Review: Big Boy by Ruthie Knox

Format read: ebook provided by the publisher
Big Boy by Ruthie KnoxFormats available: ebook
Genre: contemporary romance
Series: Strangers on a Train
Length: 57 pages
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Date Released: April 2, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

Meet me at the train museum after dark. Dress for 1957.

When Mandy joins an online dating service, she keeps her expectations low. All she wants is a distraction from the drudgery of single parenthood and full-time work. But the invitation she receives from a handsome man who won’t share his real name promises an adventure–and a chance to pretend she’s someone else for a few hours.
She doesn’t want romance to complicate her life, but Mandy’s monthly role-playing dates with her stranger on a train–each to a different time period–become the erotic escape she desperately needs. And a soul connection she never expected.
Yet when she tries to draw her lover out of the shadows, Mandy has a fight on her hands…to convince him there’s a place for their fantasy love in the light of day.

Warning: Contains sexy role-playing, theatrical application of coal dust, and a hero who can rock a pair of brown polyester pants.

My Review:

For a relatively short story, Big Boy lives up to its name. It packs in a surprisingly large amount of storytelling in very few pages.

Mandy is an accidental single parent and the accident wasn’t even hers. Her sister and brother-in-law were killed, leaving Mandy as the single parent of their baby son just as Mandy took her first job as a history professor in Green Bay Wisconsin.

Being the lowest person on the academic food chain in a small college is the dictionary definition of overworked and underpaid, along with insecure into the bargain. Added to that Mandy has the need to cobble together child-care and the added expense of a baby. But she loves her son and feels blessed. Also exhausted.

She signs up for the online dating service with incredibly low expectations. But instead of normal, or even the usual run of whatever, she finds a man who has multiple, costumed profiles on the service.

Mandy picks the guy who will give her a vacation from reality. One night a month. Because that’s all the time that she can manage to slice out of her life with her son, and sometimes she feels guilty about that.

It takes a lot of those “one night a month” dates before she starts to want something more, and to wonder why her stranger on the train is willing to settle for so little. Can something that starts out as a vacation from reality be a bridge to a better real life?

Escape Rating A: We see this story from Mandy’s perspective, her exhaustion, her slight desperation, her need to carve out just a tiny slice of life for herself, but at the same time, her knowledge that she loves her son and that this unplanned life is terribly fulfilling, no matter how it came about. It’s just also isolating.

Her interludes with Tyler start out as escapes. At first there’s a little fear along with the excitement; who is this guy really and why does he have access to the train museum at night? Is this dangerous? Why the costumes? But the role-playing adds to the escapism, and she needs that. Who Tyler really is, or isn’t, doesn’t even matter at first.

But as the months roll by, she starts to want something real. Her grief at the loss of her sister lessens, and she gets used to her routine. This is her life now. Tyler is fun, but what about the rest of her life? Who is he and why can’t they have a relationship? Then they meet in the real world and she starts to wonder why he needs the escape. Then she finds out.

The length of the story is just right. Normally I think that stories this short are either too surface or end too abruptly. This one is just right. All the way around.

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