Desert Isle Keeper


Ruthie Knox

Ruthie Knox is my latest binge author, and her hot, honest contemporaries are consistent pleasers. After the world’s most disappointing marriage proposal, May Fredericks walks away from her NFL quarterback boyfriend (leaving her shrimp fork in the back of his non-passing hand). Unfortunately, a mugger snatches the purse she walks away with, and with just $5, this Wisconsin girl’s last hope is to find a friendly face in a New York Packers bar to help her get home.

A former chef with an anger management problem, Ben Hausman has a face that’s good-looking but definitely not friendly. Still, he’s trying to reinvent himself as a better person, and when he makes an effort, he finds himself unexpected connecting with May. A night of letting her crash on his couch becomes a weekend showing her the city, and suddenly he finds himself wanting to drive to Wisconsin with her – a place he was desperate to get out of.

Both May and Ben are at crossroads in their lives. May’s boyfriend’s botched proposal taught her that she had become an accessory without her own goals or preferences, a problem that began with her mother. Ben, meanwhile, hates the explosive anger that comes out of him in the kitchen, but can’t let go of his identity as a chef (even though his divorce agreement means he needs to wait another year to open a restaurant). This is a case of an author successfully crafting people who grow and improve instead of unrealistically transforming in a few brief days. Ben points out to May that she starts too many sentences with “sorry.” May makes Ben confront his unhappiness in the kitchen. Ben makes May see her big body and appetite as aphrodisiacs (in one scene full of sexual tension, they stand back to back and then front to front to see who is taller now that May has new boots). May loses her temper with Ben, who yells back – and they both realize that developing healthy openness about their feelings is going to be essential. After an honestly-depicted bad first kiss, Ben and May go on to have great sex, which the author writes well and fills with personality. May’s change from accommodating background woman to assertive presence is carried though to bed, where Ben coaxes her into talking openly about her own desires and then sets about fulfilling them.

New York and May’s hometown of Manitowoc, Wisconsin, are well developed supporting settings, from Ben’s $35 artisanal farmer’s market honey to May’s mother’s inadequate kitchen knives and lousy football macaroni salad. Dan the jilted quarterback is humanized, as is May’s sister Allie, heroine of the sequel Madly. It’s a rich and realistic story all around.

That said, the realism is the one thing that brings the book down a notch. It’s realistic that May and Ben wouldn’t have solved all their issues, but it leaves the book feeling a little incomplete. We don’t know what they will do next, and that leaves me with a question mark on, in particular, Ben’s temper. That being said, it’s a bit of a trap for the author for me to want realism and a resolution in ten days in the same book, and I recognize that.

I enjoyed Truly as a sexy, contemporary story with a serious side that isn’t bleak. I’m hoping to see May and Ben in Allie’s sequel, and that’s something I NEVER say about main characters.  Looks like my Knox binge is not going to end any time soon!

Buy it at: A/BN/iB/K

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Book Details

Reviewer :      Caroline Russomanno

Grade :     A-

Sensuality :      Warm

Book Type :     

Review Tags :     


  1. LeeF January 4, 2018 at 10:57 am - Reply

    I have loved everything I have read by Ruthie Knox including these two quirky books- I wanted it to be more than two!

    • CarolineAAR January 4, 2018 at 1:36 pm - Reply

      Did you miss the third book, Completely?

      • LeeF January 5, 2018 at 11:26 pm - Reply

        Oops, nope- you’re right- there were three 🙂

  2. Em Wittmann
    Em Wittmann January 4, 2018 at 11:38 am - Reply

    I’m also a big fan of Ms. Knox/York. Have you read Deeper/Harder – her NA novels under the pen name Robyn York? Also pretty great. I didn’t connect with this one & for me it’s closer to a B, B-. Although the series (including About Last Night & Madly) is a DIK for me.

  3. Amanda
    Amanda January 4, 2018 at 1:20 pm - Reply

    Ruthie Knox is an author who came highly recommended to me from people who are usually on the nose with recommendations but I’m afraid her books that I’ve read just haven’t worked for me at all, including this one. I gave this book 2 stars and that was me in a good mood. I found both protagonists of this in this book extremely unlikable. May exhibits zero common sense and Ben was very aggressive.

    • Em Wittmann
      Em Wittmann January 4, 2018 at 2:01 pm - Reply

      Have you read About Last Night? That was my first RK – actually I started reading romance after my sister convinced me to read the Outlander series shortly after the show premiered – and ABL was the first CAR I picked up. I loved it and it was my gateway to all things romance. This novel didn’t work for me and neither did her last one. But I did love Madly a lot.

      • Em Wittmann
        Em Wittmann January 4, 2018 at 2:04 pm - Reply

        **ALN = About Last Night. No ideal how I decided ABL was a working abbreviation.

        • CarolineAAR January 4, 2018 at 2:13 pm - Reply

          I wonder if it’s an either/or scenario. About Last Night, with its wealthy London banker, and Madly, with the banker’s brother and the wealthy Allie, are much more in the Harlequin mode of extraordinary people. If you go for that, the ordinariness if these two and their mundane flaws will be dull. I preferred this one to Madly, where I found the twenty-four year old property magnate and business mogul Allie to be OTT (that she could run a restaurant and Ben couldnt was almost a wallbanger moment for me).

      • Em Wittmann
        Em Wittmann January 4, 2018 at 2:07 pm - Reply

        Also, my phone decided CAR was a good substitute for RK. Sorry.

      • Amanda
        Amanda January 4, 2018 at 2:32 pm - Reply

        About Last Night was the first of her books I read. I wasn’t a big fan at all :/ I hate to sound like a romance reader who keeps bashing female protagonists, but I didn’t like the heroine of that book AT ALL. I was frustrated by her behavior and I felt like it took too long for her backstory to unfold and when it did, it’s like the author threw in everything but the kitchen sink. Also, I am very nitpicky about books set in England, since I used to live there. I thought the dialogue and a lot of the details felt inauthentic and I couldn’t get over the hero being named Neville Chamberlain even though I knew it was deliberate.

        Aside from Truly and About Last night, I also read Madly, which I think I enjoyed a bit more than those two, although I felt the protags were a bit… retconned from their appearances in previous books. I decided Knox just may not be for me, unfortunately!

        • Blackjack
          Blackjack January 4, 2018 at 2:53 pm - Reply

          I felt the same about Cath from About Last night. Her psychological dramas defined most of the book and after a while it all felt overwhelming. I was disappointed as this was the first Knox book I read, and I haven’t gone back to her books since.

        • Caz Owens
          Caz Owens January 4, 2018 at 3:20 pm - Reply

          Neville Chamberlain? Good grief.

          The thing is, even though it’s deliberate it’s not funny. If that’s what she was going for.

          • CarolineAAR January 4, 2018 at 5:08 pm

            They’re brothers. Neville and Winston. Neville Chamberlain didn’t work for me, either.

            My favorite of hers has been the novellas How to Misbehave and the sequel novella Making it Last.

  4. Em Wittmann
    Em Wittmann January 4, 2018 at 7:02 pm - Reply

    Oh – tell me more about these novellas! I haven’t heard of either!

    • CarolineAAR January 5, 2018 at 9:38 am - Reply

      They are two stories about the same couple, Amber and Tony, set ~14 years apart. The first (How to Misbehave) is sexy and about the rush of falling in love (the two get quite intimate while trapped in a basement during a tornado warning). The second, Making it Last, catches up with them after three kids and a decade of marriage, as they navigate money problems, try to find time to be a couple, and try to help Amber recapture an identity now that the youngest is in school. That one was intensely realistic and hit home for me – plus, it’s such a rarely-written stage of relationships in romance.

  5. Dabney Grinnan
    Dabney Grinnan January 4, 2018 at 10:20 pm - Reply

    I’ve loved some of Knox’s books. I could read Along Came Trouble again and again. Flirting with Disaster is sexy and has a wonderfully tongue tied hero. The novellas Big Boy and Room at the Inn also worked well for me.

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