Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️++
Let me preface this review with this simple thought: nothing that I write below will do this book justice. Nothing. It is an experience, and it’s one that you should run to NOW. My words simply cannot capture the power of the human experience in this story. That being said, let’s begin.
Designating a piece of writing as “good” or “great” or the “best book of the year thus far” is subjective. Each of us knows the reasons for defining a story as any one of those descriptors. For me, a book should have one, if not all, of these three qualities for me to deign it as such:
- The ability to connect me emotionally to the book. In other words, if your book gives me huge butterflies, makes me cry, causes me to run screaming through my house, etc., I know in my soul the book is special.
- Some type of style. I teach writing, so one’s ability to put words on the page is an important skill. Some people are reporters. Line after line, we are fed story, but the prose is lacking. And some people weave gold. Each sentence of the book exists for a special purpose: to grab the reader and take them on a journey.
- It’s a mirror. This trait is key. It’s necessary for me. A story should connect me through a shared experience, meaning that, as I’m reading it, do I find myself in it. Does it reflect my own experiences, thinking, or feelings back at me? I need this because I yearn for a connection with the characters, their story, and the author’s representation of it.
When you come to Ashley Jade’s Ruthless Knight, all of these traits or qualities that I’ve listed above find purchase in her story. They are there, and they launch you into a tale older than time, yet still relevant today.
With her Royal Hearts Academy series, Jade has cemented herself as a YA/Bully Romance author (by the way, using these titles reduces this book immediately in a way that makes me a little grumpy) beyond most. I’ve read my share of late. Not to critique other writers, there is always something missing from them. A soul. A sense of humanity. Maybe it’s the other tomes I’ve read, but they lean heavily to a $exual awakening of sorts for the bully and the bullied. In Ruthless Knight, the writer is treated to real life, to two individuals whose self-loathing causes one to erect a facade to mask their pain and the other to hide the depths of their pain behind smiles. Each, the hero and heroine, of this story are simply trying to survive, and it’s their journey of survival that both entices and engages the reader. When you read Cole and Sawyer’s story, some part of you thinks I shouldn’t connect with these two. They are high school students. That isn’t where I exist in life. Yet, Jade’s ability to connect Cole and Sawyer’s story to a united human condition showcases her talent. Honestly, this is the first time I’ve read a romance where I’ve found myself in both the hero and the heroine, a little of each to affix me to its telling. It’s this skill that hits on all the attributes of great writing for me. Whether I was reading Cole’s narrative or Sawyer’s, I was entrenched emotionally in their pain and in their pleasure. I found a mutual experience with both of them, and Jade’s ability to drive us through her story with the flow of her prose engages you more deeply into it. This book is long, yet it only felt like a few hours of reading it. Even now, I wish for more because I didn’t want to leave Cole and Sawyer’s world.
Beyond Cole and Sawyer’s story is the revelation of the characters of Oakley and Bianca. There are many in Jade’s Facebook reader group who have attached themselves to the Oakley train since Cruel Prince, the first book of this series of standalones. To be honest, in that book, he wasn’t my “cup of tea.” I held an empathy for him at that book’s end, but beyond a pang of sadness for his situation, he seemed pretty ancillary to Jace and Dylan’s story. In Ruthless Knight, Oakley is an emotional juggernaut. There is something special about him here that, should Jade decide to write a book for him, I would GLADLY read his story. He surprised me and gained a top spot in the Royal Hearts Academy series.
Additionally, Bianca, the younger sister of Jace and Cole, evolves beyond the bratty mean-spirited persona. There is more to this character, and it’s a great set-up for Wicked Princess, the next book in the series. I love the evolution of her character. We see some growth from Bianca that seems surprising one moment and necessary the next.
Jace and Dylan are also both here, but like Cole and Sawyer in their story, they hold moments of importance but are really secondary. The interesting part of that is you don’t mourn them here. You don’t stretch for more of their story; instead, your focus in Ruthless Knight is the beautiful humanity of Cole and Sawyer’s romance.
Ruthless Knight isn’t for the faint of heart. There are laughs and sass in it because that is a trait of Cole and Sawyer’s enemies-to-lovers relationship. Yet, the power, the gravity, of Ruthless Knight is the emotional, oftentimes painful, connection between these two. For me, I preferred them in their moments of conflict. This is where Jade shines. She has an uncanny ability to invest her readers so deeply in the pain of a story that it feels like a gold medal moment when you finish reading her books. And this is one of the feelings you feel at the end of Ruthless Knight. You become a survivor of sorts, and there is pride in it; it feels like a worthy accomplishment and collective moment with her other readers. Honestly, it took me 72 hours to write this review, partly because I hated leaving the emotions of this book behind. For me, this is Ashley Jade’s best book to date. If anyone asked me one book of Jade’s to read, this would be my choice because it’s an example of writing that connects your soul so deeply that you protect its place in it, even when it might be a little painful to do so. At its core, Ruthless Knight is a transcendent tale of love overcoming the deepest pain and filling in the holes it leaves behind to make us complete.
In love and romance,