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REVIEW: Ride with Me by Ruthie Knox

Dear Ms. Knox:

I received a number of recommendations for this story and the recommenders were correct.  Ride with Me was right up my alley.  It was a well paced, contemporary featuring a non clingy heroine and a caretaker hero set on a bike ride across America.  The only downside was that Tom, in particular, came off as contrived in certain places.

Ride with Me by Ruthie KnoxLexie Marshall has planned on riding the TransAmerica bike ride for years. This was the year she would ride with her brother until he had to drop out.  Using Craigslist, Lexie looks for a riding partner.  After being turned down repeatedly after finding the respondents discover she is female, Lexie strikes up an email conversation with Tom Geiger using the handle “Alex”.  The two agree to meet in Astoria Oregon to start the trip.

Only Tom was actually Tom’s sister, the only member of his family that still spoke to him, pretending to be Tom.  The real Tom wants nothing to do with another a person and he certainly doesn’t need a riding buddy. (Say the term as a curse word to get a real sense of how Tom feels). He reminds his sister that he is the serial killer on the road, not the target of one.

“I don’t need a babysitter.”

“Please, Tom. You can’t ride your bicycle across the country alone. It’s insane. You’ll end up being slaughtered by a serial killer.”

“Taryn, I’m thirty-five, single, tattooed, and antisocial. I’m the serial killer.”

“Okay, point taken. But you could get hit by a car and bleed to death by the side of the road.”

“How would riding with another person prevent that?”

“It wouldn’t, but he could call me on his cell phone so you could tell me you love me with your dying breath.”

Lexie is supposed to be the romantic and Tom the pragmatist, but in truth, Tom is really the romantic whose idealism was crushed.  Lexie’s romanticism stems mostly out of nostalgia. Her parents met and fell in love on the same bike ride decades earlier.

Tom realizes that he can’t allow Lexie to bike by herself and commits to riding along until he can find a replacement.  In the beginning of the story Tom was portrayed as Angry Antisocial Tom but as the story unfolded and the readers needed to get to know Tom better, Tom transformed into talkative, social Tom. This transformation wasn’t natural and it made his anti social behavior seem like a construct rather than his personality.  Angry Antisocial Tom provided a bit of comic relief and the right amount of sexual tension and conflict in the beginning.   In the beginning, Lexie felt lucky to wrench a two syllable “mmm-hmmm” from Tom.  Later, however, Tom has no problem carrying on conversations with other bike enthusiasts and even waitresses (even though he once derides Lexie for this).  The characters, both of them, failed to maintain a certain consistency, mutating according to what the plot called for.  For instance, Lexie hooks up with a very easy going, attractive young man at one point. He’s very friendly to the point that he can’t take a no and virtually assaults Lexie. I never felt like this was true to the young man’s character but it provided a leaping point for Tom to play protector.

That said, this is a genuinely enjoyable story.  Neither Tom nor Lexie are perfect individuals.  Tom withdrew from society, in part, because of something that happened in his past.  Something that he did that could be viewed as both heroic and cowardly.  Lexie, for all her good cheer and friendliness, often has an unkind thought about her fellow bikers. (I was rather repelled by her describing another rider as “gross” because he was “huffing and puffing like a steam train” but at least she wasn’t a perfect maiden from a Disney movie).

The story takes you from one side of the U.S. to the other and I loved the descriptions of the country as seen by Tom and Lexie. It was one of the things about the book that really surprised me. I am not much of a biker or traveler and worried that this aspect of the story would be boring but it is not. Instead, there is a true love for both that is expressed in the narrative. I never found it boring and it made me want to travel that same route.

This was why she was riding her bike across the country. Not for the miles, not to see the towns, not even to meet the people. Just this. The rain, the wind, the hill, and her legs powering her up toward the summit.

When she crested the top, she didn’t even stop. The rain had slowed, and she was craving the descent. She worked up a little speed, bent over the handlebars, tucked her body into a crouch, and let her hands off the brakes. Inside of a minute, she was flying, her bike computer clocking upward of thirty miles an hour. Her front tire pulled water off the road to wet her cheeks, while the rear threw a spray of wet grit up the center of her back. It didn’t matter. Below her, the Camas Prairie stretched out for miles, the intense bright yellow of rapeseed set off by purple-blue patches of camas flowers. She could see forever, and forever was breathtaking.

The dialogue and internal monologues are fun, peppered with a dry wit. “Lexie wasn’t the type of person who would do well in isolation, even with a really hot hermit who could kiss like Tom.” Even the sex scenes were often infused with mild humor:

Tom brushed his stubbled cheek over the sensitive skin along the side of her neck, which made her shivery. “You have to understand, this is just a typical day I’m talking about. I could fill a book with all the fantasies you’ve inspired in Missouri alone.”

One minor note. Lexie pretends to be married and she carries the deception on fairly long. Tom acts as honorably as possible and often wishes that her husband would appear and quench Tom’s inconvenient lust for Lexie. I wish Lexie had given up the ghost earlier.  I also wondered why Lexie, who loves riding her bike so much, didn’t join a bike club. I had a very hard time believing that there was no one in the Pacific Northwest that shared her outdoor enthusiasm.

What is even more enjoyable beyond the scenery is watching the two characters who really do not like each other at the beginning of the story fall in love. Their intimacy grows, almost grudgingly, over the course of their trip.  They both need to rely on each other from time to time and the long days and nights result in sharing of their hearts before their bodies.  And when they engage physically, it is built upon a foundation of personal admiration.  My guess is that fans of Kristan Higgins would enjoy this book.  B-

Best regards,

Jane

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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

14 Comments

  1. Danielle D
    Mar 12, 2012 @ 14:11:32

    I need to get this book, thanks for the review.

  2. sarah mayberry
    Mar 12, 2012 @ 15:12:09

    I really enjoyed this book. Witty banter, a really novel setting/situation. Jane, like you I was worried about the cycling thing. I get my exercise shoe shopping, but the bike/travel aspects of this book are absolutely fascinating (and I mean that in a good way, it’s not like a geography lesson or anything). A quick, fun, entertaining read with some lovely writing.

  3. Lily
    Mar 12, 2012 @ 15:35:00

    I liked this one as well. The ending was a bit jarring as I recall. I was expecting it to keep going, but the book was over. This could be partly influenced by the Kindle percentages. There were several other book excerpts at the end, so it threw me. I was left feeling the couple’s ending could have been an HEA or HFN – we don’t really know, but it was still satisfying. I liked the riding parts more than I thought I would.

  4. Gina Leigh Maxwell
    Mar 12, 2012 @ 15:38:47

    I love this book, really and truly. It’s worth it for the “hot-sauce competition” scene alone. ;) I’ve read it at least 3 times. Definitely recommend this book!!!

  5. Karla
    Mar 12, 2012 @ 16:02:52

    I’m 75% of the way through Ride With Me and loving every page of it. I hated to put it down and go to sleep last night, but it was 3:00 a.m. and my eyeballs were on fire. I’m looking forward to finishing it tonight.
    Just the right amount of description, laugh-out-loud humor, witty banter and excellent steamy parts are making this a thoroughly enjoyable read. I’ve already recommended this book to friends.

  6. shelly
    Mar 12, 2012 @ 17:22:03

    Thanks for the review – I bought it right now. I haven’t heard of any other cycling-themed romances. My husband is an avid cyclist and so I couldn’t resist.

  7. Angela Quarles
    Mar 12, 2012 @ 19:50:17

    I really enjoyed it, too, and I don’t normally read contemporaries. I was thrown by the Kindle percentages too and thought there was going to be more, but the story was finished. I loved the humor and seeing Tom’s struggle to be a better person for her. I really did worry that they wouldn’t work things out… I really felt like his hot and cold treatment was pretty typically male who’s running scared, the only difference being he’s stuck and has to work through it…

    I loved the hot sauce competition, too!

  8. Shelly
    Mar 13, 2012 @ 09:01:05

    I really liked it. Maybe it helped that I read the review first. I didn’t have any problems with Tom’s transformation- it didn’t come off abrupt to me. They were riding for several months, and I bought it that Alex allowed him to connect back to his former personality.

    I loved all the cycling stuff. As I was reading, I thought the author was either a cyclist, or did some good research. Based on the author note at the end, sounds like it was both.

    There were a couple things that I didn’t buy – Portland is super cycling friendly & full of outdoor adventure enthusiasts, so yeah, hard to believe she couldn’t find cycling friends there, and instead could only find guys whose idea of vacay was a cruise! And the bit about the patch kit was hard to believe, it felt forced and existed to set the scene & move the plot.

    But those were minor issues to me. I’m looking forward to Knox’s next book. Thanks again for the review.

  9. cbackson
    Mar 13, 2012 @ 10:30:27

    @Shelly: I agreed completely. Given that she was supposed to be super Type-A, the whole “not having a patch kit” bit rang totally false to me. The rest of the story, I loved. I particularly liked that it played out in a more realistic time frame (rather than a few days). I did wish the heroine’s character was developed a bit more. After the fact, I remember lots about Tom’s family and background and personality, and less about Lexie’s.

  10. Sue
    Mar 13, 2012 @ 15:13:55

    Thanks all – Tom was a great hero & Lexie was a hoot – the hot sauce scene made me want to buy it — her next book, ABOUT LAST NIGHT is just as cleverly written with wonderful H/H banter as well — mark your calendars for 6/11 http://www.randomhouse.com/book/search/search.php?x=0&y=0&title_subtitle_auth=about+last+night

  11. JenM
    Mar 14, 2012 @ 14:52:40

    I loved this book. It had likeable characters plus quite an inventive setting for a road romance. I’ve already got the author’s next release on my wishlist. I hope she can match this one.

  12. drflatfish
    Apr 01, 2012 @ 23:13:10

    I think this is one of the best contemporaries I have read in a LONG time! I think it deserves an A!

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