Fun But Flawed: The Once Upon a Crime Series by Tiffany Schmidt

I occasionally do double or series reviews. If I was to be completely honest, I do them for mostly my own convenience. I really do like it when I can read a book and the series is either complete or mostly complete. It saves a lot of grief, but of the flip side I am an impatient person and if there’s a book I want to read and there’s seven or so books coming out after the original, I’m probably just going to go in that year long wait mode rather than a seven year wait mode.

That being said, I had the first book in The Once Upon a Crime series on my shelf for over a year, and it wasn’t until its companion sequel was released I decided to read it.

I have some issues with the series as a whole, but it isn’t terrible. It has a lot of things going for it, mostly the premises involving organized crime. It’s a subject matter YA hasn’t exploited too much yet, though the books that I’ve read that featured it have been sort of shitty to be honest. But the whole black market organ donation plot line I thought really could work. Or at least be better than General Hospital’s version of it. The result, this mafia themed series suffered from the same bloody problems as General Hospital did sans random hot guys taking off their shirts.

That’s a shame.

I really had a difficult time with how the organized crime was played with, especially in the second book. Anyway, I feel like it’s best I go into the highs and lows of both Hold Me Like a Breath and Break Me Like a Promise.

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.

Source: GoodReads

Hold Me Like a Breath. I read that title with one of those oozy fake Southern accents. Usually the type of accent that is only used when selling something ridiculously sweet—like instant TV or something extremely greasy like fried chicken.

Needless to say, the FDA needs to put a warning on that accent.  Title issues aside, I did like aspects of this book. I liked the fact that Penny clearly struggled throughout her condition throughout the book, and wasn’t your typical mob princess because of it. I liked her relationship with her brother, with Garrett. I liked the set up of the plot.

The execution though—meh.

First of all, something pretty traumatic happens to Penny during the book and I was at first like great—because up until that point the book had been a bit of a snore. But that act, I like Schmidt has the balls I am totally going to eat this up.

However, I think doing what she did end it up causing the book to be a bit of a fuck up especially with how unrealistic things turned after Penny experienced said trauma. I mean, she ends up calling the vice president of all people for him and pretty much sat on a park bench until Prince Charming bumped into her.

I’ll back up a little bit she called the freaking vice president. I had to have an eyer oll when I read that. And I was like—oh, so if I get into a bind those that mean I can totally call like Prince Harry to come rescue me.


Okay, so there is some build up—like a scene—to the connection but it was still a little stupid. Much like Penny’s meeting and relationship with Char (aka Prince Charming who bumped into her when she was sitting there like a googly eyed idiot, despite almost getting killed).

Oh, and by the way Penny. You don’t give random people nicknames that is just so—so—I am not even going to describe how insulting that is readers.   Especially since Penny only gives him a nickname because she doesn’t like his real name.

Their relationship is about that insulting. It’s weird with these books, and especially with Break Me Like a Promise—which I’ll get to in a bit—I do not ship the main ship. In fact, I hate them. I want to totally write an AU fan fic for both of these books. The bones were there for a good Garrett/Penny ship and the author just threw them away which just has me shaking my head because Char. Well, he’s as bland as they come and I really think their relationship was only developed for like twenty pages—tops.

Then there’s the way the whole organized crime bit was handled. Like I said in my intro, it was the major crux in both of these books. But not so much in here. There was a bit of mob brutality here, but I wish this book or its sequel would’ve discussed that the business did hurt people.

Overall Rating: A C. Some solid bones there, but I hated the ship and I just thought it didn’t fully go into some of the issues like it should’ve. I originally rated this one higher, but upon recollection. Ugh. Maybe I should throw it into my storage bin.

No one is unbreakable.

All Magnolia Vickers has ever wanted was to follow father’s path as head of the Family Business. But new legislation is poised to destroy the Family’s operations in the black-market organ trade and Maggie’s recent behavior has wrecked the business-savvy reputation she’s worked her whole life to build.

She’s given an ultimatum: shape up or step aside.

Then Maggie messes up: she downloads a virus onto her father’s computer, and must sneak it off-estate for repair. When Alex, a tech whiz, uncovers the type of information on the machine, he offers Maggie a choice: her Family can give him a kidney, or he’ll irreparably scramble the data. Maggie agrees, but has no intention of keeping her promise or ever seeing him again. That night Alex shows up at her Family estate with copies of confidential Family files and a shocking revelation—the kidney is for him.

The Vickers aren’t willing to let Alex out of their sight, so he moves onto their estate and Maggie is assigned to be his keeper. A task she resents and he enjoys making as challenging as possible. But procuring black market organs is becoming increasingly difficult, and as Alex’s health declines, she’s surprised to find herself falling for him.

Like it or not, Maggie must accept that if she wants to save Alex’s life and carve out a place in the new legalized organ business, she’s going to have to fight for both.

Source: GoodReads

Oh, this is so much better than the first book in the series.

At least that’s what I read in reviews. To be fair, a part of me loved Break Me Like a Promise a lot more than its predecessor. For one thing, Maggie Grace could totally kick Penny’s ass then some. She has a bit of an Ava Jerome thing going on—except unlike Ava, I doubt she’d sleep with her boyfriend’s father and get impregnanted with him.

Though who knows, maybe in a few years.

Just kidding aside.

I really liked Maggie Grace though. She was a flawed well developed character. And this book made me feel her relationship with Carter. I so wanted that ship to work out. If this book was General Hospital they so would’ve brought him back from the dead. That shipped just sizzled.

What ship didn’t sizzle was the one with Alex.

I had hopes for it. The initial blackmail attempt looked like these two could be interesting together—foes turned into lovers. And I liked that he wasn’t traditionally attractive. But then—ack.

Alex had to constantly insult Maggie and she somehow fell for him despite being called a spoiled princesa every other page because I don’t know—Stockholm Syndrome? I really didn’t know.

And Daddy’s a mobster. Most mobsters so wouldn’t allow his daughter to be blackmailed like Maggie’s daddy did. Most would’ve just hired some one to kill Alex.

But we can’t be that lucky here because these are ethical mobsters whose code is apparently even better than Sonny Corinthos the most moral mobster in televison history.

Whatever though.

I just dealt with it for plot purposes while try my sister—who was visiting—tried to keep me from drinking myself into a stupor as I read Schmidt’s version of Texan dialects.

Ya’ll  We ain’t all cowboys in the Lone Star state.   Ye haw.  I’m gettin me a bursky before a ridin my horse back to yonder ranch.


I really think unless you’ve lived in Texas, you should abstain from that shit. I’ve lived in the state most of my years and I don’t really say ya’ll that much. And while my sister’s dog owns a cowboy hat I don’t. I haven’t even rode a fucking horse.   Oh, and I despise country music.

So…stereotype much book?

Oh, and UT isn’t the only fucking school in the state.   Seriously.

Like I said though, I loved Maggie Grace though and I did like the Marter relationship—dear lord, if ever there was a character to bring back from the dead. But this book just annoyed me, much like Hold Me Like a Breath annoyed me.

Overall Rating: B-

Concluding Thoughts:

If there’s another one of these books I’ll probably read it. But going in, I’ll know that there will be some things that I hate. And more likely my ship will get trashed for a cliché annoying one. Or for a jerk who tames an apparent “shrew” like MC by telling her she’s spoiled and telling her that she should smile more. Whatever though, The Once Upon a Crime Family books are interesting enough but definitely flawed.




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