Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Room at the Inn by Ruthie Knox

Why I read it: I picked this up from NetGalley.  I have only read the Ruthie Knox story.

What it's about: (from Goodreads)  ROOM AT THE INN by Ruthie Knox

Carson Vance couldn’t wait to get out of Potter Falls, but now that he’s back to spend Christmas with his ailing father, he must face all the people he left behind . . . like Julie Long, whose heart he broke once upon a time. Now the proprietor of the local inn, Julie is a successful, seductive, independent woman—everything that Carson’s looking for. But despite several steamy encounters under the mistletoe, Julie refuses to believe in happily ever after. Now Carson must prove to Julie that he’s back for good—and that he wants her in his life for all the holidays to come.

What worked for me (and what didn't): Having read and enjoyed Ride with Me and About Last Night, I was keen to read the Christmas novella I'd heard a lot about on Twitter.   I was prepared, from Brie's review for the main characters to be flawed.  I read somewhere (where I cannot now remember) about it being possible to perceive Julie as being somewhat stalker-y given that she moved to Potter's Falls, donated a kidney to Carson's mother, nursed his mother, took over all of her roles in the community etc. I suppose, partly because of all my prior reading, I didn't find those things as problematic as I might otherwise have done.  Perhaps, because of it, my take is a bit different to the other reviews I've read.

It is clear that Carson and Julie have a deep and intense connection.  It is equally clear that they have tried to get on with their lives without each other but when one is in the other's orbit, they are inevitably attracted - like a gravitational pull. 
But maybe she was projecting. Maybe he wasn’t really conveying as much testosterone-laden intensity as she imagined.

Maybe she thought he only looked like a territory-conquering slab of rough-and-tumble male charisma because he’d conquered her territory, tumbled her rough, and left her behind a long time ago.

Now he just stopped by every so often to replant his flag.
And, it seems, that Carson, as much as he tries to resist, is drawn back to Julie even if she is in Potter's Falls, the last place on earth he wants to be (at least for most of the story). I was pleased that Julie had had other relationships and hadn't pined away even as she acknowledges later in the story that ultimately those relationships failed because she wasn't over Carson.   I respected that the reason Carson had stopped having sex with her some years before was because his mother had had a quiet word to the effect that what he was doing was unfair on Julie (even if Julie did not realise that).

I appreciated that both of them didn't want this attraction - neither saw it leading to a happy ever after.
He wanted to feast on her for as long as she’d let him, until he didn’t need her so fucking much anymore.
It wouldn’t work, of course. He wasn’t stupid. He couldn’t use her up or shake her off or run away from her. He’d tried all that. He’d tried everything.
It was that aspect of the story which compelled me.  The impossibility but necessity of their connection.  It's the romance equivalent of a locked room murder mystery.

In the end, when Carson's deep down reason was revealed, I felt - kind of - like it was a bit of a cop out.  I was so curious as to how their fundamental conflict could work out - if it could work out, that when it was about Carson's fear and not his wanderlust after all, I was a little deflated.
It didn’t make any sense to construct a life so narrow, the death of one person brought an end to it. Carson needed to be more. He’d left this place behind and made something of himself. Seen the world. Built things, structures that would last long after he was gone.
I didn't think either Julie or Carson pathetic and I think, given the construct of the story, that their HEA is solid.  But the more interesting conflict was, for me, left along the wayside.  How could things have worked out if he just couldnt' stay full time in Potter's Falls?  Perhaps the answer is that they couldn't and that's why. But I would have liked to have seen it.

I loved the writing (as usual) and enjoyed the story and characters and I liked the way the "villain" was actually not a villian at all.  I even didn't mind the grand gesture at the end of the story - mainly because I felt that Carson needed to let the town know that he would take care of Julie to be completely accepted, given how protective of her they clearly were. I also liked that Carson and his dad had made some inroads into improving their relationship but there was no miracle cure.  I thought Julie was perhaps just a little too perfect but I certainly bought into their mutual passion and connection.

Favourite Quote:
“This is something you need to know[...]” he said. “If you tell me something while you’re not wearing a shirt, I’m not going to remember it.”

Grade: B


Marg said...

I think this is my least favourite Knox so far. Good dialogue as usual but not enough more.

Kaetrin said...

I went into it knowing that some people had problems with it and didn't believe the HEA so I think that affected my mindset. I liked it, I enjoyed the melancholy feel to the beginning but the end was a bit of a let down for me.