Today is a lazy Monday. Or at least it should be. I think we are kind of in denial about our weekend being over! Suddenly, I am like 3 books behind in my reviews. So I am here playing a bit of catch up this afternoon (even if I want to just take a nap!).
Today I am reviewing With Every Breath by Elizabeth Camden. This is the first book I have read by her, and I really enjoyed it. Camden creates an intriguing and satisfying story amidst a complex historical backdrop. And there’s a bit of romance 🙂
- This book was a unique read for me because of its historical period set in the early 1890s in Washington DC. I have not read any books from this time period before. But I obviously should read more!
- I loved learning more about this time and experiencing the world Camden creates. In fact, this book peaked my interest in the time period and in the search for a tuberculosis vaccine so much that I actually did a bit of research after finishing it.
- I want to live in this book for a little while–specifically in Kate’s family’s boarding house. I could almost taste her mother’s cooking and hear the lively conversation as I read.
With Every Breath by Elizabeth Camden chronicles the story of Kate Livingston who takes a job searching for the cure for tuberculous from her former arch nemesis, Trevor McDonough. The two were fierce competitors in school where Trevor beat Kate for a scholarship to college. Now 10 years later, Trevor seeks out Kate to help with his research. Kate begins work with her usual intensity and competitive spirit. But she is unprepared for the difficulties of the job and the fear of death that haunts every person who falls to the disease. As she gets to know Trevor more, she finds herself falling in love with him. But Trevor holds many dark secrets of his own. Can Kate discover more about Trevor? And will his ultimate secret tear them apart?
Kate is an inquisitive and fascinating protagonist. She has depth and drive and ambition. She is kind and works hard. She is the type of woman that I aspire to be. Although she has fears and has known terrible grief in her life, she continues to work hard and fight for what she wants. I love that Trevor sought her out because he knows how competitive she is. He appreciates her value and her strengths. Kate reminds me of myself in her firm desire to uncover the secrets of Trevor’s past. I laughed as she continued to press him for answers and to do all sorts of research he didn’t know about. She won’t take no for an answer. Perhaps my favorite part of Kate is her ability to move past her history with Trevor and fall in love with him.
Trevor is an intriguing and complex character. He is not your stereotypical romantic hero. In fact, he tries to be the opposite. He focuses almost exclusively on his work. He doesn’t try to make friends. He hides dark secrets from his past. And yet, Kate influences him to change. He comes to her parents house for dinner to make some allies. He confides in her. And he even falls in love with her too. I really enjoyed reading about Trevor’s journey and how he overcame difficult obstacles. Another beautifully written character!
I love that we get inside the heads of both Trevor and Kate. I loved getting similar scenes from each of them. The dual perspective was fresh and easy to follow. Camden wrote both perspectives well and creates an engaging story because of those perspectives. The reader knows more than either character does. And that makes the story more dramatic and engaging. I rooted for both of them and wanted them to both have their happily ever afters.
This novel is a love story but it is also a mystery. Both elements of the story are beautifully interwoven to create a compelling novel. I was surprised at the depth of the story. This is not just a love story (which I also love to read 🙂 ). Don’t get me wrong, I love the romance in this story. Kate and Trevor are a beautiful couple with depth and complexity. They really understand what love means and what it takes to make love last. But I loved that we got even more than that. This novel is a mystery and a drama finding a cure for tuberculosis and discovering who is trying to stop them. I was impressed by the ways Camden creates tension and uncertainty alongside the hope and passion. This novel takes readers on a unique ride through so many emotions and experiences. I loved the ride.
The romance is beautiful in this novel. One of my favorite lines is from Trevor and it is totally swoon-worthy 🙂
“Do you know how long I’ve wanted you? You’re like sunlight and water and air to me. All you need to do is walk across my line of sight and my whole world lights up.”
With Every Breath, page 238
If I have one qualm with this novel, it would be the ending. I felt like the book was a bit too long for the story. The climax for me was the solving of the mystery surrounding the blackmailer. I thought everything would wrap up right there. But we had several more chapters before Trevor and Kate finally could commit to each other. I appreciate that Kate had to go on a particular religious journey to commit to Trevor. But I would have liked that to resolve quicker in the novel. I did love the epilogue. I always love seeing where the characters end up in a few years.
I always appreciate authors who can seamlessly interweave religion into their stories. I think this is hard to do without sounding preachy or creating a disjointed story. Camden does this quite well. God and religion are a part of this story but do not overpower it. In fact, it is God that drives this story for both Trevor and Kate. I think that is a profound lesson for any reader-God is the best source of direction in our lives.
I think some of the best quotes from the novel come in connection with God. And they also tie in well with the title. With every breath could reference a multitude of ideas. But for me, it connected with the idea of hard work–finding a cure with every breath. And also being strong enough to love someone–with every breath–through any trial.
“‘Dreams are hard,’ he said. ‘You work toward them, struggle and sacrifice, but that doesn’t always mean you will get there. I used to believe if I wanted something badly enough, I was destined to win it so long as I never gave up trying. Now I’m not so sure.'”
“There’s no shame in grieving. It’s normal. Grief freshens our perspective on life; it helps us appreciate the blessings we’ve been showered with.”
“Surely it was a blessing that no one could see into the future.”
With Every Breath, pages 76, 116,153 & 241
And my favorite quote came near the end of the novel when Kate realizes that if she puts her trust in God, anything is possible. A great reminder for me.
How could Kate possibly understand what was in the mind of God? God never asked her to understand Him. He asked her to trust Him.”
With Every Breath, page
Overall, a great historical fiction novel with the right balance of history and romance. This novel has only gotten me excited to read more from Elizabeth Camden! I have a few of her books on reserve at the library now 🙂
What are some of your favorite Elizabeth Camden books?
What other historical fiction books do I need to try?