Review: ‘Just Breathe’ by Tamara Mataya

Just Breathe

Twenty-one-year-old Elle Granger’s boyfriend broke up with her like a coward. He moved to another city without so much as a kiss goodbye. Devastated and embarrassed, Elle told her friends the break-up was mutual and hid her heartache working long hours at the library. By night, she self medicated with pot. Weeks later, with her heart and lungs screaming for a break, Elle quits smoking and turns to her friends. But before she can let them in on Jason’s betrayal, her best friend moves to Spain, and her roommates start acting strangely.

Enter sexy library patron Dominic, who sweeps Elle off her feet and into his Maserati. He makes her feel oh so good, and puts effort into coming up with dates that don’t set off her Synaesthesia. Just when Elle starts feeling whole again, Jason returns, determined to reunite. Elle rejects his effusive apologies and reasons for leaving — until she catches Dominic in a devastating lie.

Will his betrayal push her back into her suddenly attentive ex’s arms? Can she trust Jason not to break her heart again? The wrong choice and Elle’s happy ending could go up in smoke. But when your only choices are the devils you know, all you can do is JUST BREATHE.

I finished Just Breathe more than week ago, and it’s taken me this long to sit down and try to write a review. There are parts of this story I love so hard, and other parts I didn’t so much — but  I am positive that the things I didn’t love are because this book is, at the end of the day, a romance. I know, I know! It’s published by Swoon Romance and yes, I’m a dummy. But I picked it up because I’ve seen Tamara on Twitter and love her. She is a librarian with synaesthesia, like her main character in this novel, and since I love libraries and wanted to learn more about that condition, this became a must-read for me.

Of course, my TBR pile being the rampaging hellbeast that it is, I bought Just Breathe last year and only just now read it…

Synaesthesia is a condition where a person, on experiencing one sensory input, gets hit with a second, involuntary one as well. The handling of Elle’s condition was far and away the best part of Just Breathe. In her case, the main thing is that when she hears sounds they trigger a tactile sensation. So some music is jarring and makes her want to flee, while other music fills her with a physical bliss. She also responds very strongly to fabrics; there is a sex scene in this book involving a set of satin sheets that made me totally jealous of her and her condition. It sounded divine!

(While I’m on the topic, Just Breathe does include some steamy sex scenes, and also — as the blurb makes clear — recreational marijuana use. Neither of those things bothered me, but YMMV.)

I quite enjoyed reading about Elle’s work at the library, although some of the details possibly went a little further than the story required. Still, the book recommendations were great! And as far as Jason and Dominic go … well, Dominic is basically TO DIE for, and Jason needs to be run over by a large vehicle. And then reversed over a couple of times.

Given all of that, why is this a 3.5 star review? I agonised over that, you guys, but in the end looked at the Goodreads scale (3 = I liked it; 4 = I really liked it) and figured I was somewhere in the middle. And the reason is that, although I love a romance sub-plot like nobody’s business, I’ve started to realise that pure romance doesn’t often do it for me. There’s a formula there that meant I was able to predict every plot twist (more or less exactly), so although I enjoyed going along for the ride, there weren’t any surprises there. I guess I just love my surprises too much.

Still, if you love romance and want to read about an unusual, creative and above all real character, who makes mistakes but slowly begins to see her self-worth (and about Dominic *swoon*) — then you should definitely give Just Breathe a go.

Three-and-a-half stars

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