REVIEW: Ramsey Rules by Jo Goodman
Ramsey Masters is the Ridge Outlet Theft Prevention Specialist, that is, she spends her days stopping shoplifters. While catching someone stuffing a PS4 controller into their pants or a ham into their handbag is more amusing than it is dangerous, the type of work isn’t what drew Ramsey to the job. She needed a new city, a new life, where she could blend in, keeping her private life private. She’s made a few friends and dates some—all unsuccessful. While she knows several of the local police due to her job, when her favorite tall, dark and uniformed stops her for speeding the attraction she feels makes her think maybe she’ll give dating one last try. But there has to be rules…
Sullivan Day needs a date—a plus one for his cousin’s wedding, and he’s running out of time. Feeling Ramsey is out of his league, he’s avoided asking her. But when she blasts by him in a red sports car, he figures Fate has intervened. He’s completely intrigued as to how and why a minimum wage mall-cop is driving a Mercedes Benz—and completely turned on by her sassy attitude. So, after writing her a speeding ticket, he asks her out, even though she warns him up front about her pathetic dating record. With everything in common, a friendly relationship should come easy, but for reasons Sullivan can’t figure out, Ramsey is very guarded about her past. However, when illegal activity at the Ridge entangles their professional and social life, things are about to get real. Real dangerous. Real sexy.
CW – domestic violence
Dear Ms. Goodman,
When it dawned on me that I hadn’t seen a new western from you this year, I hastily checked to see if I’d just missed it or if something worse had happened. Luckily I found this book, released last fall. As I’d never read a contemporary of yours before, I was psyched to give this one a go. There were parts I really liked, parts that were a bit slow, and some stuff at the end that made me want to shake the heroine until her teeth rattled. I got the feeling that there were instances when the hero felt the same way.
Ramsey Masters is well known by the police in the small West Virginia town where she lives and works. As a “loss prevention” worker at a large all purpose store, she’s had to call the cops to take statements and make arrests. She’s good at her job so they know her well. But they don’t really know her, nor does anyone else, because she keeps her life private that way.
“What? I have friends. I’m not unapproachable.”
The eyebrow didn’t budge.
“All right,” she said reluctantly. “Perhaps I don’t want to be approached.”
“You made the effort.”
“Yeah, but I was wearing Kevlar.”
Sullivan Day and his fellow officers discuss Ramsey in terms of her job and that a few would like to ask her out but it’s Sullivan who finally does and surprisingly, Ramsey agrees. Thus begins their deliberately paced romance which is intermingled with a possible investigation of the store where Ramsey works and the sudden appearance of someone from her past who has the ability to take everything away from her.
Several plot threads take place in the story but the main focus is on Ramsey and Sullivan. The pace is slower but it feels organic and like a couple, both of whom had had bad first marriages, cautiously and carefully negotiating the beginning of a relationship. Often what I read is all “meet and fall madly in love” romances despite any negative previous relationships. This “taking our time” one was almost refreshing. Slower, buttoned-down because we’re watching Ramsey, but refreshing.
“I suppose I should have asked for the parameters in advance. How will I know when the date’s over?” He turned his head in her direction, ostensibly to look for cars in the street, but really to gauge her reaction. “The obligatory goodnight kiss or the sendoff in the morning?”
Ramsey gave a bark of laughter. “First, I don’t do obligatory anything so put that out of your mind. As for morning, I admire your optimism. I really do.”
“So that’d be a no way.”
“That’d be a no fucking way.”
“Good to know. Now I can relax. Anticipation is overrated.”
Ramsey obviously has something in her past but she’s keeping some of her cards very close to her vest (couldn’t resist a throw back to your Westerns). She and Sullivan are remarkably honest with each other about how their relationship is going, sidestepping things that in other books would become Misunderstandings which would rear their ugly heads at a later time in the story. Sullivan realizes from all of Ramsey’s rules and sometimes taciturn responses, that he doesn’t know everything about her. Still I enjoyed their building romance and exploration of their feelings.
“Shut up, Ramsey.” There was no sting in his words because he punctuated them with a hard, hot kiss and then he was swinging her into his arms and carrying her all of eight feet to the king-sized bed.
She yelped and flung her arms around his neck. “I could have walked.”
“I know, but I’ve always wanted to do that. What do you think? Sexy? Romantic?”
“I’ll get back to you on that.”
When her past arrives, as she and we knew would happen, things become much clearer. What has made her so quiet about herself, made her buy and learn to use a handgun, and caused her to learn her laser focus and physical self-awareness. Why she values honesty and hates feeling afraid. What she eventually tells Sullivan makes sense and comes, I would suspect, from what you learned as a counselor. Ramsey has good reason to be as she is but also to have acted as she once did. It’s not pretty and not what I want to read about a heroine but honestly, it’s probably closer to the truth of how most people would act and react in the same circumstances. We’re not all able to see how people we trust really are, instead of how they present themselves.
But Ramsey took charge of her life, made changes, and seemed to have learned a thing or two. That is … until she didn’t seem to have learned much. Or rather, she fell back into some behaviors that made me shake my head. Had she learned nothing? Did she honestly expect different behavior from what she knew, not just might but would, happen? I guess this is more evidence of human behavior following known patterns even if those patterns are not helpful. Still, I want better from heroes and heroines. I want them to dramatically take charge and trip up their foes. Sigh … okay so Ramsey does this – a little, with one person and does finally gain control of another person but I was still waiting for a dramatic, public “Take. That. M-f*cker!” moment.
Yes, yes what we get is more realistic. Ramsey’s confrontational scene was just two people facing their changed dynamic and she does come out on top. Sullivan and Ramsey talk, work on trust, and don’t quickly jump into forever. There is a lot of subtle and wry humor. But … I still wanted … more. I wanted her to do what I probably couldn’t do either. Yeah, I know that’s not fair. B-/C+