Joint Review: Ride With Me by Ruthie Knox

Joint Review: Ride With Me by Ruthie Knox

Ride With Me by Ruthie Knox

Ride With Me by Ruthie Knox

a joint review by Sarah & Rebeca aka Renegade

After Rebeca discovered Ruthie Knox with About That Night, which charmed us both, Racquel from The Book Barbies insisted that we read Ruthie’s other book, Ride With Me. Our arms were twisted, so we had a little Clear Eyes, Full Shelves readalong. 

Ride With Me is, in a lot of ways, a classic road trip/oil and water type of book, except it’s set against the backdrop of an epic bike ride across the U.S. Lexie places an ad for someone to cycle with her, and winds up with Tom, whose sister answered her ad on his behalf, unbeknownst to him. The two clash, as Lexie’s by-the-rules personality and Tom’s laissez faire approach make for amusing cycling companions against the backdrop of their cross-country cycling tour.

On the Plot

Sarah: I love that this is a road trip novel. I mean, they’re on bikes, which doesn’t sound too fun to me because of the whole sore ass thing, but hell, yeah roadtrips. Throw in the bonus of the opposites-attract trope, and I’m sold. I don’t know how creative Ride With Me’s plot is at its core (there are a lot of tried and true plot devices), but it feels fresh and fun regardless. And, I thought the bike ride made for a great backdrop—there’s something about the pursuit of something physically challenging that works for me when it’s done well. Yay sports and all that. 

Rebeca: I’m not a big biking fan either, but reading this book made me want to try this route out myself. Knox does a good job of conveying the feel of the country. Hillsborough even made an appearance for one of the best scenes, the hot-sauce challenge. I bought the need for these two clashing personalities to stick together despite their disagreements. Sparks were a natural result of this forced intimacy, setting the stage for a really fun story.

Sarah: I am, however, not convinced as to how realistic Tom’s, uh, “prowess,” would be after all that bike riding. Yeah, I’m talking about this.

Rebeca: The first time you shared that article I had to leave the room. My DAD rides his bike to-and-from work every day. Eww.

Rebeca: Well, romance novels aren’t necessarily known for the accuracy of their love scenes. The fantasy requires a certain suspension of disbelief in order to enjoy. But yeah, you have a point. Also, camping? Maybe it’s just my germaphobia asserting itself, but I don’t know that dust, dirt, sweat, and any bugs hanging around the place would really make for a romantic setting. Of course, I have several beloved romances that include camping trips anyway.

Sarah: There are too many gross things involved in camping (dirt, bugs, bug spray, marshmallows) for it to seem at all swoonworthy in real life. That is all.

Rebeca: No marshmallows? Really? Not even tiny little ones for your hot chocolate?

Sarah: Marshmallows are right up there with mayonnaise on the Sarah Scale of Disgusting “Foods.”

On Tom 

Sarah: I was a bit worried that Tom would be an Alpha Male Dickhead, because he’s just so surly and cranky about having to share his special alone time on his bike ride with another person. However, he grew on me as I got to know him more and understood that he was more of an introvert who used his crankiness as a barrier between himself and others.

Rebeca: I’m not as sensitive to the Dickhead syndrome as you are but it’s still a turn-off for me. Luckily, Tom didn’t seem to suffer from this affliction. Sure he’s cranky, but even as he bemoans sharing his “me” time he steps up to take care of a stranger. I kinda love the grumpy-loner-with-a-heart-of-gold thing. Gilmore Girls, anyone?

Sarah: Yes! He was totally a grumpy-loner-with-a-heart-of-gold! It was kind of very endearing.

Sarah: Oh, and thank goodness he didn’t wear spandex bike shorts and those dorky cycling jerseys (he prefers cargo shorts and T-shirts), because Tom would never have worked for me as a romantic interest if he had.

Rebeca: YES. YES. There are some things I can overlook in a romantic hero. Spandex bike shorts are not one of them. Hell, I even managed to pine after Marcus Flutie in the Jessica (notso) Darling series, and he had dreadlocks for the first book or two. But I draw the line at bike shorts.

Sarah: I would draw a very similar line, Renegade. Marcus Flutie dreadlocks: Go! Bike shorts: Stop!

Sarah: My biggest frustration with Tom was that his Big Secret wasn’t all that big or scandalous. From his internal monologue, I was convinced there would be something more, and it really wasn’t all that major. It was, in a weird way, a let-down.

Rebeca: I agree that his Big Secret wasn’t as momentous as he thought it was. To me, it seemed more an issue about his personal narrative than about any current complications. He adopted a narrative about not being capable of love in order to survive a truly traumatic period in his life. As long as he clung to that rational he couldn’t move on. I get how difficult it can be to change those narratives, so I wasn’t disappointed by the conflict. It wasn’t as dramatic as a bad Big Secret, but it was just as real in his mind.

On Lexie

Sarah: Oh, Lexie… Lexie is kind of that person that you like, but don’t want to hang out with too much, because she has to be in charge of everything. (Full disclosure: There’s a good chance I’m that person.) At times I found her a bit confusing in that I couldn’t figure out if she was acting like that person or if that’s who she really was.

Rebeca: Maybe I’m over-analyzing, but I thought she was using that control as a coping mechanism. There were things she was scared of, but if she’d done all the reading and packed the perfect stuff, she felt safer. I can totally relate. It was only when she judged other people for not being as prepared as herself that I got frustrated.

Sarah: There’s a key plot point in which Lexie pretends to be married (to prevent Tom and other male cyclists from hitting on her—it actually makes sense in the story’s context), but I felt like she carried on this ruse with Tom way too long. It didn’t really make sense in terms of her character development, it just served to propel the plot forward, so the initial conflict keeping the two apart would be strung out longer.

Rebeca: She lied about it for too long. I understand why she made up a husband to begin with, but it seems as though it might be important enough not to just “forget.” Also, why did Tom buy it for so long? Sure, she talked to a guy on the phone, but it wasn’t in a flirty manner. And she didn’t have a ring. Or talk about her faux husband at all. Come on.

Sarah: You are totally right. Why on earth did Tom buy it for that long? He wasn’t stupid, he should have figured it out or been more direct in following his instincts in finding out the truth. 

Rants

Sarah: A couple of things really grated on me. First, like in About That Night, condoms are conveniently discarded after the couple’s first, uh, “encounter.” Yes, it’s explained, but it just really bothered me because it felt like, “Hey, I’m going to write in this quick reason why these characters who don’t really know anything about each other don’t need to protect themselves against sexually transmitted diseases.” I realize some people think mentions of condoms/birth control/etc aren’t sexy, but you know what else isn’t sexy? Gonorrhea.

Sarah: This may seem nitpicky, but I was really bothered by a tiny detail in which Tom has Maori tattoos, inspired by his experience in the Australian Outback. Australia and New Zealand are two different places, with two completely different indigenous cultures. This inaccuracy is particularly grating, since the U.S. details feel very accurate (the places I was familiar with were spot on). 

Sarah: Also, I felt like the resolution of the conflict between Lexie and Tom was 1) a bit too quick and convenient and 2) the Big Change Lexie would be making in the future felt really sudden, even though she did express some mild discontent with that aspect of her life earlier in the book. It felt like it was too convenient and not well fleshed out. 

Rebeca: I’m totally with you on the Big Change. Taking a risk for love is one thing, but putting all your eggs in one basket? When you haven’t even been with that basket for very long? It didn’t seem like a very smart idea, much less like something Lexie would do. Where did all that planning and research and cautious packing go in the end? She didn’t just loosen up, she got a personality transplant.

Sarah: Finally, I cannot express how annoyed I was that the book was over at 85 percent or so, and the last 15 percent of the book was marketing junk. This is the third time recently that I’ve come across this in an ebook, and been tricked into thinking there was more to a book because it has ended with a significant chunk left in the file. Let’s stop doing that, publishers—it’s beyond obnoxious and completely dissuades me from buying the books being promoted.

Rebeca: I was very disappointed by the marketing junk in place of a longer ending, but I have to admit than I sometimes take the bait. Including a chapter of the author’s newest book can be the literary equivalent of handing out free samples of crack. I’ll come back for more all right, but I’ll resent the hell out of it. Include  chapters from random authors? I’ll head straight to resentment without purchasing anything.

Raves

Sarah: The hot sauce contest scene. That was just golden. It was funny (like, snort/laugh level funny) and revealed so much about these two characters (hint: they’re both pretty stubborn and both love to win).

As soon as the woman departed, Lexie turned her attention back to Tom. She leaned forward and gave the bottle of hot sauce she’d just shot a push in his direction, raising both eyebrows at him in an obvious dare. You man enough for this? 

Now he got it. Lexie was challenging him to a duel.

Rebeca: That scene could have come straight out of a beloved movie. The timing, chemistry, and dialogue were spot-on. It set the tone for the entire first section of the book.

Sarah: I also loved the entire scenario behind Ride With Me. It put both of the main characters out of their comfort zones (Lexie not being able to plan every moment, because bike rides are inherently unpredictable and Tom having to share what’s for him normally a solitary activity with another person). There’s something to be said for them being in a situation in which they have to rely on one another in order to help not only their attraction grow, but their mutual respect develop.

Rebeca: Unlike some other travel writing I’ve read, Ride With Me seemed to capture the mixture of fear and thrills that come along with immersing yourself in new environments. It’s not by chance that both characters progress so far in their emotional journeys as they meet the challenges that come from leaving your comfort zone.

Sarah: Because the Epic Bike Ride takes nearly an entire summer to complete, Tom and Lexie’s relationship (and in the beginning, tolerance of one another) takes time to develop as well, and we get to see several phases of it. I wish more novels with a romance as the central plot would take this approach, because it’s refreshing and more authentic-feeling to me. 

Rebeca: Love at first sight, whether you believe in it or not, is kinda boring to read about. Hooray for attraction that takes time to mature!

Sarah: Finally, this is a tiny thing, but I also loved the little geographic details in Ride With Me. I felt like I was right there with Lexie and Tom (which is as close to a 3,000-mile bike ride as I’d like to get). I don’t know about the accuracy of much of the locales, but the parts which took place in Oregon were very accurate, which is really essential in road trip novels. 

“There are only two reasons to move to Prineville,” he said finally. “There’s the Les Schwab headquarters,” he said, referring to a regional chain of tire centers, “and there’s the Prineville Hotshots.” “I’m going to guess you weren’t working for Les Schwab.”

Parting Thoughts

Sarah: Even though I had some issues with Ride With Me, it was all kinds of fun, kind of like Shannon Stacey’s Kowalski series and I am looking forward to seeing what Ruthie Knox does next. I basically have “a type” when it comes to reading and I don’t check out many straight-up romances, so this was a nice step out of my book comfort zone. And kudos to Random House for making the price point of this digital-first imprint so appealing. However, I will bestow my coveted Cover WTF Award on Ride With Me, because it’s inaccurate on many levels, including that shirtless cycling in the middle of summer is a recipe for sunburn at best and hellacious road-rash at worst. Also chest waxing is a giant NO for me—Gross Out City, USA.

Rebeca: As a first novel, this book was a knock-out. It’s not perfect, but Knox’s voice was engaging and the chemistry between Tom and Lexie was seriously hot. Not only is this first book impressive, but from the looks of About Last Night (her second book) Knox is on an unstoppable trajectory. I look forward to reading her books for years to come.

Side Note: Cover model, I am much nicer than Sarah. Come visit with me as I seriously don’t care whether you’ve waxed your chest or not.

FNL Character Rating: Tim & Lyla

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Note: Ride With Me is an ebook original and currently not available in print. 

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