How to Misbehave, Ruthie Knox

Written by Natalie Luhrs

I'm a lifelong geek with a passion for books and social justice. Fuck around and find out.

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January 28, 2013

How to Misbehave, Ruthie Knox

How to Misbehave, Ruthie Knox

Note: I received a promotional copy of this book via Netgalley.

This book.


No, really. One has to love a book that has the line, “Her orgasms were a shy species, afraid of men.”

This book also made me completely unaware of the serious drafts in my living room. It takes a hell of a book to distract me from the heat-sucking breeze and this book certainly did that.

Ruthie Knox’s “How to Misbehave” is a short-ish novella set in the small town of Camelot, Ohio in 1999. Amber is a local girl who went to a local college and who, while she lives in her own place, never really left home.

I really love the setting–I’m from a small Midwestern town and while I did leave never to return, many of my friends did not. I have a certain amount of familiarity with this kind of setting, so I was pre-disposed to be sympathetic to Amber–more so than usual, that is. I am almost always disposed to feel kindly towards romance novel protagonists.

Anyhoodle, Amber works at her local recreation center which is being remodeled. And there’s a hunky construction worker she has her eye on (I will note that I see lots of construction workers at my day job and none of them come even close to being as hunky as Tony Mazzara, but then again, it’s a different kind of construction). And then, since it’s the Midwest, there’s a tornado siren. Oh, tornado siren. I do not miss you. Except on Saturdays at 1 pm. And Amber and Tony are stuck in the basement with no power and they start talking. And it turns out that Amber’s been a good girl her whole life and she wants to learn to misbehave–and Tony’s offering to teach her and things seem to be going someplace and then–the all-clear sounds and the spell is broken.

Nonetheless, Tony ends up in Amber’s apartment and they end up fucking each other’s brains out and it’s really quite lovely and completely relevant to the development of their relationship and then Tony shows her how he’s broken and it is, truly, a terrible thing but possibly not something that requires an entire life of penitence (repentance, maybe, but not soul-shriveling penitence). And then he leaves her–just as he told her he would.

Since this is a romance, they naturally do find their way back to each other and their happy ending.

Both Amber and Tony are, despite the shortness of this book, whole people. Knox is really great at characterization; she makes every phrase work–there’s not a lot extra here. Their backgrounds are believable and thoroughly grounded in the setting and their conversations are just wonderful. These are two people who are each, in their own way, unhappy and a bit damaged and their coming together makes them–not whole, but something more than whole. They’ll carry their hurts around with them their whole lives, but being with the other will help smooth the rough edges and make the pain a bit easier to bear and really, isn’t that what all of us want out of our relationships?

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"It's chaos, be kind."
Michelle McNamara