Winning Ruby Heart
Ruby Heart was the Olympian distance runner who lost everything by doping, and Micah Blackwell was the reporter who broke the story. Five years later, Micah (who is paraplegic) spots Ruby at an ultramarathon and wonders if who Ruby has become could be even better for his career – and for himself. Also, there’s a dog!
I love detailed stories which teach me about completely different lives, and it’s especially fun to find contemporaries that do it. Since I have always argued that if God intended me to run, He would have placed a lion six feet behind me at all times, I know about as much about running as I do about African apex predators. I really enjoyed the detailed description of Ruby’s life as a runner, and the personality which matched her success. She’s self-centered and her emotional and social growth is stunted (she’s twenty-nine and lives at home with her parents), but she’s aggressive, competitive, and very good at what she does. The author notes the dangers of her life in the public eye, which include omnipresent threats of physical and sexual violence on any news articles about her online.
Similarly, Micah is authentic as a reporter (he’s possessed of a compelling charm which makes people open up to him) and – at least to someone who has little exposure to the life of people in wheelchairs – as a person living with a disability. To an outsider, the details of his condition (like needing a catheter to stay over at Ruby’s so he can pee), and his mentality (his desire not to be type cast to the ‘disabled sports’ beat, his frustration about people asking him if he had considered suicide, his observation that able-bodied people never consider people in wheelchairs to be dangerous unless they’re homeless) ring true.
I liked the centering of sexual attraction between two protagonists who don’t have conventionally sexy bodies. Micah’s disability makes him by far more unusual (although Ruby’s thin, muscled frame is atypical), and the author doesn’t shy away from letting us see Micah as a sexual person. He lusts after Ruby, and Ruby lusts after him, and they act on that lust. They have detailed and frank conversations about Micah’s body – what it can and can’t do, and what Micah does and doesn’t enjoy. I hope it wasn’t prurient for me to find this interesting, especially because I feel that it was an important reminder to me to see someone like Micah the way he’d want to be seen: like a man (or woman), including sexually.
What I wished for more in this book was… more of this book. At 381 pages, it’s at the absolute longest end of Harlequin’s longest line, and I’m sure editorial constraints played into the fact that not everything was developed as much as it could have been. I wanted more narration in Ruby’s head while running, a slower ending sequence, more of the documentary they were producing, and more of her and Micah’s relationship. But on the whole, “I like this so much I wish you’d given me more of it” is not a terrible complaint about a book.