Melanie Abrams
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Diane Anderson-Minshall
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Janine Ashbless
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Teresa Lamai
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Michael T. Luongo
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Zoe Myonas
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One Breath At A TimeOne Breath At A Time
By: Gwen Masters
Virgin Black Lace
ISBN: 0352341637
March, 2008

Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

I shouldn’t really read romantic novels. It’s not because the genre is usually prohibited by Erotica Revealed’s review policy. I’m a rebel who can read what the hell I like (and, of course, I asked DLK’s permission first). I shouldn’t read romantic novels because, sometimes, my manly tears can be so strong they make my contact lenses come out.

And One Breath At A Time is, first and foremost, a romantic novel.

However, cast aside your assumptions and presuppositions about the “prohibited genre” and settle back into the sultry world of passion and punishment that Gwen Masters has created. One Breath At A Time is the simple story of what happens when boy meets girl. However, Gwen Masters is a gifted mistress of erotic storytelling and the simple idea of boy meets girl becomes something extremely powerful in her skilled and capable hands.

Kelley, the story’s heroine, encounters Tom in the first chapter. Tom is hot and Kelley finds him irresistible. The fact that his kinky tastes match her own deviant appetites means that this is a marriage made in heaven. The blossoming couple soon discover that their unconventional tastes are perfectly suited.

(I should make a note here that I’m not frowning on kinkiness. I have been accused of being kinky in the past and I have never seen it as being a slur. The truth is, I was once with a partner, we were having vigorous sex in a vaguely unconventional position, and she said to me: “You’re a sick and depraved individual.”

I said, “Wow! A talking sheep!”

However, that incident has nothing to do with this review or Gwen Masters’ excellent novel!)

One Breath At A Time is a deftly told story. The heroine and hero are painted as believable people. Both of them come to the story with their own personal baggage and the plot develops as they grow closer together and grow further from the pasts they are each leaving behind. It isn’t easy for either of them. But their adventures in the bedroom (and the kitchen and the wilderness, and the gym etc.) help cushion the problems they face in building a new life.

Without wanting to give too much away, Kelley has a natural tendency to be submissive while Tom is more naturally dominant. This aspect of their relationship is boldly foregrounded when Tom rides Kelley roughshod across a picnic table shortly after their first meeting. The theme of dominance and submission is later expanded on with a variety of paddles, whips, floggers and a cat o’nine tails.

Except, like it is in real life, the powerplay between this couple isn’t quite so neatly defined. Kelley is certainly submissive for Tom – but she is also sufficiently confident to make her own demands and occasionally hold the relationship’s reins.

After the delicious scenes of her submission to Tom, and the exquisitely written elements of her sexual punishment, I have to admit one of my favourite parts of this book came from Kelley taunting her eager soul-mate about the prospect of a potential threesome.

Not that a book of this strength can be reduced to a series of favourite scenes. Meeting Tom and Kelley, watching them grow together and stretch each other’s boundaries, was a total experience rather than a collection of cumulative encounters.

Did it make me weep? A good romance doesn’t always have to be a tear-jerker. Admittedly, I had a box of tissues close at hand while I was reading, but they weren’t there for tear-jerking. Overall, I have to admit that One Breath At A Time was a satisfying love story, beautifully told, and with some powerful, passionate (kinky and clever) sex.

Of course I shouldn’t have been surprised by the quality of Gwen Master’s novel writing. I’ve been a big fan of Gwen’s short fiction for ages now. Her "Confession" in He’s on Top, is a wonderful portrayal of a realistic couple dealing with a new way to overcome the ennui of a staid marriage. "The Craziest Thing," in Hide and Seek is another example of how Gwen is able to take real people and present them in erotic circumstances that defy the dull and dreary conventions of vanilla relationships. ("The Craziest Thing" is reprinted in J is for Jealousy).

Seriously, if you’ve not encountered Gwen Masters’ writing before it’s time to broaden your horizons and get to grips with a man who knows his own mind and a woman who minds her own man. And One Breath At A Time is just the place to make that acquaintance.

Personally, I think One Breath At A Time, with its strength, passion, credibility and sexual ingenuity, is how every contemporary romance should be written. Kelley and Tom are presented as living breathing human beings. Their appetites defy normal conventions (but the same can probably be said for the majority of people reading this review). Kelley likes Tom to play rough – and he can. Kelley doesn’t mind having ties, toys or Tom’s friend in the bedroom. The variations on the familiar theme of sexual pleasure are all used to enhance their relationship. As this story’s focus is fixed on a burgeoning romance, it makes sense that the couple’s appreciation for alternative satisfaction is central to the plot.

If you’re looking for well-written fiction, that dares to venture into the edgy world of extreme sex, you can’t get much better than Gwen Masters and you can easily get there with One Breath At A Time.