Rikki by Abigail Strom

Rikki Cover

Fun, lightly dramatic, New Adult, enemies-to-lovers plot

Rikki (Hart University #1) by Abigail Strom

Reading Level: New Adult
Release Date: September 20, 2015
Pages: 351 pages
Source: Purchase
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry

College freshmen, Rikki Eisendrath and Sam Payne, have been each other's chief scholastic competitors and, from Rikki's perspective, full out enemies for the past six years. But when they end up in the same dorm, at the same college, Rikki decides that now that they are officially adults, it's time to call a truce with Sam. Gradually the two progress from an uneasy détente to the tentative beginnings of real friendship. Then Sam, whom Rikki learns is quite a talented sculptor in addition to being a math and science genius, asks her to serve as his model. Though he doesn't ask her to model nude, she models in a swimsuit and in order to feel less on display, she insists that Sam wear a swimsuit as well. Rikki's plan backfires, however, when seeing Sam half naked makes her far too aware that years of sports and working out have given Sam a gorgeous physique. An unexpectedly powerful sexual attraction toward her longtime nemesis begins to threaten Rikki's comfort with her newly softened feelings for Sam.

I believe this author, as a purposeful creative decision, has written this book in first person point of view so that Sam's feelings and motivations toward Rikki remain as much a mystery to the reader as they are to Rikki. This adds a great deal of romantic conflict to the story, because it makes it possible for the truth about Sam's feelings toward Rikki to not be revealed until near the end of the book.

Interestingly to me, this book carries some intriguing echoes of the classic children's book, Anne of Green Gables. I have no way of knowing if this was a conscious homage on the author's part, but it would be fun if it were. Much like Rikki, Anne develops an intense resentment toward Gilbert when she is 11. In Anne's case, it is because he calls her, "Carrots," as a teasing insult to her red hair, which is the bane of Anne's existence. She refuses to forgive poor Gilbert up until she is 18 or so, creating antagonism between them for the same length of time that Rikki and Sam are enemies in this book. Also like Rikki and Sam, Anne and Gilbert incessantly engage in scholastic rivalry all through the years that Anne treats him as an enemy.

I love a good "nerds in love" plot, and I had high hopes on reading the premise of this book that the author had written it as romantic comedy but, alas, it is instead light drama. Nevertheless, as light drama it is very well written. I really liked Sam, and there is a great deal of intense emotion between him and Rikki, always a terrific thing to encounter in a romance novel. I was never bored or tempted to skim this novel, which in itself is high praise, because as an extremely jaded romance reader, I have a high threshold for boredom.

I particularly liked that Sam is not a cliché, New Adult, "bad boy" hero. He has no tattoos, doesn't sleep around, and rarely drinks alcohol. Rikki is a virgin, which is always a refreshing change of pace in a NA romance, and in a touch of plot humor that contrasts comically with her own innocence, she vigorously scolds one of the male subcharacters for daring to "slut shame" the sexual experience of her fellow coeds.

The fact that Rikki is a bit of a fusspot as well as a nerd is not uncommon in NA romance heroines in general, but it doesn't happen enough to be as much of a cliché as the "man whore" male protagonist. In my humble opinion, she is an intriguing heroine with a strong voice and plausible motivations for her actions.

Overall, I found both Rikki and Sam to be quite sympathetic characters, and in terms of their intelligence, drive, and overall attractiveness and likability, I believe they are a very good match and co-equal in power within their relationship. In other words, I thank my lucky stars there is no domineering, Alpha-male dynamic in this story, which has been done to death in NA romance.

All in all, this book is very well written and I look forward to reading other books by this author.

I rate this book as follows:

Heroine: 4

Hero: 4

Subcharacters: 4

Romance Plot: 4

Writing: 4

Overall: 4