Breathe by Kristen Ashley

So. Where to begin…?

As the least romantic person I know, I stepped outside of my comfort zone this weekend. I read a romance novel. Yes, you read that right. And not just any romance novel, a romance novel featuring a debauched cop and a virginal librarian…

(Beat that, I dare you.)

And you know what? It wasn’t that bad. I picked up ‘Breathe’ by Kristen Ashley because she was a local author (who uses various Colorado locales) and she features a librarian in a prominent, if stereotypical position within the book. And if I’m being honest, I relate to Faye on a cursory level – all I ever wanted was a guy to worship the ground I walk on and tell me how brilliant I am. Is that too much to ask? No, no it’s not.


Detective Chace Keaton has had a rough year. He recently finished cleaning out the dirty police department in his hometown of Carnal, Colorado. In the process, his wife (whom he hated and cheated on frequently) was murdered, a friend was wrongly convicted, and he was blackmailed by his own father. He is on edge and angry. So when he meets the town’s pretty, shy librarian in the woods at two in the morning, he is intrigued. Although he rudely pushes her away, he can’t help but seek her out and later apologize. Faye, confused by his mixed messages, reacts incorrectly and kisses him.

“What the fuck was that?” He ground out.

“I…” she started, blinking again, but he didn’t let her continue.

“Don’t do that shit again, Faye,” he growled, took a step toward her and pointed in her face. “Do not do that shit again.”. He dropped his hand but put his face where his hand had been and kept going. “I don’t know what bullshit game you’re playin’, following me around, suddenly everywhere I am. But straight up, I’m not playin’ it. You got some romantic idea I’m a wounded soul you can heal with…” he shook his head and flipped out a hand, “your limited charms, think again. I already told you, I do not want your concern. I do not want your company. And I do not want your inexperienced bullshit fumbling. Trust me, I had in my bed the master at that shit and she got nowhere. And you, just now, got as much as you’ll ever get. Get this in your head Faye, all I want from you is for you to leave me the fuck alone.”

This is where Faye and I part ways. Chace may be having a bad year, he may even be having a bad decade, but a little respect and kindness wouldn’t hurt. He’s well aware she’s inexperienced and he cruelly points it out. Twice. And he calls her fat (although I didn’t include that passage) when she’s clearly not. I certainly don’t believe all love affairs are classy and considerate, but why would you continue to pursue a man who speaks to you like that? My main issue with this particular novel is that I did not care for the dominant personality of the hero or the easy acquiescence of the heroine. Faye’s able to – of course – overlook his rant and Chace realizes he can’t resist her. They begin dating, but take it slow because, as I indicated above, Faye is a virgin. Although Chace is far from chaste, Faye doesn’t mind. In fact, she enjoys knowing he is experienced.

If he wasn’t, how was he going to be a good teacher, showing his lady love how to give him pleasure at the same time giving her more than she’d ever dreamed? So I didn’t mind that Chace played the field, including with Misty.

The rest of the novel is your standard romance. There’s tension, there’s drama, there’s sex, and there’s happily ever after. I don’t consider that a spoiler, but sorry if I surprised you. However, I have so many problems with the aforementioned passages that I don’t know where to begin. So I won’t. I knew going into this that I’m not the person this genre is aimed at. I’m often more willful than is desirable and I have an independent streak roughly the size of Russia. I read ‘Breathe’ because I believed it would be a welcome distraction from the dour and depressing books (and news) I’ve been reading. And it was. Sometimes we all need to believe that everything will work out perfectly. Crimes with be solved. Passion will be had. There’ll be a beautiful house with a picket fence, 2.5 kids, and a love that lasts a lifetime. ‘Breathe’ is in no way genre-defying, the writing is fairly standard, and the author uses the word whisper(ed) 487 times. It’s in need of a good editor and the stereotyping irritated me. But, for what it’s worth, it delivers on everything it promises (which isn’t much) and it distracted me from my everyday bookish woes (like the prescient appearance of the Tea Party in a King novel). I can’t imagine I’ll pick up another romance anytime soon, but I certainly don’t regret reading it. If you like your cops dirty, your librarians pure, and a town with a punny name, ‘Breathe’ may very well be for you. 2.5/5.

Do you ever read outside your genre or read for distraction? Would you read a book that perpetuated a stereotype you find annoying? And furthermore, why are librarians often depicted as virginal, shy women who can’t get their head out of a book? Please see Urban Dictionary for the proper definition of a librarian.


When Chace and Faye finally have their first (and sweetest) date, he brings over pizza and beer. Naturally it’s a meat lover’s pizza, this is a Colorado mountain town after all. Personally, I’m a veggie person – tomato, basil, spinach, mushroom, and green pepper – if you’re ever tempted to cook for me.

30 thoughts on “Breathe by Kristen Ashley

  1. 1. I would have told that guy to fuck off and the rest of the book wouldn’t have happened.

    2. Romance is definitely out of my comfort zone, and I just can’t read it. I can’t take it seriously, and I can’t read it for fun because I end up bitching the whole time. Heh.

    But yes, I do read out of my comfort zone from time to time, and I’m pleasantly surprised about half the time.


    1. It was very tempting at that point. I actually cringed for the heroine when she was still pining for him after he shoved her and yelled at her. Have some self-respect. I’d like to think love and respect go hand in hand, but romance novels make me doubt myself.

      I’m not cynical exactly, I prefer to think of myself as a realist. But I have a hard time taking these novels seriously too. It’s not that they are bad or I’m sure they fill a niche for some readers, but I worry for the women who need this type of escape. It’s never been my goal to be taken care of or catered to. I value my alone time way too much to ever become voluntarily dependent on anyone. That being said, this novel certainly did take my mind of inanity (feel free to add the s to that too) that is the Tea Party and off of some ongoing family issues that I can’t fix.

      My typical outside my comfort zone is paranormal or urban fantasy. Typically I stick with dark or literary fiction (you’re surprised, I know).


      1. Well, great minds and all that.

        (Typically, depending on who says this to me, my first thought is “…bastard”. Just thought I’d share that lovely bit of information in the hopes that saying your mind is like mine doesn’t seem like an insult. ;))


  2. I do read romance occasionally but these doormat women are driving me nuts. I reviewed one recently where I was embarrassed for the heroine. Chasing the ‘hero’, fretting when he didn’t call, throwing herself into his arms. Is this really what women want?


    1. I wasn’t serious when I said I wanted a guy to worship the ground I walked on. That being said, I wouldn’t fight a guy who wanted to do so. However, I’m not going to force/beg/chase someone to love me either. I get embarrassed for women on both ends of the spectrum. I consider the other end of the spectrum this (it’s a girls version of the nice guy’s “all women only want to be friends with me”, but there’s some merit to it too. I’m including it because of the dumb women are cuter comment):

      In addition to the doormat heroine, the possessive hero is completely lost on me too. You really want a guy to watch your every move, call you every five minutes, and need a daily itinerary of what you’re doing and who with? There’s safety and then there’s stalker. Sigh.


      1. I hear you. There is nothing wrong with wanting, heck even expecting, to be cherished and appreciated. But you shouldn’t have to give up your self respect to get there. I don’t understand the possessive hero either. Sometimes a girl just needs to be left alone. 🙂


    1. I don’t mind a good romance and this one was okay, I just don’t know that I ever got past how mean the love interest is initially. But I agree, it’s easy to sink into the story, especially when textbooks are the typical book fare!


  3. Ha! You review made me laugh. Although, I don’t read romance novels, I know what you mean when sometimes you just want to read a book that is different from your norm. For me, that usually is non-fiction or maybe crime fiction (the thinky kind not the gory kind).

    Slightly askew–Have you heard of the recent self-published dinosaur erotica? Perhaps, bizarre is the right word….It was on The Colbert Report last night.—new-jersey–robo-teachers—amazon-erotica


    1. Thanks! That’s mostly what I was going for, though occasionally these novels make me fear for humanity (or at least equality, there was a lot of “you can’t handle what I have to deal with” in the book). I read a lot of non-fiction for work, mostly what I like to refer to as the “scary food books” as of late. Every time I read one it makes me never want to eat again. The last two science book clubs I’ve hosted have been food related (first topic was GMOs and the current topic is urban agriculture and the rise of locavores – I feel pretentious every time I type locavore).

      I haven’t! The Colbert Report is one of the reasons I miss cable. When someone sits down to write something, I admire the person that comes up with dinosaur erotica. I can honestly say that my mind, typically an irreverent place on the best of days, has never once gone there. The world’s gone mad. Of course, I thought that after St. Martin’s published Jane Eyre Laid Bare.


      1. Good grief. I haven’t heard of Jane Eyre Laid Bare but now you have me off and running to the article on Huffington Post. There are so many… Fifty Shades of Louisa May or Bound By Honor: An Erotic Novel of Maid Marian. It all seems like it would be on the Onion.

        I’ve stayed away from “scary food books” mostly because 1) like you said, I will never eat food again and 2) I generally avoid non-fiction that I will agree with (while I enjoy the affirmation of my ideas, sometimes “preaching to the choir” gets boring after awhile.

        Last week, I read Stephen Hawking’s new book. It was very enjoyable and quite interesting. I recommend especially if you are short on time (it was around 140 pages; photos included).


  4. Kudos for trying it! I’m just not a romance reader. I think I’m a bit like Heather- I get too bugged!

    Plus, I’m a librarian so this stereotype makes me bat shit crazy. I know quiet librarians but not many “shy” ones. Bleech.


    1. It’s hard for me to remove my personal biases enough to read (and enjoy) romance most of the time, but I like to give it a try every now and then.

      And me too. Depending on what type of librarian you are (reference v. cataloguer v. archivist, etc.), I’m not sure you can be shy. Quiet, yes (I’m more on the quiet side), but shy? No.


  5. I’ve hopped out of my comfort zone here and there, but I think romance is just a little…too far for me. I can’t even handle the cheese of Nicholas Sparks, I don’t think I can do this stuff. I did have a post not too long ago about how I think that when I DO decide to venture out, I need to make sure that it’s at the recommendations of others, since some of the books I’ve tried on my own have been disastrous.


  6. hahaha Information master. One to be worshiped. I’m sure you agree with both.
    I’m actually a closet fan of historical romances. I can never manage to write actual reviews for them because I just can’t find proper ways to describe romances. My shy nature comes out. lol


    1. Yes, most definitely. There are a couple others that I could get behind too. I read historical romances sometimes too. The woman who raised me was a huge fan of the genre and I remember reading books when I was 10 and thinking “what is a cravat?”. I read “Once Upon a Tower” by Eloisa James recently, it wasn’t bad and, really, three cheers for bad sex. The characters were both virgins and their first several times were terrible. Imagine that. Reality creeping into a romance novel. I generally don’t review them either. I don’t know that it’s that I’m too shy or that I just don’t think anyone would be interested in reading what I have to say (I worry about that anyway). Typically I’m a bit too frank about sex and my romance reviews end up sounding really dry.


      1. BOTH were virgins? Now that’s a shocker. I went through a historical romance phase but got so irritated that all the women were virgins. I was clearly just picking the wrong books.
        I think in the back of my mind I choose not to review romance books because if I really sat down and nit-picked them I’d realize how awful they really are. lol


      2. They both were, which was why I read it. It was just so…unusual (and accurate). I get really irritable about people having phenomenal sex the first time out. I guess it could happen, I just don’t know a single female it’s happened to. Several men I know seemed to enjoy their first time. I’m sitting here realizing that women really get the short end of the stick on just about everything….

        That pretty much sums it up – to look at a romance from a literary review perspective ruins the entire experience. Although I think this is true in love too, to sit back an truly evaluate a relationship takes whatever’s special about it out of it (because everyone could always do more and it never quite measures up to the glossy cinematic portrayals). Anyway, clearly my bleak mood continues, quite possibly straight through to July… Just ignore me 😉


      3. Pfft I don’t know a single female that has enjoyed that experience either. Not I my friend, not I.

        Over-analyzing romances and nitpicking them definitely does take the romance out of it. Putting it under that microscope will only showcase flaws that you may not have realized before. Perfection. It doesn’t exist.


      4. Without getting too far into the subject, I feel that it’s a lot of work to make it great even after the first time. But that’s just me. Admittedly I’m always jealous of the romance heroines who get there after two minutes. Must be nice…


    1. Agreed. How can you pine for a guy that, when you kiss him, he shoves you and tells you to fuck off? If a guy did that to me I’d run far and fast. Ugh, whatever. Why are there no normal fictional men in romance? (I’m purposefully omitting my opinion on men in real life, because they are equally baffling.) And why, oh why, do they all have to be super wealthy? Anyway… >sigh<


  7. Ew, your review reminded me why I don’t read romance. I get your point about reading something out of your ordinary comfort zone for distraction, but I don’t think I could ever enjoy something like that. I would be too irritated with the stereotypes and the actions of the characters in a book like this to get any enjoyment out of it.


    1. I read this one as sort of an experiment. It’s not the worst thing I’ve ever read, but I won’t be repeating the effort anytime soon. I’d like to think I’d never let a person I was interested in talk to me like that and continue to pursue them. Just…yuck.


  8. Alright, romance isn’t something I read often, but I’ve read enough to know that the beginning of this book SUCKED and is not really standard. Faye should’ve punched him – I wouldn’t have been able to finish a book with a doormat for a protagonist. Just… no.

    IF you ever are in the mood to try a romance again, Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie is pretty fantastic (one of my favorite books ever, actually). And you might like Julia Quinn – she writes historical romance, but her heroines are always really funny and I rarely have a “this person is a jerk / stereotype” problem with her books.


    1. I’ve read a couple of Julia Quinn’s novels before. I found by the third one that once you read one, you’ve read them all. I have liked the females in her novels though. I’ll have to check out Bet Me, I like a good love interest.


  9. I am a romance fan,I read my books for pleasure and escapism and articles for Information.Added to that I have an independent streak.I’ve read Kristen Ashley(especially after having a trying week or month or when I don’t want a believable plot) and I must say don’t judge all romance by her books.She specializes in stupid heroines and jerks as heroes.When you get the urge to read romance don’t read her books.


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