Madly by Ruthie Knox
Series: New York #2
Publication Date: March 14th 2017
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An impulsive trip to New York City, a heartthrob from London, and a scandalous to-do list turn a small-town girl’s life upside down in this sultry romance from the New York Times bestselling author of Truly and About Last Night.
Allie Fredericks isn’t supposed to be in Manhattan, hiding in the darkest corner of a hip bar, spying on her own mother—who’s flirting with a man who’s definitely not Allie’s father. Allie’s supposed to be in Wisconsin, planning her parents’ milestone anniversary party. Then Winston Chamberlain walks through the door, with his tailored suit, British accent, and gorgeous eyes, and Allie’s strange mission goes truly sideways.
Winston doesn’t do messy. But after a pretty stranger ropes him into her ridiculous family drama with a fake kiss that gets a little too real, he finds out that messy can be fun. Maybe even a little addicting. And as the night grows longer, Allie and Winston make a list of other wild things they could do together—and what seems like a mismatch leads to a genuine connection. But can their relationship survive as their real lives implode just outside the bedroom door?
I’ve been childishly whining ever since I saw that Winston Chamberlain was the hero of Madly, about how it made me nervous because I couldn’t stand him. He appeared in another of Knox’s books, About Last Night, and he was cruel to his brother, selfish, and so, so uppity. It didn’t help that I positively hated the ending of that book, too, though that had nothing to do with Winston. (You don’t need to read that book first, and frankly it’s probably better if you don’t so you don’t end up with preconceived notions like I did.) Allie also wasn’t entirely my favorite when she appeared in her sister’s book, Truly. I mention all this because if you hadn’t already heard my whining, you should know about my prior feelings; they are part of understanding what I liked and didn’t like about Madly.
Madly takes place four years after the events of About Last Night. Winston has since gotten divorced and moved from London to New York City to be near his college-age daughter and to work in the NYC location of his aristocratic family’s bank. It’s also been a little under a year since the events of Truly, when Allie Fredericks dumped her fiance on their wedding day. Allie has impulsively come from her home in Manitowoc, WI to New York following her mom, who she suspects is having a long term affair with a New York artist. When she bumps into Winston in a bar, he starts helping her track down her mom.
First off, while I was concerned about how Knox would redeem Winston, I’m happy to say I was satisfied. We don’t see Winston’s transformation in Madly, but Winston has indeed undergone a transformation since his low point in About Last Night when he tried to blackmail his brother Nev and tear down Nev’s love interest, Cath. We also learn that Winston’s marriage had been a mess at the time, and he tried to force his life, and his ex-wife, into some predefined shape he thought was the “right one” for a man of his position. When that all fell apart, he realized how wrong it was, both for himself and everyone around him. You get the sense that he’s spent the last years trying his best to simply be kind to everyone around him. He’s mostly patched things up with Nev and Cath, though there’s still some residual tension, and he’s trying to be a good dad to his daughter, Bea, without smothering her or forcing her into a box like he did with her mother. However, in trying so hard to make up for the past and give everyone space, he’s kind of forgotten what he wants or needs. He isn’t unhappy exactly, but at the start of the book he spends the bulk of his time watching Netflix and waiting for Bea to occasionally give him a few minutes of her time. Rinse, Repeat. When Allie storms into his life, it brings a lightness and fun that he obviously forgot he was capable of. I kind of can’t believe I’m saying this but…I actually liked seeing Winston come back to life a bit!
Family, with all the messy, complex, and overwhelming emotions that implies, is a huge theme in so many of Knox’s books, this one included. The Chamberlain’s family drama mostly happened in About Last Night and the intervening years, so this book focuses on the Fredericks. The family is kind of imploding around Allie, and she’s fighting to figure out what to do about it. There was a point in the book where I actually wanted to put it down because it was a little too much. Maybe it’s because of some people I know who are going through their own hard family dramas that things felt a little too real, but I think most of us have had hurtful family secrets or loved ones who profoundly disappointed us. It was almost too painful to read about what might happen. (As a parent, the interactions between Winston and Bea were also sweet but a little hard to read. He loves her so much but is afraid to hold on too tightly, but he can see her growing up and pulling away anyway…ugh, who is chopping onions in here?) I pushed on, though, and was rewarded with a thoroughly happy ending. It was perhaps unrealistically happy, but I can’t complain because wouldn’t we all like our own messy family problems to end so happily?
While Winston was redeemed, though, I never thoroughly warmed to Allie. She felt a bit inconsistent, first of all. She’s supposed to be so flighty and impulsive, but other than flying to New York on a whim I didn’t really see that. She mostly just felt…opinionated, which is fine but not the same thing. She says she wants to take care of everyone and feels like it’s on her to hold things together, but she kept running away when things got hard. She was not particularly kind to Winston (and geez, no one is more surprised than me that I’m saying that, haha) when all he did was love and support her from the start. In general, she acts pretty self absorbed and a little immature throughout the book, and it got on my nerves by the end. This is some of what bothered me about her in Madly, too, and I was disappointed to see that unlike Winston, she hadn’t changed much between books. Moreover, I wasn’t quite sure whether she had really had a transformation by the end of this book either. Sure, some of her family issues were resolved, but had Allie herself changed? When I thought about that question at the end of the book all I could come up with was…probably? I think so? I believed she was good with Winston, but in my mind she wasn’t ready for the implied HEA, not quite yet at least.
This was a complicated book full of big themes and big emotions, and I admire that Knox never shies away from tackling complicated human beings. Plus, it is full of funny, lovely dialog, and it’s very sexy. (And boy I could write paragraphs about the awesome and complex sex scenes in this book because I have so many thoughts. There’s a “list”, sex toys, lots of sex that’s not just PinV, orgasm isn’t always the goal…such good stuff, but go read and judge for yourself!) It made me think, and it was a great read.
Grade: 4 out of 5
*I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.