Review – Flirting with Disaster by Ruthie Knox

Anyone who’s been reading my blog or following my Twitter feed knows that I’m kind of a fan of Ruthie Knox’s writing. (You know, like LeBron James is kind of a basketball player or my friend Jason is kind of in love with cheese.)  So you know that I’ve been looking forward to her next book for kind of a while, and I was kind of thrilled when I got an email telling me it was available.  Also, I kind of loved it.

Cover image, Flirting with Disaster by Ruthie Knox

The publisher’s blurb, courtesy of Goodreads:

In the latest eBook original novel in Ruthie Knox’s scorching-hot Camelot series, a no-strings fling looks an awful lot like falling in love—or flirting with disaster.

Fresh out of a fiasco of a marriage, Katie Clark has retreated to her hometown to start over. The new Katie is sophisticated, cavalier, and hell-bent on kicking butt at her job in her brother’s security firm. But on her first assignment—digging up the truth about the stalker threatening a world-famous singer-songwriter—Katie must endure the silent treatment from a stern but sexy partner who doesn’t want her help . . . or her company.

Sean Owens knows that if he opens his mouth around Katie, she’ll instantly remember him as the geeky kid who sat behind her in high school. Silence is golden, but he can’t keep quiet forever, not with Katie stampeding through their investigation. It’s time for Sean to step up and take control of the case, and his decade-old crush. If he can break through Katie’s newfound independence, they just might find they make a perfect team—on the road, on the job, and in bed.

It’s actually ridiculous how much time I’ve spent staring at the blank space in this review wondering where to start.  Then again, I was always the sort to write the introductions to my college papers at the end.  Maybe that’s an example of poor organizational skills, or maybe it’s a sign of scientific inquiry: I didn’t know what I was going to prove until I’d proved it.  Anyway.

I’ll start with the conclusion: I loved this book.  I loved Sean, and I loved Katie even more.  I loved the love story, and I loved all the background stuff that gave it breadth and depth.

The central focus of Flirting with Disaster is the love story between Sean and Katie, of course, and it’s a good one.  But flirting around the edges of that story and around those characters is a deeper, even more human story about identity.  It’s the kind of story that most people experience at some point in life, and it usually happens in your early twenties.  But sometimes it doesn’t, or you get it wrong.  Sometimes who you thought you were isn’t who you really are.  That arresting discovery that you’ve been existing for a long time but not really living can hit any time, and when it does, it’s terrifying but also liberating.

I think you should read this book, so I’m not going to tell you much about it, but it has:

  1. Some of the most fantastic awkward foreplay that has ever been written, including the least sexy kiss in the history of ever.  I know that sounds like it’s a bad thing, but it’s not — it’s wonderful.  
  2. A stuttering hero whose stutter doesn’t get better by the end of the book — as though normalcy were part of the happily ever after — and is always treated as being just a part of who he is.
  3. Excellently wrought tension between the characters.
  4. Star Wars posters. Framed Star Wars posters.
  5. A non-combative relationship. Have you ever noticed that in our culture, there’s a tendency to see relationships as being about competition?  I mean, when you think about it, that’s sort of what compromise is all about.  Two people are inevitably going to want slightly different things, and successful relationships, we’re told, are the ones where the parties successfully reach some sort of compromise.  Sometimes one person ends up doing all the compromising, sometimes it’s equal, but it’s always about competing for who’s going to compromise this time.  What I liked best about Flirting with Disaster is that Sean and Katie had a non-combative relationship that wasn’t about winning and losing.  Was Katie going to get to become her true self, or would she have to suppress that part of herself in order to be with Sean?  Would Sean have to give up his other, more successful, life in order to share a life with Katie?  Knox brings up both questions and then dismisses them in favor of a third: what if love isn’t about two individuals getting exactly — or as close as they can — what they individually want from each other (requiring a bit of competition and compromise in order to effect)?  What if love is about two people working together to make a better life for both?  What if love can be cooperative instead of competitive?  What would that look like?

I highly recommend this book, straight up, no qualifiers (although, it’ll probably help if you’re keen on romance to start with…).

Flirting with Disaster was released on June 10, 2013 by LoveSwept, a division of Random House Digital.  To learn more about the book, please click on the cover image above.  If you’re interested in learning more about Ruthie Knox (and you totally should be), please check out her website.

*FTC Disclosure – I received an e-galley of this book from LoveSwept via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

Review – Along Came Trouble by Ruthie Knox

About a month ago, I picked up and read About Last Night in one sitting.  Then I read it again the next day. Then I thought about it for a few days.  I’ll be honest, a lot of the time when I read a romance novel, I am striving not to think, but I get such a kick out of the books that force me out of my mental somnolence and into an engagement with what I’ve read.  About Last Night was such a book, and it launched Ruthie Knox onto a rather high spot on my “Authors Whose Books I’ll Anticipate and Automatically Buy” list.  When I saw on NetGalley that Knox had another novel coming out soon, I jumped on a chance to read and review it (and then purchased the novella that introduces the series).

Cover image, Along Came Trouble by Ruthie Knox

Do not judge this book by its cover.  I know you want to… dont’ do it!  The blurb, courtesy of Goodreads

An accomplished lawyer and driven single mother, Ellen Callahan isn’t looking for any help. She’s doing just fine on her own. So Ellen’s more than a little peeved when her brother, an international pop star, hires a security guard to protect her from a prying press that will stop at nothing to dig up dirt on him. But when the tanned and toned Caleb Clark shows up at her door, Ellen might just have to plead the fifth.

Back home after a deployment in Iraq and looking for work as a civilian, Caleb signs on as Ellen’s bodyguard. After combat in the hot desert sun, this job should be a breeze. But guarding the willful beauty is harder than he imagined—and Caleb can’t resist the temptation to mix business with pleasure. With their desires growing more undeniable by the day, Ellen and Caleb give in to an evening of steamy passion. But will they ever be able to share more than just a one-night stand?

I’m just going to come right out with the bottom line: this book is fabulous.  It takes the well-worn Hero as Protector trope and adds depth and substance by giving Caleb a few genuine insecurities to go along with his protective impulses.  Caleb worries about his father and mother; he worries that his mother doesn’t respect him as an adult; he feels guilt over leaving his family behind while pursuing a career in the military, and he worries that he won’t be able to fix all the problems that his family collected while he was gone.  Once he’s connected with Ellen, he worries that he won’t be able to adequately protect her while also giving her the space she needs.  The poor man worries a lot, significantly more than the brutish alphas one is accustomed to seeing grunting and flexing their way through their more traditional romances.

Ellen is also a bit of a twist on the traditional heroine.  After emerging, pregnant, from an awful marriage that left her belittled and diminished, she is extremely reticent to rely on anyone (especially another man) for anything.  She fears returning to weakness and complacency.  Ellen’s journey from forced independence to healthy interdependence is lovely to see.

This book also features a fun subplot involving Ellen’s brother and her next door neighbor (and her neighbor’s grandmother, who is probably my favorite character in the book).  While I’m often a bit leery of subplots (sometimes you wonder why you’re spending so much time hearing about stuff that has nothing to do with the main story, you know?!), it totally worked in this book.  I don’t know why (so I feel a bit dumb even bringing up the subplot thing, but whatever), but maybe it’s because the subplot really was necessary to throw Caleb and Ellen together and because Jamie (Ellen’s brother) is an excellent foil for Caleb.

My favorite bit in the book is Ellen’s epiphany after the big conflict.  I mentioned in the opening paragraph how much I enjoy being stunned out of somnolence by bits of writing that make me think.  Ellen’s epiphany was one of those moments (and the resolution scene following it made me smile and cheer).

If you’re going to read this book (and you totally should), you also might want to check out How to Misbehave a prelude novella introducing the setting and some of the characters in this series, set in an idyllic Ohio town called Camelot.  Along Came Trouble is totally a stand-alone book, and you don’t need to read the novella in order to follow the plot, but you should read it anyway because it’s wonderful.  Just saying.  (For more information about the novella, click on the cover image to visit the book’s page on Goodreads.)

Cover image, How to Misbehave by Ruthie Knox

Along Came Trouble was released on March 11, 2013 as an e-book by Loveswept, a division of Random House.  If you’re interested in finding out more about the book, click on the cover image above to visit the book’s page on Goodreads.  For more information about Ruthie Knox, visit her website.

*FTC Disclosure – I received an e-galley of this book from Loveswept via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*