Winning Ruby Heart
By Jennifer Lohmann
Publisher: Harlequin (Superromance)
Ruby knows Micah Blackwell is out of his mind if he thinks she is going to give him a second chance to humiliate her. She may not be as immune to his charm as she would like, but she is not foolish enough to say yes to his request. However, when her mother unleashes Micah’s rival on her, Ruby decides Micah is the lesser of the evils. As Micah and Ruby spend time together, they become friends. When the possibility of a more intimate relationship develops, Ruby has to decide how much she trusts Micah, and Micah has to decide if what he feels for Ruby is worth the conflict of interest that could destroy the career that has been the focus of his life.
I gave Jennifer Lohmann’s The First Move high marks and enjoyed the other books in her Milek trilogy, so I was pleased when I received an advance copy of Winning Ruby Heart, particularly when I realized her heroine was an athlete. With the recent trend in romances featuring athletes, female athletes have been given surprisingly little attention. For these reasons, I was predisposed to like this book, and I was not disappointed in the major characters. Because much of Micah’s struggle occurs before the story opens, Ruby experiences the greater growth. It is refreshing to see her acknowledge her responsibility in what happened to her and refuse to play the blame game. The scene where she stands up to her controlling parents is a real cheer-out-loud moment.
Despite their initial conflict, Ruby and Micah have a great deal in common. They both know what it is like to have no choice but to give up the sport to which they have devoted themselves, and they both know what it is like to be defined wholly by a piece of who they are. Micah knows this experience from two perspectives—first as a star athlete and later as a disabled man. Neither had an idyllic childhood, and they both have definite flaws. They are real and they are sympathetic, despite their weaknesses. And Lohmann brings her readers into the lives of these two people with a rare richness of detail and emotional complexity.
Two things kept the book from being a five-star read for me. First, except for Micah’s father, Ruby’s Dalmatian Dotty (a heart-stealer for animal lovers), and, to a lesser degree, Ruby’s brother, all of the secondary characters lacked dimension. This was a particular problem with the villain because the impression of him as little more than a cardboard evil man increased through the high point of the action that felt more contrived than organic. Second, and this is a quality I often bemoan in categories, the ending felt too rushed to be fully credible or wholly satisfying. I badly wanted several more chapters that allowed the working out of problems and provided a more detailed HEA.
Despite these complaints, I recommend Winning Ruby Heart. Ruby and Micah make the book worth reading, and I’m in favor of supporting authors who depart from the predictable. I finished the book glad that I read it and eager to see what Lohmann has in store for her readers next.