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REVIEW: Breathe by Kristen Ashley

Dear Ms. Ashley,

After I read Knight, I thought for sure that I wouldn’t read another book by you. But then, I tried another, and another, and another. I read five of your books in a weekend. I have a hard time putting my finger on why your books work so well for me. The truth is that they have a ton of writing “ticks” that make me crazy. For instance, I’m not 100% convinced that you know the difference between the word “past” and the word “passed” – they’re not actually interchangeable. You focus on minute details that are of no interest to me, like the color of the fringe on a shirt and ridiculously detailed descriptions of the interior of houses. Your heroines tend to blurt out bizarre things, and the hallmark of a Kristen Ashley hero is being an overbearing alphahole. Yet, since the beginning of May I’ve read eighteen of your books. There is something about them that I find crackalicious. So of course, the moment your new Colorado Mountain series book, Breathe, came out, I bought it and read it in practically one sitting.

breathe kristen ashleyFaye Goodnight is the shy town librarian in Carnal, Colorado. She’s been in love with Detective Chace Keaton since she was sixteen, always from afar. Readers of the series know that Chace spent about six years undercover infiltrating a ring of dirty cops. He helped uncover massive crimes by the town but got his hands pretty dirty in the process, and feels deeply responsible for the death of his estranged wife, Misty. Misty and Chace’s marriage was in name only (she used information she had about his father as a bargaining chip), and he really never even liked her, but she died a horrible death, and he’s never shaken his feelings of responsibility.

When Faye spots a young boy who has been badly abused near the library, she heads to the police station to report the crime. She’s been encouraged by her girlfriends to kiss Chase to show him how she feels. So when he arrives to take her statement about the abused child, she bucks up her courage and lays one on him. Needless to say, Chase is taken aback, and does not react well. He lays out for Faye the ways he’s not interested. Heartbroken, she tucks her tail between her legs and flees. But Faye’s actions have spurred Chace to action. He’s always been interested in Faye, but wanted to avoid any involvement so as not to taint her with the filth he’s been involved with. His relationship with his father is terrible, and he’s still terribly guilty about Misty’s death. However, now that he’s had a taste of Faye, he can’t seem to help himself. Once they begin to spend time together, it takes no time for Faye to fall in love with him. Chace, realizing that Faye is a virgin, takes it very slow with her, but once they make love for the first time, their relationship ratchets up quickly. But Chace’s involvement with the dirty cop ring has captured the unwanted attention of men who work with his father, and soon, they’ll be after the one person Chace values most, Faye.

In thinking about whether I could recommend this book, I had to think about why it is that it worked for me. I am a total sucker for an alpha hero, and an even bigger one for one who is willing to grovel when he screws up. And Faye is not willing to allow Chace to walk all over her, which is refreshing. I also liked the sparks between the two of them. You excel at writing really wonderful, evocative sex scenes, and this couple had fantastic chemistry that I really enjoyed. As always when I read one of your books, I finished Breathe and immediately wished that I had another by you to read. Alas, I’ve read all of your backlist that interests me, so I’ll just have to wait for your next book to release.

When I ponder how to grade your books, I think that there is almost a special “Kristen Ashley grading scale”. Your books have numerous issues and could really flourish with some professional editing. I often find myself skimming through your exposition, as it doesn’t necessarily add anything to the story. And without fail, the bad guys kidnap your heroines so the hero can charge in and save the day. So when I say that this book is a B-read, I mean it’s a B-read within your collection of books. Meaning that the book has a number of issues that I’m not sure would work for some readers, but I blew through it and enjoyed my return visit to Carnal, Colorado. I believe readers who are seeking a series to go through like Pringles (no one can eat just one) will enjoy reading your books and will be back for more. Those readers who are already addicted to your writing will find this book to be as crackalicious as the others in the series. My grade for Breathe is qualified B.

Kind regards,
Kati

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Kati Brown

I've been reading romance for more than 30 years and reviewing regularly for the last five. My first romance was Irish Thoroughbred by Nora Roberts, and once I read it, I was a goner. I read most subgenres of romance (except inspirational and steampunk) but focus mostly on contemporary and paranormal, with a sprinkling of historical thrown in for flavor. I am an avid sports fan, so I have a special place in my heart for sports themed romances. I'm a sucker for old skool romance, which is probably most evident in the fact that The Windflower is my favorite romance of all time.

20 Comments

  1. Dabney
    Jul 30, 2012 @ 08:11:35

    I haven’t read any of her books. Your review makes me want to! What’s a good choice to start with?

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  2. Tina
    Jul 30, 2012 @ 08:29:55

    Oh, man, you have summed up my feelings about KA 100%. I started Mystery Man out of curiosity because so many of my GR friends were talking about her. Two days later I surfaced from my reading-crack binge and had finished the whole Dream Man series. And that is major because each of her books are like 500+ pages long. No joke!

    You focus on minute details that are of no interest to me

    and

    When I ponder how to grade your books, I think that there is almost a special “Kristen Ashley grading scale”. Your books have numerous issues and could really flourish with some professional editing.

    Keep her books from being 5-star reads for me but the potential is there because she writes a damn good story.

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  3. Kati
    Jul 30, 2012 @ 08:50:56

    @Dabney: I think that the most readable of her series is the Dream Man series, which starts with Mystery Man. Those are the four that I read in one weekend. My favorite installment is Motorcycle Man. I also love the Colorado Mountain series. Start with Sweet Dreams there.

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  4. Eva / TXBookjunkie
    Jul 30, 2012 @ 08:59:40

    Could you imagine how even more awesome her books would be with a good editor? I do love how quickly she writes because this means I get to feed my Kristin Ashley addiction every few months.

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  5. Las
    Jul 30, 2012 @ 09:20:37

    I recently read Mystery Man, my first book by this author (I think it was you who mentioned her on twitter so I checked her out). You’re right about how crackilicious her writing is. There something so charming about the way she writes, that I’m able to shrug off or actively enjoy things that would normally make me DNF with a quickness. The problem with MM was (and it sounds like it’s a problem with most of her books), is that it was too long for me to suspend disbelief that much. If the book had been cut by at least a third it would have worked a lot better for me. But at almost 1000 Nook pages all the ticks (WTF is up with all the whispering?!) and over-the-top alphaholeness of the hero and Manic Pixie Dream Girl-ness of the heroine got old. That and one particular situation that had me seeing red earned the book a 2-star rating from me.

    And yet I still plan to read more of her books. I think I found my new Lorelei James.

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  6. Sophia (FV)
    Jul 30, 2012 @ 09:21:43

    I don’t think I’ve rated any of KA’s books above three stars yet. I’ve devoured several of them and keep going back for more. But when a warning must accompany the rec it’s hard to give that extra star. I’ll be reading this one. :)

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  7. Ducky
    Jul 30, 2012 @ 17:06:07

    I enjoyed “Breathe” a lot too! I have devoured three of her books now within a short period of time. Her writing is definitely addictive. Even “Knight” which is the most problematic of the ones I read because of the daddy fetish and the pimp-delicious “hero” – I did finish that one too. Basically whatever I sample of Ashley’s I end up buying.

    There is something about her characters and her stories that makes me overlook and tolerate things that would normally bring on my reader bitch face.

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  8. pamelia
    Jul 30, 2012 @ 18:43:05

    I have been on a Kristen Ashley read-a-thon for the past several weeks and think this review is spot on. This wasn’t my favorite of her books, but even so I can’t help but feel like even in her less successful books she manages to infuse more emotion and humor and passion than many other writers. There aren’t any other writers out there who make me laugh out loud or cry real tears when reading every last one of their books. The “Aslan” bit in this one got me.

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  9. Beth
    Jul 30, 2012 @ 18:56:00

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one consumed by KA lately. I plowed through Lady Luck and Breathe this weekend. I’m not sure how. I think i did some laundry too but not really sure.

    Can’t explain why I can’t stop reading them…

    one thing they teach us in sales is that people don’t care what you know until they know you care and the only explanation I can come up with for KA is she really does seem to care about what she’s doing. I just never ever get the feeling that she’s phoning the story in.

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  10. Sulu
    Jul 30, 2012 @ 19:08:33

    I agree with your review! I enjoy the storytelling even while the grammatical errors make me grit my teeth. The abrupt changes in point of view also irk me. But I keep on reading…

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  11. Ducky
    Jul 30, 2012 @ 19:15:56

    @pamelia:

    Yes, the little boy and his story broke my heart – whenever he was in a scene I wanted to cuddle him. I totally forgot he was a fictional character.

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  12. Tina
    Jul 30, 2012 @ 19:21:06

    One of my favorite bits of Breathe was when Faye was going off on Chace’s father comparing his fathering skills unfavorably to Darth Vader’s. It was quite a funny riff.

    “There is no Anakin inside your dad.” LOL.

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  13. Jo
    Jul 30, 2012 @ 19:29:07

    Put me down for a KA addict as well.In any other author I would put the book down and be done with it. For example Chace receiving the ‘gift’ of Faye’s virginity which would normally have me doing my Hulk smash impersonation but I just gritted my teeth and went on. The only one I just couldn’t go on with was Knight, the daddy thing just squicked me out waaay too much.

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  14. Ducky
    Jul 30, 2012 @ 19:40:33

    @Tina:

    Yes! This bit – and also in general the ueber-geekiness of the heroine was adorable and the pop culture references were easy for me to relate to. I can totally see Faye dragging Chase to SD Comic Con and his reaction to it. Ha!

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  15. Tanya S.
    Jul 31, 2012 @ 00:05:50

    I’ve been on a binge too! I read the Rock Chick books that sounded good to me after they were reviewed here and I just kept going. I’ve found that once I start one of her books I can’t stop reading it until the end (Dénouements never end!). I unfortunately, like others have said, I find it difficult to recommend these books to others . She is definitely an author I tell people to read sample chapters before buying.

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  16. Mayhem
    Jul 31, 2012 @ 13:36:11

    One pretty significant downside to KA books is that they are formulaic. I OD’d on them a while back, and it’s been difficult for me to rekindle that spark. I started Breathe last night – the Colorado Mountain Man series tends to be my favorite, with the Dream Man series a close second. I can’t stand her paranormal/fantasy/ghost series because she DOES phone in her worldbuilding. A lot of people go nuts for Golden Dynasty, which is one of her books that I found really lacking because of the completely inadequate world building. She is good at contemporary, and much of the charm of her books would be lost with a thorough editing, I think. The things that drive me crazy are the same things that make me love her characters. She is really the only author who can get away with this stuff with me.

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  17. Sarah
    Aug 02, 2012 @ 14:27:56

    I’m not sure if I can get over a town named Carnal, given what I know of her books and male characters. It amuses me deeply. But I am intrigued and may just check this one out!

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  18. Recommended Reads of Dear Author for August 2012
    Aug 02, 2012 @ 14:33:25

    [...] REVIEW: Breathe by Kristen Ashley [...]

  19. joann
    Aug 06, 2012 @ 06:52:10

    KA is so addictive!!! I think of her books as Robyn Carr’s Virgin River series on steroids!! I started with Knight (loved) and then onto the Rock Chick series…Burg Series…Dream Man Series…Colorado Mountain. Enjoyed them all. Could not get into the fantasy series. I would suggest starting with the Rock Chick series. Just a heads up to newbies: these books have super Alpha males and lots of four letter words.

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  20. Jen
    Oct 18, 2012 @ 09:49:46

    Nope, won’t do it!
    I read Knight, was recommended by a friend and unwanted to pull my hair out so many times reading it. The male lead, knight, rambles and rambles on and on about the dumbest stuff, says the same thing in 4 different ways in one huge paragraph! Very frustrating. Don’t get me started in the female lead, she had no personality whatsoever.
    I know what you mean about going back to her books though, because I read Creed too. Felt the same way about that as I did Knight. Won’t be reading anything else by this author.

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