I hate sports, in every form and shape, and my idea of exercising is taking a 30 minute leisurely stroll through the park, preferably with a book in hand that I can read while I’m walking. Because of that, I tend to avoid novels that are in any way concerned with that subject, because I simply cannot relate to footballers, baseball players, boxing champions and all their sportsmanship-related woes.
This of course also applies to people going on a cross-country bike tour which is what Ruthie Knox’ debut novel Ride With Me is about, and I might never have picked this novel up if I had not read (and enjoyed) several blog posts by the author as well as several very positive reviews of the title. So I decided to give it a try and take a peek at the sample… which had me hooked almost immediately. In just a few paragraphs describing a phone conversation between the male protagonist and his sister, Ruthie Knox manages to give to not only give us a solid impression of his character but also to like him immensely.
Once hooked, I flew through the sample, then of course had to get the whole thing, and then continued the whole distance with barely a stop. It was a very enjoyable ride, and really the only thing I have to complain about it is that it was over way too soon. There is a lot to love about Ride with Me, but I want to mention only two things here that impressed me particularly.
One is the way the bicycle ride across the US is treated – it not only drives the novel’s the basic plot line, but also provides a background for the unfolding relationship between the protoganists, both scenic and emotional, the surrounding landscape blending into the feelings of the characters, or in turn its perception coloured by their emotions. Also, Ruthie Knox really brings the joys of cross-country cycling across (and that is no mean feat, with a self-confessed couch potato like myself), the sensation of moving through vast landscapes on your small bike as well as the sheer physical pleasure of cycling.
And speaking of physical pleasure… the other thing that struck me were the sex scenes which are some of the best I have read in a Romance. – I know I recently complained about how sex in Romances and Erotica tends to be always perfect and mind-blowing, without all the small awkwardnesses that tend to happen around and during the actual act… well, I have to say if the perfect and mind-blowing sex is done like it’s done here I do not mind, not one bit. There are no tired cliches here, no heated cores or throbbing rods, instead there is unpretentious but sensual languages, and there are details – imaginative details, well-observed details, touching details, details that make you feel that here there are two people expressing their love for each other, not just two random bodies exchanging fluids. To name just one example (paraphrased from memory as I’m too lazy to look it up for a quote): In the early stages of their relationship, Alex remarks in her PoV how when Tom caresses her, she for the first time in her life gasps on the inhale; then several chapters later, Tom mentions that he enjoys that weird gasping sound Alex is always making when they are together, and several chapter after that, he tells her how much he loves the small noises she makes during sex… I mean, is that cute, or what? Also, the sex scenes are scorchingly hot.
It is possible that maybe twenty or thirty years from now, someone will read the first novel by the Grande Dame of Romance and think that those Alex and Tom are as stilted and improbable as anything out of Barbara Cartland, but here and now they feel real. Ride With Me stays quite happily in the Romance genre but at the same is not content to just re-tread the old, worn-out paths; it opens up and explores new spaces in what seemed familiar territory, and that is quite an achievement. And it’s a hell of a lot of fun to read.