Ruthie Knox has written two books so far. I have loved them both. In fact, both are on my “My Favorite Romance Novels” list.
Her writing is crisp, funny, refreshing. But she also does heartache as well as anyone. I become so engrossed in her storytelling that I can’t stop until I finish (though I do take breaks for necessary things like the bathroom, sleeping, and…nope that’s about it).
I think the biggest compliment I can give to Knox is to say that I almost never skim her books. As a trained humanities academic, my ability to skim texts and not lose the context is quite good. And often while reading romances, I will find sections contrived or obvious or cliche, so I will zip right over them. Out of habit, I will start glance past part of Knox’s book and then get immediately sad about what clever writing or cute joke I may have missed. Knox is good. I don’t skim.
I first heard about Knox’s Ride With Me from one of my other favorite authors, Cecilia Grant. Grant tweeted how much she had enjoyed the book and since I basically will do whatever Grant tells me to, I immediately bought Ride With Me and didn’t come up for air until I had finished it.
When Lexie Marshall places an ad for a cycling companion, she hopes to find someone friendly and fun to cross the TransAmerica Trail with. Instead, she gets Tom Geiger — a lean, sexy loner whose bad attitude threatens to spoil the adventure she’s spent years planning.
Roped into the cycling equivalent of a blind date by his sister, Tom doesn’t want to ride with a chatty, go-by-the-map kind of woman, and he certainly doesn’t want to want her. Too bad the sight of Lexie with a bike between her thighs really turns his crank.
Even Tom’s stubborn determination to keep Lexie at a distance can’t stop a kiss from leading to endless nights of hotter-than-hot sex. But when the wild ride ends, where will they go next?
So, I don’t totally believe that Tom would so easily take Lexie along with him or, rather, agree to stay close together. But that’s a minor flaw. There would be no reason to tell this story otherwise so I’m willing to go along with that detail.
Knox has a way with words, a way of combining the funny with the sexy, making me chuckle out loud. In this scene, early on, Tom helps Lexie fix a flat tire on her bike. To figure out where to patch the hole, Tom licks the tube of the tire:
“What are you doing?”
He didn’t answer her, just kept running the tip of his tongue slowly along the rubber tube and staring at her with those intense dark eyes. And God help her, it turned her on. She felt her cheeks heat up and looked away, mortified.
Almost thirty years old, and she was getting off on the sight of a guy licking a tube. A hot guy licking a tube, but still. She obviously needed to get out more.
Like all great romance protagonists, Tom and Lexie each have their own personal baggage. Tom’s, much more than Lexie’s, interferes with the progress of their relationship as he fails, over and over again, to let her in or to admit that she is already in his heart. Towards the end of the book, they run into a woman in a restaurant, a person from Tom’s past. Lexie tries to get him to explain why this woman has had such an effect on him:
So after Tom paid the check in silence and guided her outside, she grabbed his elbow and asked him, “Who was that?”
“That was Beth,” he said gruffly, his eyes warning her he didn’t want to pursue the subject.
“That’s not what I’m asking, and you know it,” she shot back. She wasn’t afraid of Tom, and she didn’t have to handle him with kid gloves just because he was being an asshole.
“It’s none of your business,” he warned, stepping closer until he towered over her.
“I’m making it my business.” She kept her chin high and looked him in the eye, intending to hold him there until he told her something, anything to give her some insight into the secrets that made him so defensive. Because why should Tom get to hide when he was forcing her to be so vulnerable? How could she trust him if he was going to shut down every time he felt threatened?
But when their eyes met, she didn’t see the brick wall she’d expected to find there. Instead, for just a second, he let her see he was scared. And of course, because she was a sap for the guy, all she wanted to do was comfort him. And of course, because he was an emotional icicle, when she softened, he froze up.
“Don’t,” he said.
“Don’t look at me like that. Don’t care about me.” He threw the words at her, as if caring were the worst possible betrayal.
“It’s too late,” she whispered. But she didn’t think he heard her, because he was already walking away.
Oh, Tom! Just figure out that you love her and stop being an ass!
The end is satisfying. It feels genuine to the characters and to the overall plot. I give Ride With Me 4 out of 5 stars.
Ride With Me made me extremely impatient in waiting for Knox’s next book. Last night, it was released. And I read About Last Night as fast as I could (with almost no skimming).
Cath Talarico knows a mistake when she makes it, and God knows she’s made her share. So many, in fact, that this Chicago girl knows London is her last, best shot at starting over. But bad habits are hard to break, and soon Cath finds herself back where she has vowed never to go . . . in the bed of a man who is all kinds of wrong: too rich, too classy, too uptight for a free-spirited troublemaker like her.
Nev Chamberlain feels trapped and miserable in his family’s banking empire. But beneath his pinstripes is an artist and bohemian struggling to break free and lose control. Mary Catherine — even her name turns him on — with her tattoos, her secrets, and her gamine, sex-starved body, unleashes all kinds of fantasies.
When blue blood mixes with bad blood, can a couple that is definitely wrong for each other ever be perfectly right? And with a little luck and a lot of love, can they make last night last a lifetime?
I liked this book better than Ride With Me. Like Tom in RWM, Cath has a hard time letting anyone get close to her. Despite her immediately intense and close connection to Nev, she holds off from telling him much about herself, refuses to let him take her on a date, and doesn’t want to admit how close they have become emotionally. Knox does a good job explaining why Cath is like this but that doesn’t diminish how tired I got of reading about Old and New Cath.
Nev, whom Cath has nicknamed City, is adorable. A good guy. He apparently loves her from the first day forward because no matter how hard she pushes him away, he never lets that deter him. He sees that as much as Cath is trying to put up defenses and keep him out, she just as badly wants to succumb to her feelings. I also love that he never quite does what it is Cath expects of him (normally in good ways):
“What were you doing at Canary Wharf at midnight on a Friday?”
“Trolling for prostitutes.” He delivered the line in such a dry, remote tone, it took her a second to get that he was joking, but when she did, she couldn’t prevent herself from teasing, “You must have been so disappointed with the selection.” She glanced down at her small, decidedly unvoluptuous body in the oversized shirt.
“I wouldn’t say that, love.”
He is a coward when it comes to his family and he makes poor choices when it involves them. But as someone who relates almost too closely with that, I didn’t blame him, even as I found myself shaking my head and guessing what his timidity would cost him, cringing when it finally did.
The sex is hot, their dialogue is adorable, and when everything finally falls into the place, the scene had me nearly cheering out loud.
Like many romance novels, there were some moments in the book (especially at the end) when the amount of time that passed seemed too compressed for the situation, the accomplishments too grand for the space allotted. Yet, things like this almost never bother me. It certainly didn’t detract for my love of this book.
I care much more about chemistry, how the characters interact, if their story makes sense in the context that the author lays out. In About Last Night, Knox was great at all of this.
Finally, one more fun passage from ALN:
“I know that, darling. It wounds my pride you won’t go out with me, but I can console myself with the knowledge that when you do see me, you can’t keep your knickers on for ten minutes running.”
She threw her cookie at him, feigning indignation. “You bastard! Are you calling me easy?”
“I like you easy. Besides, you’re not to blame. Who’d want to wear wet knickers?”
I give About Last Night 4.5 out of 5 stars. I may read this one again later in the week.
Please write VERY fast, Ms. Knox. I am once again impatient to see what you will have for us next.
[One final note: My biggest disappointment is with the publisher. When I read Ride With Me I was DEVASTATED when I hit the end of the book and was only 86% through, according to my e-reader. What a bummer! I was loving the book so much and thought I had so much more to go. This also happened with About Last Night but at least I was prepared (that one only got to 80%). Boo.]