Series Review: Once Upon a Crime Family by Tiffany Schmidt

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

Once Upon a Crime Family



Synopsis for Hold Me Like a Breath (from Goodreads):
Penelope Landlow has grown up with the knowledge that almost anything can be bought or sold—including body parts. She’s the daughter of one of the three crime families that control the black market for organ transplants.

Penelope’s surrounded by all the suffocating privilege and protection her family can provide, but they can’t protect her from the autoimmune disorder that causes her to bruise so easily.

And in her family’s line of work no one can be safe forever.

All Penelope has ever wanted is freedom and independence. But when she’s caught in the crossfire as rival families scramble for prominence, she learns that her wishes come with casualties, that betrayal hurts worse than bruises, that love is a risk worth taking . . . and maybe she’s not as fragile as everyone thinks.


Series: Once Upon a Crime Family
Author: Tiffany Schmidt
# of Books: 2 (Hold Me Like a Breath, Break Me Like a Promise)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Coming of Age, Fairy Tale Retelling, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: May 2015 – June 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook


**This post was originally published as a Fresh Friday review of the first book of the series. It has now been updated to reflect my conclusion to DNF this series. It will not be further updated.**

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

First off, I love the cover! That’s mostly why I even considered reading this book. Tiffany Schmidt has a few books on my  TBR list but the promise of a mafia/crime family book stole my attention. Add to that the fairy tale retelling, I’m sold!

I was hoping this book would be faster paced and grittier than Nicole William’s Crossing Stars (which was a retelling of Romeo and Juliet with modern day crime families). So I was really excited to read it but some “meh” reviews made me lower my initially high expectations.

The Concept / The World:

I’ll be honest, I didn’t know what the fairy tale element of Hold Me Like a Breath was until I read the author’s note at the end. That’s when everything clicked into place. So don’t go into this thinking it is a straight fairy tale retelling: it’s simply influenced by one particular fairy tale and that’s about it.

On the other hand, I loved the organ black-market aspect. It was nice to read a a story about a crime family that doesn’t deal in drugs or loans. It also added an interesting ethical/moral debate to the book (though it isn’t a highly philosophical book by any means).

The Plot:

I found this book took a long time to build up to the main plot. It definitely has a slower vibe to it but it always held my attention. I won’t lie: I definitely wanted more physical action when it comes to crime family conflicts but that really didn’t happen. It’s there in little spurts but nothing crazy.

While this book did have the gritty parts to it that I wanted, the majority of this plot is about Penelope growing up and becoming independent. Which is great but not entirely what I was expecting.

This book kept me on my toes. While I had predicted some plot elements (they were super obvious) there were other aspects that stopped me from knowing the ending right away. I really had no idea how everything was going to wrap up and I liked that a lot.

The Characters:

Penelope is exactly what you would imagine from a girl in an overprotective family; she’s struggling for independence and wanting to rebel. This can get really annoying in a character but I really warmed up to Penelope and loved watching her grow.

The rest of the cast is pretty typical and perhaps borders on the cliche; however, they really worked for this story and truly supported Penelope in a way that didn’t take away from her development or overshadow her.

The Romance:

While the romance is really important in terms of the plot, it isn’t some grand romance novel. For me, it left a little something to be desired (I LOVE romances) and I wasn’t sold on it. I think it is was how it was executed (which is one of the twists I talked about earlier) and how I had my heart set on one outcome but it didn’t play out like I expected.

So while I don’t love how everything unfolded (that’s just the romantic in me), I think it worked for this story and liked that it took a backseat when it needed to.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I have NO clue what is in store for the rest of the series. I assume it’s going to follow a different set of characters but I have no idea. It isn’t high on my priority list to read but I’m curious to see what the sequel’s spin will be.

I have opted not to pick up the sequel because A) my library doesn’t have a copy and B) the plotline doesn’t interest me.

My Rating: DNF

Hold Me Like a Breath 3.5/5 | Break Me Like a Promise N/A


I enjoyed reading Hold Me Like a Breath even if it wasn’t what I was expecting. It’s not a high action, fast paced adventure rather, it is a coming of age story with a small fairy tale basis. Unfortunately, it just didn’t WOW me. I’m interested in the sequel but I’m really have no idea what to expect so I’m not counting down the days; hence, time will tell!

Read if You Like: slower stories, coming of age stories, crime families
Avoid if You: want a integrated fairy tale retelling, don’t like coming of age stories, want more action





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Comments 2

  • I actually gave this book one star, but all your points made sense! I liked the IDEA of the black market aspect, personally I felt like there wasn’t enough of it here. I maybe did feel like the romance overshadowed the whole point of the story.The romantic in me was nitpicky about this aspect, too! I get what you mean about the side characters being supportive (or more protective, rather) yet still giving the spotlight to Penelope. That was nice.

    Despite all my disagreements, this review was really organized and all the things you mentioned were legit. Awesome review! 🙂

    Aimee @ Deadly Darlings

    • I can totally see why you gave this book one star. I think it really depends on what your expectations were going into the book.

      I agree, I wish the black market aspect was developed more. It sounds like all the books in the series will revolve around organ black markets so maybe it will get more attention later. (At least I hope!)

      Thanks for reading 🙂

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