really think that this is a good debut novel, but that I also feel a bit conflicted about it. However, as always, my review will be spoiler free, and I will try to voice my concerns without revealing too much about the actual story line.
Jennifer (Jenn) is our heroine: she is a widow with a daughter away on college, and she finds herself unable to stay in the town she lived in with her husband – mostly due to financial troubles – and she chooses to cut her roots off, moving away to Colorado as that has always been a dream of hers. She longs to find herself, and to find a fulfilling career as a journalist, but little does she know that she gets so much more than she bargained for.
Four months after having moved to the town Gunnison, Jenn meets the town sheriff, Jack Gunnison, and to say that their first meeting is amicable would be a lie: Jack hates journalists, and the last thing he needs is a nosy, yet attractive one, when he is standing over the second murder victim within a short time frame – and without having a suspect whatsoever.
Neither Jenn nor Jack can ignore the very sizzling attraction they feel upon meeting, however, and once having cleared the air – plus coming to an understanding about Jenn being a reporter and Jack trying to solve these murders – they get to know each other better, eventually falling in love, while, at the same time, trying to stay out of harm’s way.
Now, like I said earlier, I am a bit unsure about certain aspects of the book, but I will start with the things I really enjoyed:
First of all, I like many things about Jenn. She is sassy, feisty and rather quirky in many ways. Furthermore, she does not let the past dictate her future; instead, she finds the courage to change the things in her life she is unhappy about, and I really think that you have to admire that kind of determination. It is always a risk to try new things, especially when you are no longer in your twenties.
For the most part, I had no problems with Jack, either: being the sheriff, he has an air of authority that cannot be ignored, and his tendencies to being very bossy and demanding made me smile on more than one occasion. He is protective, temperamental, and strong – just what Jenn needs in a partner.
I really like the banter between Jenn and Jack, and I feel that they, in many ways, complement each other. Whereas Jenn can be too reckless, Jack usually proceeds with caution. When Jenn tends to be rather insecure about him, he knows how to reassure her – for the most part, anyway.
I found myself very much in tune with the secondary characters as well – especially Ben, Lorraine and Mandy. They are very nutty and hilarious, and I feel that the author has done a great job in painting a picture of a small town with some interesting and eccentric characters.
Finally, I believe that the mystery element in this book is very well thought out: at no point in time had I any idea about who the murderer was, or why he fixated on Jenn, so I want to applaud Miss Smith for keeping the suspense part of the novel very gripping.
And now to the reasons I am conflicted about this book:
As much as I liked Jenn, she could be very immature at times and just a bit too much – yes, she is only 39, but I found her behavior to be too much like a girl in her early twenties from time to time. And there were too many scenes where this occurred that I cannot simply overlook them.
In some ways, I also had a few problems with Jack: being the womanizer of the town, I did not completely find it believable that it almost takes him no time whatsoever before he is besotted with Jenn. I think that this part of the story felt a bit too rushed, and I needed a more slow build-up to make their romance feel a tad more believable – but please bear in mind that this is solely my opinion, and many readers will feel completely different from me.
Lastly, I have to touch upon the editing of the book which, I confess, I find lacking. Being Danish myself, I know that my grammar is far from perfect, but a serious pet peeve of mine is when the writing frequently changes between past and present tense; some readers do not mind this, but the constant switch determines whether or not I enjoy reading a book, and I found myself rather annoyed with it. I cannot help but feel that the story would have benefited from being edited better, which is why I mention it in my review.
Aside from the aforementioned issues, I did enjoy the story immensely. I love how the setting is described in great detail, the pacing of the story is pretty solid and despite my reservations about certain aspects of Jenn and Jack’s characters, I could definitely connect with them a lot while reading their story. Also, the suspense part of the novel plays a big part as to why I found myself riveted to the pages.
As I said in the beginning of my review: I think that this is a good debut novel – there is romance, mystery, and plenty of funny moments as well – and I am looking forward to reading more from this author in the future.
1) First things first: Who is C. P. Smith?
First and foremost a mother of 5. Born and raised in Oklahoma, I’m a city girl from a country state…I love football; I love country music; actually I love all music, and I love my state. I’ve been married twenty-six years to a great guy who doesn’t hesitate to rub my shoulders if I ask or pick the kids of from school. I recently went through life altering events that forced me to reevaluate my life and in the process of healing I discovered I liked to write.
2) Have you always wanted to be a writer?
It’s funny; I’ve been a reader most of my life, and I would read a book and think, wow, I wish I could weave a tale that made someone’s skin crawl. Then one day for fun I wrote a silly story and found I enjoyed the process, so I kept going. I honestly didn’t know I could write a word until I did it, but now that I have, I can’t shut it down. Writing, even if it’s bad, is essential to me now. If I never publish another book, I know for a fact I will continue to write. I love creating characters and seeing what they will say next or do next. As a reader, you think that a writer has a set outline and knows what will happen, as a writer I can tell you that the story dictates where it goes, and the characters will cuss you out if you deviate from their true self. I’m pretty sure Jack gave me an evil eye more than once!
3) Which authors do you admire?
I’ve said this before so I’ll say it again, anyone who puts their heart and soul into a book and hits the publish button I admire. It takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there for others to criticize…Now, whom do I love to read? Will stop what I’m doing to lose myself in their book? Jane Austen, Karen Rose, Kristen Ashley, Tami Hoag and Linda Howard.
4) How long did it take you to write “A Reason To Breathe”?
Six weeks, and another six to edit and rewrite and tweak and have a nervous breakdown at the thought of publishing it!
5) When did the idea of your characters, Jack & Jennifer, first come to you?
Jack has been in my head for fifteen years…I read a book years ago, and I’m ashamed to say I can’t remember the title, but there was a sheriff, and he was yummy. So I told my young self, if anything ever happened to my husband I’d pack my belonging and kids and move to Colorado, my favorite place in the world, and find a hot sheriff. And the rest as they say is history, Jack and Jenn’s story was my plan B if something happened to my husband.
6) Were you surprised by your characters at some point when you wrote the book? I mean, did they almost take on lives of their own, taking over the book?
Oh yeah, I knew Jack had to be bossy, he’s a sheriff, and he’s used to being in control. I had no idea how bossy he would actually be till his words were on the page. I laughed many times at his responses to Jenn. You truly have no idea where a character will take you until your fingers start moving.
7) How has life been since you published “A Reason To Breathe”? Has it changed?
Hmmm, I’m not sure much has changed other than my appreciation for what authors go through to publish their books and all that goes with it. I’m a stay at home mom who writes while the kids are at school. That hasn’t changed. The biggest change I guess is autographing books. I still giggle when I do it. I’m just a mom who wrote a book and at the end of the day I have laundry and meals to cook, so the fact someone wants my autograph seem surreal to me, in a good way of course.
8) What do you find to be the most difficult about the indie publishing community?
Promoting, there are no hard and fast rules and as a newbie I haven’t got a clue what I’m doing. Luckily, I’m not alone in this. The indie author community is a tight bunch and welcome you with open arms. But we all sit around at the end of the day and say “What am I supposed to be doing to get my book out there and read?” Someone with publishing experience needs to open a company that handles promoting, book covers, and editing for indie authors. We’re already paying individuals to do these things for us, but with no clear direction. A structured plan offered by a company that leaves us time to write instead of the authors handling the promoting would be awesome.
9) Where/what do you find your inspiration from when you write?
Everywhere, songs, TV, Youtube, poems, pictures. A single sentence from a poem I wrote was the foundation for the way Jack saw Jenn…”Your brilliant light, the power you hold, weaken my defenses and hold my heart.”
10) Without giving us too many spoilers, of course, can you let us know if you are already working on another book, and, if so, what is it about?
Yes, I have two in the works. One is a thriller with a MacGyver type twist, and the other, which is a romcom with a bit of suspense, it’s written for the 45+ crowd…We older women have just as much fun as the young ones, and I felt it was time to put to rest the idea that if you’re over 40 you don’t crave love, sex and a hot guy…Cause believe me you do. There are a lot of women out there who are newly divorced and wonder if love at 50 is unattainable, so I’m writing a book just for them. It’s to show them it’s ok to have a belly fat, that, yes, wrinkles suck, but you know what, there are men out there who are 50, and they think you look pretty freaking hot just the way you are.
Thank you so much for giving this interview, C. P.!