Review copy was received from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Breathless by Celeste Bradley
Published by St. Martin's Press on June 12, 2018
Genres: Historical Romance
Amazon, Barnes & Noble
She was “the Swan.” London’s premiere courtesan. Men want to be with her. Women loathe her success and yet admire her beauty, her riches, her independence. But when the jealous wife of her lover moves to have the Swan banished from her home on the high seas, she winds up crashed against Spain’s rocky coast with no shoes, no clothes—and no name. Taken in by a tortured, sensuous man known as The Artist, the Swan comes to know the woman she wants to be—her artist’s siren.
When Art Professor Brenna Anderson is in danger of losing her post at Harvard, the rule-following, prim professor is at a loss of how to salvage the shreds of her life. But when a new painting in the mysterious Siren collection is discovered in a dusty old house in France, Brenna does the unthinkable—hops on a plane to uncover the identity of the beautiful, enigmatic woman who is the subject of the paintings.
There’s just one hitch—the frustrating, irritating, bold and beautiful art hunter Fitch Wilder is also looking for the Siren. He’s been a thorn in Brenna’s professional side for years, but when their individual quests lead them to team up despite being enemies, a whole new sumptuous world of art and culture opens up for the two of them. And with it, they enter a realm of passion and love…
Two similar and yet different romances told side by side is a cute premise. The contemporary couple discovering the history of another romantic couple was interesting. I couldn’t wait to find out more about the history and potential identity of ‘The Siren’ depicted in a much sought after painting series.
The problem with having two very separate and distinct romance plot arcs happening in the same book is that I was much more interested in one story over the other. The story of how a courtesan became the love interest and muse of an unknown artist was the one which totally captured my attention. I couldn’t wait to go back to the past to learn more of her life and how she lost everything but found the love of her life.
The romance set in the present wasn’t nearly as interesting to me. I kept waiting to get back to the other story arc. The romantic push between Brenna and Fitch went a bit fast and was missing ‘something’ I can’t quite put a finger on. I liked both characters individually and saw how each complemented the other, but overall I didn’t feel a solid connection to them in comparison to the romantic couple of the past.
The story of The Siren was engaging and tragic. I connected to her character right away and loved how strong she was and how she took control of her life and made it the best she could with the resources available to her. She was really the meat of the story for me. Everything else just felt like time spent waiting to get back to her. The Swan stole my heart as well as the artists somehow.
Overall I enjoyed Breathless but I rated it a little lower because of my lack of connection to one of the main couples. I also enjoyed the hunt through Catalonia for more of the Swan stories. The scenery and people of the country seemed fantastic. It made me want to trek through Spain to see all the wonders and eat all the great food described. Plus, I imagine it would be fun to stumble into a festival and live like to locals for a time as well.
She was an expert on the human psycho-sexual experience. Every one of her lovers, to a man, would insist that they won Brenna through skill and dogged determination, but only because Brenna wished them to think so. In truth, she was always the seducer and never the seduced. Without exception.
I was no longer the Swan, London’s paramount courtesan. I was simply a penniless prisoner on a merchant ship bound for parts unknown.
“Am I the only one who finds it amusing that we got lost looking for a map expert?”
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