Review: Completely by Ruthie Knox

Review: Completely by Ruthie KnoxCompletely (New York #3) by Ruthie Knox
Formats available: ebook
Series: New York #3
Pages: 262
on September 26th 2017
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo

Everest. If they can make it there, they can make it anywhere. Maybe even New York, where Ruthie Knox takes her charming rom-com style to new heights.   Beneath her whole “classic English beauty” appearance is an indomitable spirit that has turned Rosemary Chamberlain into something of a celebrity mountain climber. But after an Everest excursion takes a deadly turn, Rosemary is rescued by her quick-thinking guide, New York native Kal Beckett. Rosemary’s brush with death brings out a primal need to celebrate life—and inspires a night of steamy sex with the rather gorgeous man who saved her.   The son of a famous female climber with a scandalous past, Kal Beckett is still trying to find himself. In the Zen state of mind where Kal spends most of his time, anything can happen—like making love to a fascinating stranger and setting off across the world with her the next morning. But as their lives collide in the whirlwind of passion that is New York City, the real adventure is clearly just beginning. . . .   Ruthie Knox’s irresistible New York novels can be read together or separately: TRULY | MADLY | COMPLETELY   “Knox writes such sultry, detailed romance. The sexual tension and the sex itself are very hot. . . . Highly recommend this story.”Smexy Books, on Truly   “An amazing journey of self-discovery with a sexy love story thrown in for good measure!”Guilty Pleasures Book Reviews, on Truly   “What Knox does so well is create these wonderful, emotionally wounded, real characters for us to relate to and root for and love.”RT Book Reviews, on Madly   “A highly entertaining, compelling, and sexy story that I really didn’t want to put down.”Harlequin Junkie, on Madly

My Review:

One of the things about series romances is that there’s a tendency, or more likely a downright desire, to make sure that everyone within the series’ orbit has found their own HEA by the end of the series. Even if it’s not with the person they began with. After all, just because a story features a second chance at love doesn’t mean that second chance has to occur with the same person the first one did.

Especially when that option has been rendered moot by an earlier book in the series, where one half of the former couple finds their HEA with somebody else.

In the case of both Friday’s book, A Snow Country Christmas, and today’s book, Completely, the last unmatched person standing is the ex of the hero of one of the earlier stories. In both cases, of course, not an evilex (™) but just the other half of a relationship that wasn’t meant to be.

About Last Night by Ruthie KnoxWe originally met Rosemary Chamberlain all the way back in About Last Night, which is one of my favorite contemporary romances of all time, and if you haven’t read it you really should. Not because you need to have read it for the New York Trilogy in general or Madly and Completely in specific to make sense, but because About Last Night is just plain awesomesauce and wonderful and every time I have to refer to it for something I get sucked right back into it again and again and again.

But way back then, Rosemary was still married to Winston (the hero of Madly) and still living in England, being, as she puts it, “wallpaper”. Rosemary felt like she sacrificed all her own dreams to become the perfect wife and perfect mother. The new post-divorce Rosemary is obviously no longer the perfect wife, which is a good thing, but her daughter Beatrice is very unhappy and overdramatic and just a general pain about Rosemary no longer being the perfect mum.

Instead, Rosemary is climbing mountains. We meet her again as she’s ascending Everest. Not figuratively, but literally. She’s part of an all-woman team that is planning to ascend the tallest mountain on each continent, starting with Everest. And then she’s going to write a book about the experience.

That’s the plan until it all, equally literally, goes smash. A deadly avalanche ends the ascent to the summit, as the Base Camps below Rosemary’s party are all in various stages of wiped out. The mountain is closed. And Rosemary finds herself alone, evacuated by helicopter to the tiny town of Lukla, home of the most dangerous airport in the world and the nearest airport to Everest.

She’s numb. She’s spent. Her adrenaline has crashed to sea level and she’s not processing the sudden end to her plans or her overwhelming grief at all the lives lost. And into the middle of her complete mental shutdown steps Kal Beckett. Kal is the son of two famous climbers, half-Sherpa, and one of the “ice doctors” on her run up the mountain. He’s also the only person who sees that Rosemary’s British stiff upper lip has finally failed her, and that she needs food and rest and human companionship to help her through the darkness that surrounds her.

What he’s not admitting to himself is that he is just as lost in the dark as she is, and that he needs those things equally badly. He brings her food, and companionship, and a desperate need to remind himself that he’s alive – a need which Rosemary turns out to be intensely enthusiastic to meet.

Their lovemaking should have been a one-night stand. Or one day and one night, considering how sleep deprived they both were. But it isn’t. Rosemary isn’t ready to pick up all of the obligations that await her. She wants to go to New York and see her daughter. Kal needs to go home to New York, but all his money and equipment have been stolen while he and Rosemary slept the sleep of the “grateful not to be dead”.

They team up. Rosemary spots Kal the plane fare home. They help each other stay grounded, and make it through the rough spots left by experiencing something terrible and profound that no one else could possibly understand.

And along the way they figure out that no matter how temporary their relationship should have been – it’s anything but. Even though it makes no sense at all. Love and sense obviously have nothing to do with each other. At least not for them.

Escape Rating A-: I’ve loved everything that Ruthie Knox has written, and Completely is no exception.

The story in Completely, while it focuses on Rosemary and Kal, is also a very nice wrap up for the entire New York Trilogy. And it adds a nice little fillip to About Last Night as well, as Completely ends with the wedding of the couple from About Last Night. It was great to see Cath and Nev again, and to know that they’ve firmly cemented their HEA.

And even though this is Rosemary’s story, it also ties in nicely with Madly. Not just because Rosemary is Winston’s ex, either.

Rosemary can’t face going back to the climbing group. Not out of fear, or any of the other reasons that might stop someone from returning to something so incredibly dangerous. Instead, it’s because she’s finally letting herself acknowledge that while climbing mountains may have been a dream of her younger self that she gave up to become that perfect wife and mum, she has changed and the dreams she dreamed at 20 are not the same dreams that move her now.

She still wants to write, but the stories that she wants to write are women’s stories. Not women’s fiction, or fiction of any kind. What moves her now are women’s voices, and the true stories that have been left untold because they happened to women. All the ways that the world is different from the perspective of a female body and all the stories that have been suppressed because the teller is a woman and not a man.

And she wants to start with Kal’s mother Yangchen Beckett, the only woman to summit Mount Everest seven times. A woman who was only able to summit Mount Everest at all after she divorced and possibly murdered her violent, abusive ex-husband.

It’s a story that even Kal doesn’t know – and isn’t quite he’s ready to find out. But Yangchen is ready to tell it, and ready to manipulate her son and this surprising woman that he has come to love in order to both get her story out into the world and to finally help her son find the elusive happiness that he deserves – but can’t make himself reach for.

Most of Ruthie Knox’s stories feel very real, featuring people who seem like they could live next door or across the street. And the tensions that keep her romantic couples apart before they figure out how to be together also feels real. Life happens. Stuff happens. People don’t always deal well with the stuff that happens to them. And they screw up the best things in their lives trying not to deal with their own shit.

So even though Rosemary and Kal meet in a situation that is far from ordinary, the issues and problems between them still feel real, as does the love they have unexpectedly found with each other. And it’s marvelous.

I don’t know where Ruthie Knox is going next, or what terrific new stories she’s planning to tell. But I know that I plan to be there whenever she tells them.

Review: Madly by Ruthie Knox

Review: Madly by Ruthie KnoxMadly (New York, #2) by Ruthie Knox
Formats available: ebook
Series: New York #2
Pages: 274
Published by Loveswept on March 14th 2017
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo

An impulsive trip to New York City, a heartthrob from London, and a scandalous to-do list turn a small-town girl’s life upside down in this sultry romance from the New York Times bestselling author of Truly and About Last Night.
Allie Fredericks isn’t supposed to be in Manhattan, hiding in the darkest corner of a hip bar, spying on her own mother—who’s flirting with a man who’s definitely not Allie’s father. Allie’s supposed to be in Wisconsin, planning her parents’ milestone anniversary party. Then Winston Chamberlain walks through the door, with his tailored suit, British accent, and gorgeous eyes, and Allie’s strange mission goes truly sideways.
Winston doesn’t do messy. But after a pretty stranger ropes him into her ridiculous family drama with a fake kiss that gets a little too real, he finds out that messy can be fun. Maybe even a little addicting. And as the night grows longer, Allie and Winston make a list of other wild things they could do together—and what seems like a mismatch leads to a genuine connection. But can their relationship survive as their real lives implode just outside the bedroom door?

My Review:

Madly is the follow up to two of Ruthie Knox’s best contemporary romances, not that all of her books aren’t utterly marvelous.

But this second book in her New York series pairs the sister of the heroine in the first book, Truly, with the brother of the hero from her award-winning About Last Night. And this surprising couple may look oh-so-wrong on paper but they are oh-so-right in this book.

Allie Fredericks comes to New York on a whim. And not a very good whim, at that. She finds herself at Pulvermacher’s, the Green Bay Packers-themed bar in New York City, watching her mother seem to flirt with a stranger. A stranger that Allie knows is her, well, let’s call him bio-dad. He’s not the man who raised her, but he’s definitely her sperm donor.

It looks like Allie’s mom has bailed on her father just days before their 30th wedding anniversary to have a fling, or something, with her on again, off again New York lover. And somehow Allie believes that this problem is hers to fix. Now that she knows she’s the proverbial cuckoo in her family’s Wisconsin nest, she can’t stop herself from thinking that everything that appears wrong with her family is all her fault, and all her responsibility to fix.

Winston Chamberlain is in Pulvermacher’s to meet his investment client, Justin Olejniczak, better known to the art world as the mysterious performance artist Justice. (Think Chilhuly but handsomer and with cloth). The very straight-laced Winston finds himself at loose ends when he walks in to discover his client talking very seriously with a woman at the bar.

And that’s when Allie ropes Winston into helping her spy on her mother. And all the straight-laces that have been tying Winston’s life into very uncomfortable knots all start coming loose. At once.

It turns out that they both need someone with whom they can be their authentic selves. Winston used to be as devil-may-care as Allie seems to be, or as his brother Neville (see About Last Night for the glorious deets) now is. But Winston shoehorned himself into all the responsibilities he thought he was supposed to take on, and somewhere along the way built a career but lost his wife and his daughter. The marriage is long over, but the daughter is here in New York, and he still has a chance to salvage that relationship.

Allie, on the other hand, seems footloose and fancy free. She seems like a creative spirit who dresses in vintage clothes and never quite takes responsibility for much of anything. But her real self is not merely responsible, but actually an extremely savvy and successful businesswoman. A woman that no one seems to see behind the out-there outfits.

They are absolutely perfect for each other. And they are the absolutely perfect people to help each other find the way out of their respective conundrums. If only Allie doesn’t crash and burn all of her relationships with her family on the way to that happy ending.

Escape Rating A: This was the perfect book for me on a weekend where I was laid up with both a cold and a bruised leg. I was feeling out of sorts in so many possible directions, and Ruthie took me away to her New York for a whirlwind tour.

Like so many of the author’s previous stories, this is a romance between two people who simply shouldn’t work together, but absolutely do. It just takes them a while to recognize it.

Winston seriously needs a “do-over” in his life. He has become so good at being serious and responsible, that he’s lost track of the person he really is. His obligations and his career have become a straight-jacket that never fit, it’s just that nearing 40, he’s finally come to recognize that it isn’t working for him. At the same time, all those years he spent being the perfect everything are a part of who he is. He needs to find a blend if he’s to keep his relationship with his now adult daughter.

This is a case where the age difference between the hero and heroine works well. Allie is in her mid-20s, but she also isn’t typical. Her artistic and free-spirited manner and clothing make her seem as if she is young and irresponsible, but that’s only on the surface, much as Winston’s ultra-responsibility is. She is also a very savvy, responsible and successful businesswoman. She needs someone who appreciates both sides of who she really is. But because she is a conflict-avoider, people often see her as less, particularly her douchebag ex-fiancee.

About Last Night by Ruthie KnoxThe lesson that the pain is the same whether you talk about it or not is one that we all need to learn.

I also loved the resolution of Allie’s family issues. Nothing, of course, is exactly as it seems. But it seems the way it does to Allie because there are so many secrets, and no one is dealing with them. Like many children, even as adults we think that we are responsible for the problems between our parents, even when we’re not. Perhaps especially when we’re not. The way that this particular aspect of the plot resolved was a big part of the winning formula of this story.

Although Madly uses characters from both About Last Night and Truly, I don’t think it is absolutely necessary to read either or both of those antecedents to enjoy Madly. However, they are both absolutely fantastic contemporary romances, and definitely worth reading. Or re-reading.

Excuse me, I’m off to read About Last Night for the third (or maybe fifth) time.

Review: Hawke by Sawyer Bennett

Review: Hawke by Sawyer BennettHawke (Cold Fury Hockey, #5) by Sawyer Bennett
Formats available: ebook, audiobook
Series: Cold Fury Hockey #5
Pages: 275
Published by Loveswept on March 15th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository

The Carolina Cold Fury hockey team proves that love is a power play. As Sawyer Bennett’s New York Times bestselling series continues, the league’s most notorious party animal gets blindsided by the one that got away.
Off the ice, elite defenseman Hawke Therrien enjoys his fair share of booze and good times. And why shouldn’t he? He’s worked his way up from the minor leagues and made himself a star. The only thing Hawke misses from that life is the pierced, tattooed free spirit who broke his heart without so much as an explanation. She’s almost unrecognizable when she walks back into his life seven years later—except for the look in her eyes that feels like a punch to the gut.
Vale Campbell isn’t the same girl she was at twenty. As crazy as she was about Hawke, her reckless behavior and out-of-control drinking were starting to scare her. She had to clean up her act, and that would never happen with Hawke around. Cutting him loose was the hardest thing Vale ever had to do—until now. Because she’s still crazy about Hawke. And if he could ever learn to forgive her, they just might have a future together.

My Review:

alex by sawyer bennettI picked this up because I have generally enjoyed Bennett’s Cold Fury Hockey series. However, looking at the progression of my reviews from the first book, Alex to the most recent book, Ryker, I can see that my feelings about this series have been on a downhill slide. I had originally planned to review it as part of a tour, but after I finished, I discovered that I just couldn’t. In spite of having enjoyed most of the earlier entries in the series, I did not like this book. It hit two of my hot buttons, and not in a good way.

As my readers are aware, I am not fond of the “misunderstandammit” that often creates the fake tension in a romance. You know what I mean, where the only reason the two protagonists are apart is because they just won’t sit down and communicate with each other. They get so caught up in thinking they know what is going on in the other person’s head or heart that they never just talk about it. And all too often, whatever it is they are assuming, read for the classic definition of “assume makes an ass out of u and me” is ridiculously petty, and it is always dead wrong.

In this story there are two big misunderstandammits. One is actually pretty big and important, but it gets cleared up in the middle of the book. By the time the issue is dealt with, I suspect there will be very few readers who haven’t already figured it out, but it is understandable that the heroine didn’t reveal it to the hero at the time it happened. Probably not a good choice on her part, but understandable.

And this reader was incredibly grateful that it wasn’t a secret baby. That’s a trope I dislike pretty intensely.

But there is a second misunderstandammit, and it turns out to be both petty and stupid. It’s petty in the sense that what turns out to be behind it was petty. That it is something the heroine is still unhappy with is not. But there was no vicious motive, just coincidence and happenstance. Life happens. What felt stupid was that while he gets closure, while he discovers what happened in the past and learns the reasons behind it, she never reveals that he hurt her as well. She’s supposed to be more forgiving than that. Why? He gets the air cleared but she doesn’t? And then, when that second secret bites them in the ass, she still doesn’t reveal it. A friend has to “woman up” for her.

That’s kind of where things fell apart for me. Not because of this particular incident, but because it fell into the pattern of the book. He gets whatever he wants, and she gives in.

There is a scene about a third of the way through, where he follows her to a private place at a party, intending to talk. Instead it turns into punishment sex that doesn’t go all the way. But we see this scene from inside his head, and she says no. She may still be into him, but it’s the wrong place and the wrong time. It’s not just that there is a party in the next room, but her current boyfriend is at that party. Whatever she still feels or doesn’t, this is wrong and she says so. Hawke doesn’t care that she said no, he wants to prove to her that she still wants him, so he coerces her participation, then backs out because of shit in his own head.

It felt like there were way too many times in this story where she said, “no”, or “not now” and he decided that what he wanted was more important than her “no” or that he knew best. To me, that is not romantic. It is controlling and borderline abusive. It also feeds into the mindset that “no” really means “yes” or that the woman’s agency doesn’t matter nearly as much as the man’s does. This one drops me out of the story every single time.

There are a whole lot of times where Hawke is sweet and caring, but it doesn’t change this tone for me.

When she finally reveals what happened years ago, part of her reason for breaking up with him was that she felt that if they stayed together, it would always be about him. He would swallow her up and she would never be anything more than his appendage. At the end of the story, it is all too clear that she was right then, and she’s still right now.

Escape Rating D  for very, very disappointed.