Edmund “Fitz” Fitzgerald grew up in the small town of Cherry Creek and is now the fire chief. Some may find it an unlikely career path, as Fitz was trapped in a fire as a teen and still badly scarred, but he cares about the town and the people in it. Fitz has a good life in Cherry Creek, with lots of friends, but he isn’t sure romance is in his future.
Antoine Tremblay has been hired as a consultant by Cherry Creek to help revitalize the town. It is a lovely place, but some of the businesses are struggling and the town needs some better marketing. Antoine grew up in a nomadic family and has never really had a place to call home. His arrival in town is marred by a car accident that puts him face to face with Fitz. The two get off to a rocky start, as Fitz is turned off by Antoine’s seeming lack of appreciation for the small town, and Antoine is insulted by Fitz suggesting he is a snobbish out of towner.
Even as Antoine begins to befriend the people of Cherry Creek, things are still tense between him and Fitz. The men find themselves running into each other all over town and can’t seem to stop snapping and poking at one another. It doesn’t help that Antoine finds himself in one accident and dangerous situation after another, and Fitz always seems to be the one to bail him out, making things even more awkward. The men can’t stand each other… until suddenly they can. Both Fitz and Antoine realize that their anger toward each other is a mask for their attraction and something is growing between them. But with Antoine’s time in Cherry Creek running out, both men have to decide if they are willing to reach for what they want with each other, or risk losing the connection they have built.
So, as always with Cherry Creek books, I need to start with some housekeeping because this stuff gets a bit complicated. Love Him Breathless is the second book in E.M. Lindsey’s delightful On the Market series. It follows Love Him Free, but while Rocco and Simon get passing mention here, the stories stand apart, aside from the town and the people in it. This book actually tracks more closely with Kate Hawthorne’s Room for Love series, which also takes place in Cherry Creek, and where many of these folks are also featured. We also get appearances here from Max, Collin, and Spencer from Cloudy with a Chance of Love. You don’t have to be familiar with any of these books to read Love Him Breathless, but if you have, it will give you more of a sense of the town and the many characters. And finally, those of you who are fans of Lindsey’s Breaking the Rules series will recognize Antoine as the identical twin brother to Marcel from Temptation. In this case, Antoine definitely has some issues surrounding his relationship with Marcel, and having read that book will give you more insight into his character. I think you can enjoy this without having read that book, but your experience will be richer if you are familiar with it.
Ok, so on to this story. I have not made a secret of the fact that I am a huge fan of Lindsey’s writing and this book is a great example of why. She writes characters that are so interesting and well developed, who often go through hardships, but who come out the other side with love and happiness. The happy endings are often hard won, but they are so rewarding. Both Antoine and Fitz are such engaging characters, even as they find themselves constantly at odds. As readers, it is plain to see these men have feelings for one another, but they are both resisting and it is fueling the fire of their annoyance at each other. Poor Antoine, he finds himself in one near death experience after another, and who is there to witness his humiliation and frustration time and again but Fitz? Both of these men are scared of what they are feeing, and so they push back at one another, but the chemistry is so strong and, when they finally give in, it is just delicious.
As I said, Lindsey is great at character development and she gives both men rich backstories that really help to give as sense of who they are, as well as why they are in such conflict. Neither one feels quite worthy, and both worry about the temporary nature of their relationship with Antoine only in town for a short time. It is almost easier to let things go than to take a chance and risk being hurt, and it takes bravery on both their parts to step up and admit how they feel.
The town is a wonderful backdrop to the story, charming and a tiny bit crazy. The characters feel like family after reading so many stories set there. Sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming to have so many books and series set in the same town, but it is also a lovely comfort to return to a place where people feel so familiar and we are getting to know the rhythms of the place.
There are a few issues that seem to not fully resolve here (some potential unwanted land development, behavior issues with Fitz’s nephew), but I am going to assume that these storylines will continue to play out and we will see these characters again. I’ll admit, I do find it fun to meet side folks in one story and wonder where and when they might show up again in other books.
So this is another great trip to Cherry Creek and a nice installment in Lindsey’s series. I loved both Fitz and Antoine and enjoyed their journey from enemies to lovers.