Book Review: With Every Breath by Elizabeth Camden (2014)

With Every Breath by Elizabeth Camden
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It is the year 1891 and tuberculosis has become one of the major causes of death in America. For doctor/researcher Trevor McDonough, this is unacceptable. Ever since he entered the medical profession, he has pondered and planned ways to defeat this dreadful disease, to the point where he has gained funding for his own research wing of a local hospital in Washington, D.C. Only the patients with tuberculosis in their blood as well as in their lungs are accepted, and he knows that he cannot save any of them and so do they, but his research for a cure could potentially save the lives of countless others.

In need of an assistant to calculate and tabulate his findings, Trevor decides to hire Kate Livingston, the girl who challenged him every step of way during their school years, who was equally as smart as him in many respects, and who lost a college scholarship to him upon their graduation. Needless to say, Kate is not necessarily thrilled at the idea of working for Trevor, not only because of his prickly, icy demeanor that she remembers so well from her school days, but also because death haunts the ward she will be assisting in, and it brings with it painful memories of losing her young husband four years ago so suddenly, albeit not to tuberculosis. Trevor is fully capable of putting aside pesky emotions in order to achieve his end goal, the eradication of tuberculosis, but is Kate capable of doing the same? Especially when she starts to realize that maybe his prickly demeanor is only his way of protecting himself from getting hurt, and maybe she is ready to love again.

Let's start with the positive, shall we. Trevor McDonough is an amazing character. I am a lover of the Myers-Briggs Personalty Typing method and so I immediately set about determining Trevor's type. He is a brilliant INTP, one of my favorite types of all time, and so his prickliness and his ability to push through emotions and get the work done appeals to me on so many levels. He is not cold-hearted and icy like Kate constantly harangues, but simply able to perform his work while not getting bogged down in feelings. That is what internal thinking as your first function will do for you, and Trevor does it brilliantly. So, in the terms of the hero, Elizabeth Camden created a winner.

Now, on to the middling ground. The cover. And the title. Neither of them represent this book with any degree of accuracy. In fact, they are a misrepresentation that offends me. This is not a fluffy little novel with the heroine standing in a shining Colosseum-type structure with sunlight shining in ribbons behind her. Even the dress is not accurate according to my clothing historian sister. This story takes place in the center of Washington, D.C. That aside, the editing of the cover was very badly done. It looks photo-shopped, never a good thing, and I couldn't help but compare it to recent Deeanne Gist and Jody Hedlund covers that are the epitome of quality. This cover is lazy in all respects, but the title is equally as bad. It makes the book sound like some simpering little romance when it really could have been so much more.

Which leads me to the truly negative. I dislike giving truly negative reviews, which is why I'm still staying with a 3 star review. However, I am disgruntled with this rising habit a lot of female authors have in creating spunky, "modern" heroines in a historic setting. Kate irked me from the moment she entered the book. She is arrogant, spoiled, and too all-fired sure of herself. She is bossy and in no way is she representative of Victorian femininity of the time. In terms of pure personality, I finally figured out why I dislike her because I struggle liking the ESFJ personality type. They are so mothering that they smother because they "know" they're right in their plans for you and you had better darn well go along with them because they won't give up or back down. Your dreams don't matter because you're wrong. I hate this type of character and so Kate was an instant negative for me. I'm sure a lot of people will love her, and that's fantastic, but I am not one of them.

To be fair, she experiences an epiphany 15 pages from the end. But it didn't happen soon enough to placate me or urge me to like Kate any better. I hope she and Trevor will be very happy together.

Now on to the biggest pitfall of all for me. This book should not have been a romance. The actual plot, once you get past all of Kate's romantic pondering, is about a man looking to cure tuberculosis. There is more to it than that, bits of development that deepened my interest by leaps and bounds, but I don't want to give spoilers. It is a fascinating concept, and I loved every bit of this book that actually had to do with the plot. So you could say that I love half of it. But the rest was pure romance novel and it did a disservice to an otherwise brilliant story.

I'm being 100% honest in that I expected and hoped for more from Elizabeth Camden. She has great skill. She is a little repetitive about emotions and feelings and doubts, like Kate always reverting back to saying Trevor has a heart of ice. Once was enough. Show us he has a heart of ice (because he actually doesn't). Kate doesn't always have to say or think it. But on the whole she is a good new author in the Christian world of writing. But she needs to work on making her heroines more relatable, and maybe cut back on the typical, dime a dozen romantic feelings that permeate too many Christian historic novels now. This book had meat, but it was bogged down by too much cherry pie. I hope her next work appeals to me more.

- I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review, which, as you can obviously tell, I have given.

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