Elliot Edwards has been on plenty of bad dates and as long as he plays wingman for his friend Ethan, that isn’t going to change. Ethan wants a quick lay and Elliot wants something more significant. And then, just by chance, he meets Will on an empty park bench. Both men have known loss, but in finding one another they are on the cusp of being able to move forward. It won’t be easy, especially as Elliot has been offered a new job with a publishing house in London. He thinks his relationship with Will could be the real deal, but he isn’t sure he can give up a job he’s spent years working towards. Will and Elliot will have to decide if what they have is strong enough to last or if they’re just going through the motions.
Breathless is a sweet, but often bland love story between two men who deserve a bit of love. There is a crumb of angst, but nothing that hangs around for long. The plot is fairly straightforward and simple and there aren’t big acts of emotion or action. In fact, there isn’t much of anything here. Let me explain. The writing in Breathless is rather mechanical and flat. Everything on page happens at the same pace — slowly. The storyline meanders rather than flows and while the writing is technically fine (aside from several editing errors), it never seems to find a sense of life. Normally I love a romance that takes it time, but this novel lacks passion. The characters drift through the plot, a part of it but barely participating. They proclaim their love for one another, but I never believe it. They just sort of are. When they have deep conversations, their issues are resolved in a blink and they move on as if nothing happened. Neither Will or Elliot are bad characters, they just didn’t matter to me as reader. They, like their story, are flat and uninspired. It’s frustrating as a reader but in many ways this book should work and just never does. There is a measure of sweetness to the story and when it comes through, we finally get a measure of real depth. Had the book been able to expand on this, I could have found a better connection with the characters.
Breathless deals, on a limited level, with the subject of grief and moving forward. We learn early on that Will’s previous lover died a year earlier in a car crash. Will still has panic attacks and flashbacks to the event (though again these lack much emotion), which would suggest he is still grieving and processing what happened. But there seems to be this suggestion on the part of Will, Elliot, and their friends and family that he should be moving past his grief. It’s been a year and that part of his life is quite literally dead and gone. And maybe that’s why everything about he and Elliot’s relationship felt so lifeless and forced. I never believed that Will was actually ready to move on, but that he felt pressured into doing so and therefore went through all the appropriate motions. This is not to suggest that Elliot is cruel or unfeeling regarding his pain. Rather it’s as if since Elliot is now in the picture, Will just magically thinks it’s time to move on. And perhaps because this book lacks emotion, I never believed that Will was an active part of his own relationship.
There is pleasantness to Breathless and it works as a very simple story about two men looking for love. But it doesn’t have much dimension to speak of and the characters felt like husks – empty and featureless. The plot never seems to find it’s emotional core and a result I was left wondering why we should care about Elliot, Will, and their journey. I’d have to recommend giving this one a pass.