ARC review: Completely by Ruthie Knox

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For years, Rosemary Chamberlain saw herself as “wallpaper.”  Throughout her marriage, she existed to look pretty. To make a good impression. To serve her husband and daughter.  And then, one day, she couldn’t do it anymore, so she left.  Newly free of her confines, Rosemary decides to do what she’s always wanted – prepare to climb Mount Everest and the rest of the Seven Summits.

As the book begins, Rosemary, tired, sore, and freezing, has nearly reached the summit of Everest.  Her two years of preparations are finally coming to a head as she and her team rest up before making their final ascent. Then the unthinkable happens – an avalanche rips through the mountain.  Helicopters come to evacuate the climbers, but not before several are killed in the disaster.

Rosemary’s plan has been thwarted and the idea of climbing another mountain doesn’t hold as much allure as it used to.  Sherpa Kal Beckett is there to pick up the pieces as Rosemary struggles to go back to her normal life after such a frightening and tragic experience. The two share a steamy night – fueled by emotions and gratitude at simply being alive – but is their connection real, or just a product of their environment?

Completely was one of my most anticipated reads of 2017.  I loved Knox’s Truly and Madly, and though I thought this would be called Deeply (as a child of the 90s, I am very pro-Savage Garden references), I was very excited to read the conclusion of the series.  Unfortunately, while Completely can certainly hold its own in the romance genre, it lacks the spark that made me fall in love with Truly and Madly.

The book is fine.  That’s really the best word I can think of to describe it. It’s fine.  Not great or mind-blowing, but fine. In comparison with the other two books in the trilogy, it felt rushed and underdeveloped.  The connection to Wisconsin was tenuous at best and while I liked that we caught up with Allie and May, their inclusion felt a little… out of place.

The thing is, Rosemary has no connection to Wisconsin. She has no connection to the Fredericks family.  Seeing May in Allie’s story made sense – she’s Allie’s sister, after all.  Seeing Allie in Rosemary’s story is different.  Allie is dating Rosemary’s ex.  And while, yes, Winston is the father of Rosemary’s daughter, it seemed odd that Rosemary would still be so connected to him and his family.  Although they’ve been divorced for years, Rosemary’s life was still so interwoven with his, to the point that she visited his girlfriend’s mother (in another state!), telephoned her ex-mother-in-law for advice, and stayed in an apartment that he owned.  I appreciate that Knox showed exes being civil to each other, but given the fact that their daughter was barely in this book, their constant contact felt weird.

Knox clearly did a lot of research here.  I know next to nothing about Mount Everest or even mountain climbing in general, but Rosemary comes across as very well-informed and intelligent.  Knox is careful to avoid stereotypes and to portray the Sherpas respectfully while still drawing attention to the risks inherent in their jobs.  It really hit me hard when Kal mentioned that the death counts after an avalanche only include the tourists, never the Sherpas.

Another thing I liked was Knox’s focus on strong women.  Now, Allie and May were definitely strong women.  So is Rosemary, no doubt.  Rosemary, along with a group of other women, has decided to climb the Seven Summits – the tallest mountain on each continent. Kal’s mother, Yangchen Beckett, is a famous climber who has reached the summit of Everest seven times.  In the background of the story, Rosemary’s daughter Bea is in the midst of filming a documentary about May and Allie’s mom, Nancy Fredericks, the brains behind Banksy-style artist Justice.

So, the research was great and the focus on strong women was great, but it’s almost like so much effort was put into those two pieces of this book that there wasn’t time left for the actual plot.  So much time and energy are put into developing the main conflict of the book – the politics of Everest – that the actual story suffered.

The story itself is very repetitive – Rosemary and Kal have some good sex, then drift apart, then have some more good sex, and repeat.  Similarly, Rosemary and Bea fight, go back to being civil, fight some more, and repeat.  Though this book isn’t very long, it could have been condensed to half the length had the repetitive scenes been taken out.

In the end, I’m not really sure what to think.  Completely has the charming writing style that I’ve come to expect from Knox, but it’s just missing that spark.  While it’s still good (and certainly better than many romances I’ve read), it’s definitely the weakest of the trilogy.  I finished the book not entirely convinced that Rosemary and Kal would stay together – sure, there was an attraction, but a deep, lasting love?  Hard to say.

Also, a quick note regarding the cover: Kal is Nepalese.  He describes himself as brown.  The cover model is undeniably white, which really bothers me.  I’m not sure who designs the covers, but they clearly could have gotten a more accurate model to portray Kal.

Final rating: ★★★☆☆

I received a free ARC of Completely from Loveswept (via Netgalley) in exchange for my honest review.

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