Make Me Exhale by Marie Johnston

POV: Dual 1st Person
PoP: 66%
Tropes: Small Town; Grumpy Sunshine; Slow Burn; Boss/Employee; Brewery
Series: Oil Barrons book 5
Type of Series: Series of Standalones
Rate:  5/5 Stars
Release Date:  April 4, 2023

Trust fund? Check. Plans to restore an old train foundry into a brewery? Check. Grumpy project manager? Sigh . . . check.

Going into this book, you truly have no idea as to who Isla Barron is. If you read the previous books in the series, you may have created a picture based on interactions and stories told, but this woman is so much more.

This is truly a story where the heroine shines and carries the story. How she finds her strength and self-worth with subtle help of the hero. McCoy Cunningham has a back story that takes a while to get, but you know that he was emotionally/personally damaged by people in his past. Which makes his story intriguing. I won’t deny that I cried multiple times through this story because Marie Johnston creates such a real depiction of Isla and her life. Honestly, there were some moments and emotions she was dealing with that I couldn’t help but see mirrored in my own life. My heart broker for her in so many ways because this is a girl who truly is stifled by her family and she isn’t sure how to take control without hurting people. Because she is inherently a people pleaser. At least to those who she things she should be pleasing.

I didn’t love McCoy for part of the book, but it was because the way in which he held so much back. But as you learn about his past and his hang-ups you can understand and see where his grumpy nature comes from. And he creates this stereotyped idea of Isla when they first met, but he soon sees that she it nothing like she appears to be at first glance.

The Barrons as a whole show growth and healing through this story. There are so many poignant and emotional moments in this book that I was truly sad to see it end.

If you follow the podcast at all… you know I am a HUGE Marie Johnston Fan. You can find my review for so many of her books throughout the website.

Here are a few.

Oil Kings Series Review

Make Me Whole

Cherished and Corrupted Duet

The Dragon’s Oath

Or you can check out the happy hour with Marie Johnston as she talked her writing process as well as all things Oil Barrons.