Review: The Boy & His Ribbon by Pepper Winters

The Boy & His Ribbon 
Pepper Winters
Publication date: April 1, 2018
Series: The Ribbon Duet #1
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Dark Romance
"What do you do when you meet your soul mate? No wait...that's too easy. What do you do when you meet your soul mate and have to spend a lifetime loving him in secret?
I'll tell you what you do.
You lie."

Ren was eight when he learned that love doesn't exist--that the one person who was supposed to adore him only cared how much he was worth.
His mother sold him and for two years, he lived in terror.
But then...he ran.
He thought he'd run on his own. Turned out, he took something of theirs by accident and it became the one thing he never wanted and the only thing he ever needed.

I was young when I fell in love with him, when he switched from my world to my everything.
My parents bought him for cheap labour, just like they had with many other kids, and he had the scars to prove it.
At the start, he hated me, and I could understand why.
For years he was my worst enemy, fiercest protector, and dearest friend.
But by the end...he loved me.
The only problem was, he loved me in an entirely different way to the way I loved him.
And slowly, my secret drove us apart.

Ren was only ten years old when he escaped from a hellish existence of servitude and abuse. He had his freedom – but discovered he wasn’t totally free. He had unknowingly taken the daughter of his abusers. And he hated her for slowing him down, for the added responsibility. But those feelings changed and Della became everything to Ren. Uneducated but resourceful, responsible and wise beyond his years, Ren creates a life for the two of them that is unconventional but surprisingly stable.

I often found my heart swelling with warmth for my young, tiny friend and cracking in pain knowing this life we shared couldn’t go on forever. She would eventually need more. She would eventually outgrow me. - Ren

Ren was a complex character. Selfless, protective, willing to do anything to provide for Della and do his absolute best by her. But he is also a product of his past – sold by his mother for a paltry sum, bought by a sadistic man for labor, forced to fight for his very survival – and that past has left its mark on Ren. Knowing he was unwanted and unloved, experiencing only cruelty and abuse, he understandably trusts no one (beyond Della), is suspicious of everyone, and feels unworthy of love or even simple kindness. Ren was always happier removed from society, away from people, surrounded by nature in the woods. But for Della, he sacrificed even that.

She might have upset me, messed up my mind, and ruined my trust, but nothing could change the fact that where she was, I was happiest, and she was all I needed. - Ren

Told in dual points of view, The Boy and His Ribbon spans more than 15 years and follows the evolution of Ren and Della’s relationship from children to young adults and, in Ren’s case, adulthood. Their bond is close, their loyalty is unmatched, and their feelings change over time and morph into something beyond friendship, beyond companionship and beyond innocence. The boundaries of their relationship are tested and stretched - and they both suffer for it.

How many times do you think a person can survive a broken heart? I would like to know because Ren has successfully broken mine, repaired it, shattered mine, fixed it, crushed mine, and somehow glued it back together again and again. - Della

Ren and Della’s story required a certain suspension of disbelief. (Because really, could a 10 year old boy really single-handedly care for a baby and raise her on his own? Could he provide food and care by himself year after year?) And at times the prose drifted into melodrama. But neither of those things stopped me from falling for their story. Whether the focus was on their day to day existence in the woods or in an abandoned building, or on their ever-changing dynamic and how it was impacted by other people in their lives, I was hooked. Ren and Della are not ordinary characters and their story is not a typical story. It was emotional and angsty, sweet and heartwarming, forbidden and heartbreaking. Winters never took the easy way out, didn’t hesitate to make her characters hurt, and when I thought I knew what direction the story was going to take, she threw in a twist that I didn’t see coming.

How could you not fall in love with a boy like Ren Wild? How could you not fall in love with a boy who puts you first in everything, protects you at all costs, worships the ground you walk on, gives you things you didn’t know you wanted, who can hear your thoughts and see your fears? A boy who sacrificed so much without even telling you, leaving you heartbroken when you’re old enough to figure it out for yourself? - Della

The Boy & His Ribbon is a different kind of story. It doesn’t follow the usual tropes and conventions. But I liked the differences and the unpredictability – even while the angst was doing me in and hurting my heart. Even while the cliffhanger left me heartsick and desperate for answers. When you’re in the mood for something out of the ordinary, something emotional that will captivate you and have you questioning what’s right and wrong, pick up The Boy & His Ribbon and experience Ren and Della’s story for yourself.


Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. This does not my opinion of the book or the content of this review. I received no compensation and my review is voluntary.


  1. That is quite an interesting way they met. I have no problem suspending belief when I read a book, because you know I take my fiction seriously.

    1. This made me laugh out loud! I have no trouble suspending belief when the author writes in way that makes me want to believe. There are a ton of fantasy books that I believe wholeheartedly, yet some contemporary that I struggle to get behind. "...I take my fiction seriously." Love it, Sam.

    2. Same here, Sam. If an author can make me love the characters and really get behind them, I'm willing to just "go with it" a lot. But if I don't have that connection *and* it's unbelievable... I sit there and ruthlessly pick it apart. LOL

    3. Yes, love the way you phrased that, Lindsi! "...when the author writes in a way that makes me want to believe." That!

  2. Fantastic review ! Yes I also mentioned you had to suspend some of your beliefs to well believe what happened could happen and two kids could survive in the wild like that.

    1. Thanks Sophie!! Thankfully, Pepper had me caring enough about Ren and Della that I was willing to just go with it a lot. :)

  3. I'm trying to picture this small child taking care of a baby, and I can't. When I skimmed the synopsis, I assumed the girl was older, but it wasn't until I read your review that I realized their ages. I cannot imagine how difficult it must be for him to care for this baby, and why he's willing to risk his safety. You've definitely piqued my interest!

    Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear?

    1. Yeah, that part of it raised my eyebrows a few times. The way he was always able to provide for her, care for her, at such a young age. But Ren wasn't your average child - he'd been through enough to have a maturity beyond his years so that helped me buy in. Plus, they weren't *always* on their own.

  4. Replies
    1. It really was, Karen! Very intense, very emotional and angsty. Sometimes I just needed a break! LOL

  5. I'm not big on multiple POVs but this sounds like it works well. I hadn't heard of this book before now, but it does look like something I might enjoy. I might have a hard time believing that a 10 year old boy kept a baby alive too though... XD I'm glad you liked it!

    1. Yeah, like I said, there were a few things that I just had to go with. Because he did manage to do an awful lot. Yes, he was mature for his age, and yes maybe luck was often on his side, but still, y'know? :)

  6. Definitely sounds like you have to suspend some disbelief here, but I'm glad that didn't stop the book from sucking you in. It sounds like a really emotional read!


    1. Emotional for sure! But I loved the characters enough to just go with it.

  7. Dark romances are my favorite especially with dual POVs love to see the story from the two MS perspective. Each chapter feels like a cliffhanger! "oh oh oh let me see what HE thinks about all this!" LOL Glad to here you enjoyed this our of the ordinary romance :)