Desert Isle Keeper
Ride With Me
Bicyclists, not motorcyclists, are the titular riders of this hot, stand-alone contemporary romance by one of my new autobuys, Ruthie Knox. In Ride with Me, Lexie Marshall advertises for a companion to ride the TransAmerica Bike Trail from Oregon all the way to Virginia. Tom Geiger’s sister, disturbed by Tom’s withdrawal after a disastrous experience as a whistleblower, signs Tom up for it. Thus begins a cross-country adventure in which Lexie and Tom discover that they’re unexpectedly compatible both in the sack and in the bike saddle. Ride With Me is an original take on the road-trip romance that I enjoyed very much.
Tom has deliberately isolated himself as a punishment for blowing up his family and the family company by whistleblowing on environmental violations. He tries to convince himself that he hates company, especially extroverted, type-A, very attractive company like Lexie. But even as he acts like Angry Tom (as Lexie dubs his isolated misanthrope persona) is all he can be, Lexie sees through to the other Toms (Cheerful, Clever, Sexy, etc.) underneath. While she draws out the good Toms, Tom serves as a catalyst for Lexie to reflect on her own goals on biking the TransAm. Why isn’t her trip-of-a-lifetime the magical experience she had anticipated? Is it a way out of her routine, or has she just taken her rut on the road?
I’ve never read a romance about bicyclists before. As an admitted non-cyclist myself, I think the author strikes a good balance between fleshing out the setting with cycling details and advancing the romance and plot. We learn about the countryside and how it feels to bike (the monotonous Kansas is “worse than expected”, Colorado has a “headwind… blowing so hard it made riding a form of torture”.) We also see how Tom and Lexie’s personalities affect their riding styles. Lexie is organized, with a computer GPS on her handlebars, daily mileage targets, and sips of water every fifteen minutes, whether she’s thirsty or not. Tom doesn’t bother to shift gears on hills and likes to pop off the trail when burritos beckon. When you see that Tom is the only person who can get Lexie to relax, and that Lexie is the only person who can get Tom to address his past, you realize that the two of them are a good match in things far beyond bicycle speed.
The two have strong sexual chemistry and must be in damn amazing shape, considering how they repeatedly get it on after long days of biking (as a non-cyclist, I did wonder if the lack of chafing on Lexie was totally realistic, and also about the hygiene of cycling sixty miles, doing it, and then cycling again without showers and wearing Spandex. It seemed to me like Lexie was riding towards a yeast infection.) The sex scenes are hot but also funny and personal, for instance when Tom books ‘the bordello room’ at a cheap motel for Lexie’s birthday, or when they bemoan the lack of anything to hide behind for a roadside quickie in Kansas and Tom proposes building sex shacks along the bike trail.
Downsides for this book: As far as fighting and making relationship progress, Tom and Lexie ride two miles forward without going one mile back. Their occasional days-long silence grudges feel not only immature, but also implausible. Do they really set up and strike campsites, or communicate the need for bathroom breaks in pantomime? The ending, with Tom and Lexie making future plans, feels rushed.
That said, if you’re looking for a road romance that’s fun, original, and sexy, definitely take Ride With Me out for a spin.