Stealing Breath, by Joanne Brothwell
Crescent Moon Press, March 2012
Deep in the backwoods of North Dakota, twenty–one year old Sarah Ross is searching for a missing child when she is attacked by a glowing–eyed, transparent… creature. Sarah survives, destroying the monster by using mysterious abilities she didn’t even know she had.
Bloody and bruised, Sarah flees the scene and runs directly into Evan Valente, a handsome, charismatic stranger who helps her back to safety. But what is Evan doing out in the forest at five in the morning?
Turning to a healer, Sarah is shocked to learn her eyes bear the mark of the Indigo Child—an evolved human with the ability to feel the emotions of others. But her indigo aura also makes her an easy target for those who wish to consume her powerful essence.
Soon, Sarah is falling deeply in love with Evan and wants nothing more than to follow her heart and trust that he is the man he says he is. But she can’t ignore the lingering feeling that Evan is hiding a terrible secret. The deeper she digs, the more danger she faces, leading her on a course that will force her to face the darkest, innermost parts of her soul.
Sarah Ross is an empath. She can feel the emotions of other people near her as if they are her own. In fear of being misunderstood, she doesn’t talk about it ever. On one summer day, while partying camping with friends, she wakes to a child’s cry for help. The news has been reporting for days that a ten-year-old girl is missing from the Native American reservation, so Sarah ventures into the woods calling out Jessica’s name. But as she gets further into the woods, the tone of the voice changes from fearful to taunting. She walks into a clearing to find an abandoned house, ravaged by elements and drunk teenagers. She follows the voice inside, up the stairs, and falls through weak wood. It’s while injured that she is confronted by something she can’t explain. It’s human-ish, transparent and shimmery, like a mirage, with eyes like yellow bile. And when it touches her, she feels yucky and suffocated. Reacting on instinct, she pushes the foreign feelings out, and the creature retreats.
She stumbles out of the house and runs into the owner of the property, a gorgeous specimen of male with dark hair and blue eyes, named Evan Valente. He helps her back to his SUV, patches her up and returns her to her friends. Sarah cannot read him the way she does most other people, but she feels a connection with him the moment they touch.
Sarah learns through her native friend’s mother, and the woman’s contacts on the reservation, that the thing that attacked her was actually a person. The Navajo, they say, have people called Skinwalkers who practice dark magic and who use it for astral projection. In their disembodied state, they seek out souls to consume, which increases their power. The natives have known that Skinwalkers are in their town for a while. They are certain that the intruders are responsible for the disappearances of the missing girl and her mother. They believe that Sarah, who they call “The Indigo Child” for the violet glow of her spirit, is their next target.
While Sarah finds the information hard to believe, Evan is incredibly receptive, which gives her the confidence to tell him things she normally wouldn’t tell anyone. But he’s more than he seems to be…which could be taken for granted given he’s tall, dark, handsome, and the object of affection in a paranormal novel. He’s not in Slave Lake to develop land, as he claims. Nor was his presence at his woodland property during Sarah’s attack a coincidence. However, Sarah’s challenge with Evan isn’t coming to terms with these deceptions. Her wealthy Italian hottie from Navajo country has dangerous secrets lurking in deep, dark places. Despite them all, she’ll have to trust him if she plans to go on breathing.
I found the concept behind Stealing Breath very intriguing. The extraordinary power in this story, while having a magical component, is untapped human potential. Some characters are taught magic to wield power, but others are drawing upon energies naturally, instinctively, and even obliviously. The connection between Sarah and Evan is palpable, particularly in my favorite scene of the book, where he dives off a bridge, catches her and rolls into the water below. At a time when she thought she couldn’t trust him, the moment she feels his arms around her, she knows without thinking that she was safe. And if you read books for sex and fights, the author has included several scenes that bring down the house. I actually mean that literally.
This book has much going for it, but there were a few things that I found distracting from the story. For one, the author uses conversation in many places where it gets underfoot. Another, the pacing of the revelations is rather quick. I’m a fan of slow reveals, so I preferred to be strung along a bit. These are both personal preference; other readers may not share it.
Otherwise, Joanne Brothwell has woven an intriguing story using Native American and Italian folk tales, and set her characters up nicely for a sequel.