Monday, 14 January 2013

Ride With Me by Ruthie Knox

Ride With Me (2012)
Ruthie Knox
Grade: A
Genre: contemporary romance, road romance
Sex scenes: HOT
Source: own, eBook

Of the 135 rejections I got from NetGalley in 2012, Ride With Me is probably the one that hurt the most, and I hadn’t even cracked open a Ruthie Knox book before. I’m not sure whether I first saw it on NetGalley and it caught my eye, or Heroes and Heartbreakers did a feature on it, but either way, I previewed it on Amazon and with less than two chapters, I was HOOKED. Ten minutes into a 4000 mile bike ride from Astoria, Oregon to Yorktown, Virginia, Lexie has a flat that Tom finds with his tongue. Yes, that’s right. Unbelievably hot. Read below if you don’t believe me. Frustrated is a good word to describe how I was feeling when my request was rejected!

He did frown and glare at her. But then he took the tube from her and started looking for the puncture … He used his hand pump to put some air in the tube, then stuck it next to his ear and turned it slowly, listening for the hiss of escaping air. Two full revolutions later, he put a little more air in the tube. And then he stuck out his tongue and licked it.
        “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.
      When she glanced back at him, he had his patch kit open and was using the sandpaper to rough up the rubber. Apparently he’d found the leak. With his tongue. Jesus.

Lexie Marshall’s passion for cycling is in her blood. Her parents met doing the TransAm somewhere in Kansas in 1976, and her dream all through growing up has been to get the same experiences and adventures that they did. Problem: she’s a 29-year-old single, attractive woman with a habit of picking the wrong guys and she doesn’t want to travel alone. When she gets rejection after rejection as the respondents to her ad find out that she’s a woman, she stops mentioning her gender altogether.

Tom Geiger isn’t looking for a cycling partner any more than he’s looking to embrace his past. Ever since he gave the damning testimony that shut down the largest employer in Oregon for its breach of environmental laws, and put 15,000 people out of work of a company that he had been set to run since middle-school, he’s taken Thoreau’s Walden to heart and become somewhat of a recluse. His lone cycling tours across the world haven’t left his sister particularly convinced about his safety and despite his own admission that being “thirty-five, single, tattooed, and antisocial,” he’s most likely to be the serial killer, she’s still not happy about him cycling alone. Knowing how downright stubborn he can be, Taryn omits to tell Tom that she’s found him a cycling partner until the night before he’s due to set off.

Tom is even less happy when he discovers that ‘Alex’ is a woman. To make matters worse, she’s attractive as hell, the only woman who’s able to keep up with him on two wheels and despite the fact that she hates his guts, it’s everything he can do to make sure he cycles in front so he doesn’t have to stare at her ass all day and fight his inevitable hard-on while cycling. She warns him at the outset that she has a husband just so he’ll be more disposed to ride with her, but the reality is that Lexie has only ever had two broken engagements that haven’t convinced her that the institution of marriage is right for her. He vows that he’ll remain her partner for safety’s sake until he can find her a new one, but their close quarters means that they get to know each other pretty quickly, and suddenly no one is looking remotely good enough.

As the weeks pass and the tarmac disappears under their wheels, truths come to light that brings a whole new dynamic to their relationship that neither has the power to deny. Lexie has had enough bad relationships to know that Tom is the entirely wrong guy for her, yet the only man she has ever desired this much. The sex is incredible but taking the next step and baring her heart to him would turn him once again into the Angry/Silent Tom of the first part of their journey and there’s no way she’s going back now that she’s found this open, playful and happy side of him. Knowing that they will be saying goodbye at Yorktown breaks her heart, but with no option but to suck it up and try and make the most of the time they’ve got left, Lexie is just going to have to hope that she can keep a lid on her feelings and enjoy the ride.

RWM is the fifth book I’ve finished of 2013 but I already know that it will be one of my Top Ten, if not Top Five books of the year – it’s just that good. I haven’t been so sure about the excerpts and summaries I’ve read of Ms Knox’s other books, mainly because they seem to be mainstream contemporary and what’s the fun in those when you’ve just read a cycling/road romance, but I read them before I read RWM and I think I might just have to give them a try now that I’ve had a taste.

Ms Knox is the best new-to-me author I’ve read in a long time. Her writing is hypnotic and compelling, her characters multi-dimensional and easy to love and her plot original, unpredictable and brilliantly funny – there’s nothing not to love. I read this in a single sitting with half-hearted attempts to make notes on freehold covenants in-between that were an embarrassing fail. Once I finished a chapter and told myself that yes, I really did need to know how the burden of a covenant passes in equity, it was just impossible not to wonder what amazing things would happen on the next leg of the trip and I would open up the document again and find that I’d breezed through Colorado, Kansas and Missouri before I knew it. So addictive that you wish that the Big Bang made North America one long sausage dog-shaped country that circles around the Earth so that the fifty states can line up all in a row and the journey will never end.

I’m not a great cyclist, but I can cycle. Having said that, I think four miles would kill me, not to mention 4,262. I taught myself in the two weeks before starting university two summers ago, with a friend who was just about to head to Cambridge where a bike is pretty much your passport to enter the town, not to mention your essential mode of transport. I keep telling myself that I’ll take my bike down to Brighton so that I can cycle to uni every day, but 1 ½ years later, I’m thinking that if I don’t, it’s just one more thing that I don’t have to cart home.

I want to be able to cycle like Lexie and Tom. I’m not a particularly sporty person, though I do have a tendency to watch everything and anything during the Olympics. I like to run, but never garner up enough motivation to do it and I’m not one for organised sports. Once I managed to stay upright on a bike, however, I found out it was pretty fun; I just don’t have nearly enough practice to feel confident on the roads, let alone go across the country. I’d love to have the practice, though. I’ve never been camping and the thought doesn’t appeal to me, but if I could do something like the TransAm and get that experience, then I’d be off to buy myself a tent and sleeping bag like a shot.

Okay, my enthusiasm is partly from Tom. His hotness blows me away and there’s nothing more attractive than a sexy, fit guy who’s got all that toned muscle from sweaty, physical exercise. His mood swings at the beginning of the book were worse than a hormonal woman’s, but once he’s relieved the weight from his shoulders and Lexie has taught him that there’s no harm in opening up, he’s all the man a woman could ever want. Like a lot of heroes in romance novels, he doesn’t figure out his true feelings for Lexie until she bares all first and it’s like a slap in the face. Her withdrawal forces him to truly reflect and take stock of his feelings and it’s written so beautifully there are no words.

Lexie herself is brilliant. She’s smart, confident, organised as a pin and a very grounded twenty-first century heroine. I think it’s hilarious that she spends the first few chapters under the mistaken assumption that bike-mechanic Tom is a skint amateur with absolutely no idea of the technical and practical requirements of a tour like this and it’s made all the funnier because the reader knows that that just isn’t true. Their grudge/silent treatment lasts a good three chapters and three hundred miles and I love Ms Knox’s originality in how she made this phase of their journey end. Lexie’s a natural conversationalist and people-person which makes Tom the worst person on earth for her to be partnered with, but they manage to complement each other perfectly. She’s bubbly and kind, always looking to swap adventures with fellow cyclists and couldn’t care less that she has to shower in campsite showers and camp for three months. A much braver woman than I and I love her for it. I think she probably makes it into the coveted group of one of my favourite heroines ever, which is downright rare for a contemporary romance. Well done to Ms Knox.

The sex is amazing. Sex with a guy like Tom is always going to be out-of-this-world and it’s made all the hotter with the fact that most of it takes place in a tent in the middle of nowhere when they’re dirty and sweaty from cycling all day. So, so hot. There’s a couple of scenes where the sex is ancillary to the main objective which is to make the characters realise their feelings for each other, and they just render me speechless. There’s a poignancy and beauty in Ms Knox’s writing that you don’t expect to find in what looks prima facie like a fluffy, mainstream contemporary romance, which only makes the read more worthwhile. There’s a phase near the end where the writing –  not to mention the heartbreak that Lexie and Tom are going through – just breaks my heart and I know it makes me a sadist, but I can’t keep myself from reading those chapters over and over simply because they’re written so well and the pain is just so fucking beautiful.

This is the first eBook I’ve ever bought of my own accord – that’s how much I needed to know how that tongue-scene ended. I don’t regret buying it, but I do admit to harbouring something of a grudge. The document when opened in Adobe Digital Editions is 315-pages long which I found to be terribly exciting because the prospect of over three-hundred pages of such brilliant writing and epic story was thrilling. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be. Ride With Me only takes up the first 173-pages of the document, and that includes all the contents and bibliographic crap at the front. The remaining almost-fucking-HALF of the document is taken up by excerpts from NINE short stories from the same imprint. Now, this is a Random House book and after doing an internship with them last year, I’m a pretty loyal fan, but this just took the piss. I’m all for publishing companies promoting other books by the same author or books by similar authors at the back of a book, but NINE? Excerpts that take up almost the same number of pages as the book itself? I wasn’t paying for preview chapters that I’m almost certain I can find for free on the authors’ own websites, but for Ruthie Knox’s Ride With Me. Yes, that’s what I got and I should have probably paid more attention to see that I would be getting free excerpts too, but there is no way that I would have guessed that it took up that much of the entire document. It’s misleading to the unsuspecting reader like myself, sneaky and downright rude. Not cool, Random, not cool. And I’d better not find the same thing happening with S. J. Bolton’s If Snow Hadn’t Fallen - you’ll be finding out soon.

A MUST-READ. If you read nothing else this year, then make it Ride With Me. I'll probably find half a dozen other books this year to fit into that category, but since this is my best 2013 book so far, it gets to sit on that privileged pedestal. The fact that 80% of the time (complete guess) Lexie and Tom are on their own makes you appreciate how great a book can be with such a slimmed-down cast of characters and pine for more road romances in general. Fabulous writing, fabulous characters and one of the most original plots I've read in a long time. Ms Knox deserves a rapturous standing ovation and I'll be back for more.

Image courtesy of Fantastic Fiction

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