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REVIEW:  Winning Ruby Heart by Jennifer Lohmann

REVIEW: Winning Ruby Heart by Jennifer Lohmann

Winning

It’s a race to their beginning…
Exposing world-class athlete Ruby Heart’s cheating scandal five years ago made reporter Micah Blackwell’s career. Falling in love with her now could end it. Yet watching her determination to return to the top, he can’t resist the woman she has become.

Working with Ruby to tell America her story, Micah falls deeper under her spell. But at a crucial moment, his feelings for her conflict with his job—the very thing that once saved him. Now he must choose between his skyrocketing career and the unlikely love of a good woman….

Dear Ms. Lohmann,

I’d been wanting to read one of your novels for a while, ever since they started getting good reviews at DA. Yeah, it sometimes takes me awhile to make good on my best intentions but this one was meant to be. As I read your intro to the book and what inspired you to create the character of Ruby, it felt like fate since I had just that day finished watching a documentary on Lance Armstrong.

I started the book wondering just what Ruby had done to cheat and what her response to being revealed as one would be. What she did is – to me – slightly more unpleasant than taking steroids but I wondered that her coach would have talked her into receiving a transfusion of someone else’s blood rather than the usual of reinfusing her own. That’s what it seems like most of the cyclists did. Her initial response and public shaming on air reveal a woman totally out of touch with doing her own thinking and hint at the twisted parental influences that up until then had made her simply give in and do what she was told.

Now five years after her downfall from the pinnacle of public adulation to the depths of public scorn, Ruby finally is ready to take control of her life and prove – if only to herself – that she’s still got her talent and can do the thing she loves, the only thing she’s good at. It takes a sharp eyed news reporter to finally get Ruby to admit she wants more than just finishing a marathon or ultramarathon; she wants to win again. And in this, Micah Blackwell sees his way to getting what he wants most – an anchor seat and what might be the story of his career.

Due to the interview Micah did with Ruby five years ago, the two start out poles apart. Ruby can’t understand why this man who she feels publicly humiliated her thinks she’ll give him a chance to do it again but Micah is good at what he does and knows the public would salivate at the opportunity to see if Ruby has changed. Ruby’s harsh pronouncement that the public will forgive men who fall from grace while never doing so for women, especially one who used to be “America’s Darling,” finally registers with Micah when he sees the Internet vitriol that has been directed at Ruby for years.

But these two have a bit more in common than they initially think. Both are former athletic darlings who in different ways have been cut off from the sports they loved. They’re also used to people looking at something about them rather than all of them – parts instead of the entirety. They’ve struggled to move past what used to define them and make a future in their new reality. The main difference is that Micah’s made the transition while Ruby is just getting started and still has a lot to learn.

Honestly, I’m not sure about how real to life Micah’s disability is. Of course I’m trying to judge it as an abled person and I did try to read it with a critical eye. I don’t think his position there was totally to validate Ruby yet that is, to some extent, what the plot required but it would have been the same plot had he been able to walk. As much as he worked – in the capacity of his job – to get help her back into running and rehab’d in the public eye, she also worked on him – getting him to see her as a person who had learned, was repentant and finally understood the enormity of what she’d done instead of being merely a fantastic opportunity for a sports broadcasting series.

The chapter when she finally gets her agency with her parents is wonderful. So, okay it was a little “Hollywood feel good movie scripted” but damn, it was nice to see her stand tall, say her peace, not back down and almost grow 10 feet taller on the page. She also faces down Micah’s objections – on the grounds of her safety – to using her own name for race entries. She’s done with hiding and will face what her fellow racers have to say to her.

When Ruby and Micah’s personal conflict comes to a head, Ruby apologizes for still thinking of herself first even after what happens to Micah. True he had an equal amount to do with it as she did but I didn’t truly sense that they reached an understanding or had worked through this before they got back together.

I was kind of surprised at the twist at the very end. Sure the guy was a sleaze but I didn’t see the need for this “tacked on last second” conflict unless it was just to quickly finish off Micah’s redemption in the eyes of the network as the page count was running down. The end of the book and the future for Ruby and Micah, while complete, also came at a breakneck pace and suddenly, wham!, we’re done here. I even tried flipping to the next page on my ereader because it seemed too abrupt and unfinished.

My final feelings about the book are conflicted. I liked that Ruby didn’t get a do-over which wiped her initial sin clean – she screwed up and finally took responsibility for it but she found a way to forge a new life that includes running (which is shown as integral to her life) and stay within the bounds of her probation. I appreciated seeing Micah accepted as a top notch sports reporter and not as a top notch crippled news reporter. I loved Dotty the Dalmatian who the perfect dog for Ruby. But the issues which I felt weren’t completely resolved and the abrupt end lower the grade to a C+

~Jayne

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REVIEW:  Beautiful Stranger by Christina Lauren

REVIEW: Beautiful Stranger by Christina Lauren

Beautiful Stranger (Beautiful Bastard #2) by Christina Lauren Dear Ms. Lauren:

Elyssa Patrick, my twinsie in book reading, and reviewer Kati D loved Sweet Filthy Boy and both urged me to try it. I confess I was turned off by both the cover and the title and shunned the book for some time. I’d read Beautiful Bastard when it first came out and while it was entertaining, it didn’t move me to read more of the series.

But one day I was going through my old ARC pile and came across Sweet Filthy Boy and opened it up…and didn’t put it down until I’d read the last printed word. The pile of abandoned books became my pillow as I laid down to read the story of Ansel and Mia, two young people trying to make an impulsive marriage work. It was nothing like Beautiful Bastard where the couple spent most of their time hate fucking. And I even acknowledged with some reluctance that the title was apt. Ansel was a sweet filthy boy, emphasis on the sweet.

I went and bought Beautiful Stranger to discover whether the true voice of Christina Lauren was hate fucking Chloe and Bennett or sweet, confused lovers Ansel and Mia. Most of the books are more in the tone of Ansel and Mia than the Beautiful Bastard, to my relief. There’s nothing wrong with a good hatefuck, it’s just that sort of drama can be wearying whereas I can spend hours and days reading about sweet heroes who are befuddled by their newfound love feelings. Kind of like a puppy who discovers his own tail and can’t stop chasing that magnificent thing around and around.

Beautiful Stranger is a hookup story between Max Stella, a British ex-pat, who runs a venture capital business with his friend Will. He sees Sara Dillon dancing at a night club and is turned on. With her permission, he drags her onto a balcony and proceeds to stranger fuck her in the club. Sara loves this but she also believes that the one night stand is all she’s interested in. She just moved to New York City to work as a financial officer for Bennett’s family firm. And she’s put a painful relationship behind her.

For Max’s part, he’s stunned by his obsession for the petite dancer from the bar. When he discovers her identity, he convinces her to give him a chance but all Sara is interested in is a hook up. One night a week, on her terms. Max agrees. The two then explore Sara’s proclivities for voyeurism and exhibitionism. She likes the feeling of being watched, she likes the danger of being caught, and Max is happy to plan new activities whether it’s in the dusty stacks of the library or in an empty apartment building.

The one drawback in this book is that Sara’s intense need for privacy and her desire for sexual exhibitionism isn’t well explored from her point of view. Max thinks the dichotomy is endlessly fascinating but I would’ve liked to have had Sara give me some insight as to how she balanced the two. Her relationship conflict (I only like hookups) didn’t mesh with the external conflict (I like my privacy but will I get caught?!). For someone as photo shy as she was, she certainly seemed to enjoy being filmed endlessly by her hook up.

Sara seemed like a complex character but her parts were never fully explored. Max Stella was a dear, the kind of sweet, tender alpha male that I’ve always loved in my books. But to some extent, he too, was rather flat. He liked Sara. He liked sex. That seemed to be about it. But because the characters were so likeable and because the romance was sweet and because the sex was so very hot, I picked up the next book immediately. And it’s a book I’d recommend to others with caveats. B-

Best regards,

Jane

 

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