Henri has left Australia for Canada to escape his stalker. Even though the man is in a super max prison, Henri still needed to flee. One day, he finds something shocking and frightening on his car. Terrified, Henri runs into a coffee shop and tries to call his Australian friend, Jason, to tell him what he’s found, but he’s so terrified, he has difficulty speaking. Enter Birch, a friendly bystander, who helps Henri with his call by speaking with Jason. Birch agrees to drive Henri to the local police station when all hell breaks loose.
By the time Jason arrives in Canada, it’s clear Henri and Birch will have to go into protective custody until Henri’s escaped stalker can be caught. Now, Henri has to live in a house with Birch (and Jason and another cop) to stay safe. Henri doesn’t want to like Birch, but his defenses eventually start to crumble. Can the two men continue to build their budding relationship through the terror and violence? And will they be able to stay together after their ordeal is over?
What a great book! The Devil’s Breath grabbed my throat and didn’t let go until the final page. It was compelling with characters who had tremendous depth. There was action and excitement with a terrifying bad guy. The romance was a slow burn that left me longing in the same way Henri and Birch longed for each other. After I finished, I decided The Devil’s Breath had to be my first five-star rating of 2019.
Now, there is a lot going on in the story, and I don’t want to give too much away, so I’m not going to rehash the plot. Besides, I want you to read this book and experience it for yourselves through your own eyes. I’ve already told you Henri is on the run from a stalker, and that stalker has broken out of the prison where he was being held. What’s special about this particular stalker is he was a member of the SASR in Australia. That’s the equivalent of any Special Forces unit, which means he’s been trained in all sorts of military tactics making him especially dangerous.
I liked how the author chose to write this book in the third person. I think if it was done with alternative POVs it would have been confusing and jumbled. This way, it allowed for a smooth pace without being jarring. I also liked how skillfully the characters were written…particularly Henri. He had been through a horrifying ordeal. He was tortured by Russell (his stalker) and it wasn’t pretty. This left Henri with a withdrawn personality and an aversion to touch. I could physically feel his agony, and also his desperation, when he realizes he’s begun to have feelings for Birch. It was like an ache reading this passage:
Henri took a drink and trained his eyes on the column of clues. When the hand once again came to rest at the corner of the pages, Henri stared at it, imagining what would happen if he touched those fingers.
The need to touch bolstered his desire, and he tentatively reached out. He stroked across that warm, coppery hand and sensed the instant Birch’s gaze reached his face, but he remained focused on the hands.
Birch turned his palm upwards in silent invitation. With a soft but firm touch, Henri took his time brushing his fingertips over ridges and creases, caressing the softness between the fingers, following the callused contours on the palm. Growing bolder, Henri slid his palm across those scratchy calluses, and the hand closed to envelop his with warmth, strength, connection. His eyes sank closed, and he exhaled as he relaxed into the pleasure of touch.
That single moment when Henri finally lets his guard down was amazing to me, and you can see the beautiful writing style. It was almost like poetry. My breath hitched and there were tears.
Birch was special as well. He’s a horse doctor, and he had an ability to not only diagnose any illness or injury, but he was also deeply caring about the animals and their owners. He was able to use his strengths to slowly get Henri to let his guard down and return to the land of the living. Once the dam broke, the two men became a loving couple. As I said, it was a slow burn that culminated into a roaring fire. It was actually a joy to read.
The background characters were nicely written. Jason and Tate, the men working with Henri, are also staying in the house on protective duty. They were strong and a little rough and tumble, but they cared about Henri and began to care about Birch as well. And then, there was Russell. He was quite insane and very violent. When he met Henri, he decided he needed to be his. When Henri made it clear he wasn’t interested, Russell went full out to make sure Henri was scared of him. He tortured Henri mercilessly, emotionally and physically. It was uncomfortable to read, but it was just so well done. I think this detail was necessary to make a reader completely understand just what Henri, Birch, and the others were going through.
The amount of action in The Devil’s Breath was perfect. It wasn’t over the top as to take control of the story. Every scene kept me on the edge of my seat, wondering what was coming next. There was a race against time, and usually I find myself skimming those scenes, but here I read every single word.
The ending was neat and tidy, and I loved it. It was a bit different than most, but that made it even more outstanding. I felt satisfied and happy. Honestly, I would have love for this book to go on for another 500 pages because I was so in love with Henri and Birch. I wanted more, but I think the author’s choice to end it there was a great one. If you’re a fan of hurt/comfort stories with just the right amount of action, intrigue, and romance, The Devil’s Breath is definitely for you. It’s outstanding and so worth reading.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.