Ronnie and Rita was relaunched by IFWG Publishing Australia on December 15th 2016, along with my other crime-noir novella, Dark Waters.
Each story a mirror-image of the other…
A bad man trying to become good.
A good man turning bad.
Both men motivated by love.
Ronnie Spooner is middle-aged and single. He’s no-one; a loner who has mowed lawns for a living ever since he was a boy. When he meets Rita, they fall in love, and want nothing more than a family of their own. Too bad it isn’t possible. Or is it? What Rita asks him to do is wrong. Terribly wrong. But Ron is willing to sacrifice everything for this twisted love affair.
Ronnie and Rita was first published in 2013.
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EXAMPLES OF READER REVIEWS
Daniel Villines (Goodreads) 5 out of 5 stars – This is a fun and quick-reading novella that moves even quicker. From beginning to end, I had the feeling of being on a freight train with an express ticket to the end of the line; all the while sitting next to the engineer who has never in his life operated a train. In addition to the high entertainment, there is also a technical aspect to this story that is commendable: its cadence. Scene follows scene, chapter follows chapter, and the story moves along with intensity. Action scenes peak and then they are dissipated with moments of character and plot development, and then the action takes off once again. The rhythm of the story feels perfect and it enhances the craziness of the crazy world that is Ronnie and Rita’s. Lastly, I’ll praise the discipline exercised by Sheldon in her writing. Adding to the intensity created by the action and the rhythm, is the development of the characters. The reader learns what they need to know about Ronnie and Rita when they need to know it, and at times that are appropriate to the story. This approach dials down the suspense and creates a revelatory aspect to the characters. You never know what Ronnie and Rita are capable of, and every step of the way offers another unique surprise. Yes, this is a short little book, but it offers a full, well orchestrated adventure.
Wendy Vitol (Goodreads) 5 out of 5 stars – This is an exceptionally well crafted story. I was drawn into the lives of Ronnie and Rita, my sympathy for Ronnie was unrivalled. A simple, lonely life that contrasted magnificently with the rollercoaster ride called Rita. I have recommended this to friends – it’s a sophisticated journey that requires the reader to have no commitments until the gripping, surprising and, strangely, satisfying ending. It draws the reader in, keeps you in and then releases its grip only at the very last moment. I look forward to reading much, much more from Deborah Sheldon! I can’t wait, in fact.
Cameron Trost (Goodreads) 5 out of 5 stars – Ronnie and Rita, it’s like Romeo and Juliet… except they’re not very rich… and they’re not both really in love, anyway, I gave this story five stars because it is perfect! I wouldn’t have changed a single paragraph. The characters are so believable you can practically smell them (not nice) and the plot is edge-of-your-seat stuff. This is a masterpiece of psychological suspense. If Deborah writes more like this, I’m going to have to start calling her the Australian Ruth Rendell!
Robyn (Goodreads) 5 out of 5 stars – I absolutely loved this book. It’s well-paced and creepily credible. It leads you on an increasingly unthinkable and horror-filled journey, towards the inexorable outcome.
G. N. (Goodreads) 5 out of 5 stars – Dark and dirty, bleak and without hope. Everything a noir story should be…
Robin (Goodreads) 5 out of 5 stars – This is a gripping tale of what happens when an ordinary, rather simple man comes under the spell of a sociopathic woman. The characters are excellently drawn, especially Ronnie, and the pacing and tension as he becomes drawn in against his will into Rita’s devious plan is so well executed that I had to read it all in one sitting. It is a testament to the author’s skill that I also found the story entirely believable, even the twist at the end. Other more verbose authors would have spun the narrative into a full length novel, but the author’s tight, economical writing meant that the story lost none of its impact by being a novella. This is one of those books, that when I’d finished reading it, I thought, ‘I’d wish I’d written that story!’
Olwyn (Goodreads) 4 out of 5 stars – Well, five stars, brilliant. Great twist.
ucat42 (Amazon) 5 out of 5 stars – Who is Rita really? WOW! Fast paced and intriguing, these two stories were well thought out, realistic and joltingly impressive. First person narrative was well done, I got a real feel for the characters thoughts and feelings, as well as their motivations in tough times and situations that not many of us would find ourselves in. Highly recommended, had me so hooked in I missed my train stop!
AUSTCRIME FICTION REVIEW
A novella in length, RONNIE AND RITA punches far above it’s weight. A poignant and clever combination of sadness and tension, manipulation and desire, right from the beginning there’s no way of avoiding the sense of impending disaster.
Perhaps it is because Ronnie is such a vulnerable, sad character. Alone in the world since his mother died, he is living the life handed to him. Still in his dead parent’s house, surrounded by their possessions, he seems lost, on hold if you like, waiting for somebody or something. Rita, on the other hand, although also alone and living in a bedsit, is more driven. Desperate, edgy, there’s something much more alive about her, albeit dangerous. Ronnie’s attraction is easy to understand, and somehow even more poignant as you wonder where this relationship is heading.
In such a short form, there’s a lot that happens in RONNIE AND RITA. Good character development and connection go hand in hand with a clever plot arc and an atmosphere of foreboding. There’s plenty of pace and tension, with enough twists and turns to balance out that nagging sense of inevitability.
Very cleverly done, RONNIE AND RITA is one of the best local noir-styled stories this reviewer has been fortunate enough to encounter in a long time.
THE HORROR FICTION REVIEW
Not since Robert McCammon’s MINE has a book of this kind hit it this hard. Okay, yeah, King’s was pretty good, but I think RONNIE AND RITA pretty well leaves BLAZE in the dust. This nerve-twisting suspense thriller goes right for the ultimate parental horror –kidnapping of a baby – as well as some of the most insidious fears of just how much a guy can trust the lady in his life.
In this case, the guy is Ronnie, kind of a loner and a loser, well-meaning enough but with no friends, no family, not much of a life. Ronnie works as a groundskeeper at an upscale retirement facility. One day, his path crosses that of Rita, a housecleaner. To his dubious surprise, she’s interested in him. Or she’s playing with him. No, she might be really interested. Before he can decide for sure, they’re in bed together and that would seem to settle it. Suddenly, Ronnie’s got a girlfriend. He’s in love, complete with sex life and plans for a future together. He and Rita imagine how it’ll be, including coming up with detailed fantasies about raising their daughter, Lulu. Things are finally good. Perfect, even. Ronnie can overlook some of Rita’s quirks, like her mysterious lack of a past, or the way her employers know her by a different name. He’s happy. He’s content. He’s optimistic about being a dad. Except for one slight problem … Rita can’t have children.
But why let that interfere with their dream? After all, Ronnie’s neighbors are expecting. They just need to wait until the baby’s born, and, if it’s a girl, they can finally have their little Lulu. Ronnie’s reluctant, but how can he say no to Rita? What if she left him? What if he lost her? He’s really got no choice but to keep playing along, making their what-if plans, stocking up on baby supplies. Then the time comes, the baby is born, and Rita is determined to make their getaway with Lulu. It doesn’t go very well. Ronnie finds himself on the run with Rita and the baby and hardly anything else but the clothes on their backs. He quickly discovers that keeping Lulu is more important to Rita than anything else … after what she had to do to kidnap the baby … and how expendable Ronnie himself might be in the greater scheme of things.
A tense and tight novella, with Australian lingo that was unfamiliar enough to me as an America reader to notice, but natural and contextual enough that it hardly tripped me up at all, RONNIE AND RITA’s a harrowing and creepy good read.
– Christine Morgan
CRIME FACTORY MAGAZINE: REVIEW
Set in the outer suburbs of Melbourne, Australia, Ronnie and Rita is a twisted love story between two broken people, Ronnie, a quiet middle-aged gardener who has wasted his life and Rita, an intense cleaning lady with a shady past. Ronnie has spent thirty years mowing lawns, lives in the house where he grew up and is committed to the rut he has carved out for himself. Rita cleans floors, lives in a one-room unit and has a landlord that knows her by a different name. After meeting at the village the pair became romantically involved and their relationship, while initially sweet and passionate, soon takes an obsessive turn.
The earlier tender moments between Ronnie and Rita are touching and sad. You can feel Ronnie’s loneliness and the desire to be loved that he has kept hidden even from himself while Rita’s seemingly open and honest nature obscures a dark and secret pain. It is these early scenes that hold the story together and keep Ronnie and Rita’s actions believable despite the surreal events that later take place. It also makes it all the more painful when things start to fall to pieces.
Ronnie and Rita dream of starting a family despite Rita’s admission that she is ‘damaged goods’ and cannot have a child. When she notices that Ronnie’s next door neighbour is pregnant she convinces Ronnie the baby could be theirs and from there things rapidly spiral out of control. Ronnie and Rita’s love is not glamorous and their dreams aren’t grand instead they’re small and fractured. The narrative moves at a frantic pace and her tight prose adds a sense of claustrophobic panic as the walls close in and then start to crumble around the duo.
I have to admit I had a bit of a biased affection for Deborah Sheldon’s Ronnie and Rita. Having spent two years working as a gardener at a retirement village in the Eastern Suburbs I’ve known a few people very much like Ronnie. Sheldon perfectly portrays the resignation to mediocrity that permeates many of the working/middle class neighbourhoods where I grew up and the desperate things they’ll sometimes do to break away.
– Addam Duke
JUST A GUY THAT LIKES TO READ: REVIEW
Author Deborah Sheldon has crafted an Aussie noir mixed with the desperation and desire of a romantic recluse and a sinister schemer. Lingering lust and crippling longing propel both Ronnie and Rita into a deep dark place where the flash of a gun barrel is the only source of light at the end of this disturbing tunnel.