Review: How to Misbehave (Novella) by Ruthie Knox
Ruthie Knox's Ride with Me was a favorite at Clear Eyes, Full Shelves in 2012. Both Rebeca aka Renegade and I immensely enjoyed Ruthie's clever, witty storytelling that was both light-hearted and grounded.
Her books very much have a Julie James vibe (good humor and great character chemistry) with more of a blue collar sensibility.
In 2013, readers can look forward to even more Ruthie, with two full-length books and a novella featuring characters in the fictional town of Camelot, Ohio.
The novella, How to Misbehave, introduces Camelot and the family each story centers around by taking us back to Y2K and introducing Amber Clark (whose siblings are main characters in the other two books in the series) and Tony Mazzaro, a contractor.
Amber and Tony meet at the community center where Amber works and Tony is supervising a construction job. As one does, Amber spends her spare time
ogling very casually observing Tony and his fine ass great smile while he supervises the job-site.
Amber is a rather unusual (at least to me) character in romance. While at first glance, she appears like a same old, same old shy romance lead, she's more complex--and that's quite a feat for such a short story (it's approximately 100 pages). Amber attended a Christian college but ultimately left that conservative world (and her virginity) behind. She's had boyfriends, but none have been particularly, uh... satisfying, if you know what I mean.
Frankly, Amber could have easily been a stereotype, but one of the things that Knox does with How to Misbehave is play with the "good girl" archetype.
Tony makes assumptions about Amber that pigeonhole her as a typical good girl, but she's different that he (and I) expected. Tony, too, has more depth than it first appears, though he follows the bad boy with a dark past archetype pretty closely. He's spent a long time revisiting guilt from a past incident and it's kept him from truly moving forward with his life and he works through that thanks to Amber.
A tornado warning forces the two together when they take shelter in the center's dark basement which is quite
convenient terrifying. Thankfully, the chemistry between the two distracts them from the possible terrifying weather incident. (Fun fact: the first time I visited Ohio, there was a tornado warning and I freaked out and everyone laughed at me because apparently no one goes into the basement unless they actually "see a twister.")
I so enjoyed these two characters that I found myself disappointed that How to Misbehave was just novella length. It's got Ruthie's trademark good humor and fun chemistry, but I far prefer her longer novels because the character development is light in just 100 or so pages. And (this may make me sound like a prude) because of the shortness of this one, there's an extended sex scene (which is very female-positive, like in all of Ruthie's books) that takes up a significant percentage of page time, which left this story feeling unbalanced for me and as a result the conclusion feels extremely rushed.
The short length also means that the setting--Y2K--isn't as developed as it could have been in a full-length story. In order to make the timing work for the other books in this series, How to Misbehave needed to be set when it was. However, if it were twice as long it would have been more satisfying from that standpoint as well.
Since my biggest complaint is that How to Misbehave isn't long enough, it's definitely a story I'd recommend, particularly to folks who are curious about Ruthie Knox's writing, since the $1 price tag is pretty appealing.
Knox definitely has a knack for creating characters that feel real and believable and always strikes a nice balance between sass and emotion and How to Misbehave is no exception.
Disclosure: Received for review from the publisher.