REVIEW: One Final Step by Stephanie Doyle
Dear Ms. Doyle:
I admit part of me wants to give this book an A just for the attempt to address something that I don’t believe has ever been addressed in romance before. (It’s not abortion – you can pick up No Matter What by Janice Kay Johnson in the October HSR series if you want a book that somewhat addresses that issue). I’m not giving it away either because I think a reader has to read the book to appreciate how well the issue is handled.
But the first 25% of the book is kind of sloppy in the set up. It’s as if you knew what you wanted to write but weren’t quite sure how to get to the good stuff. The first 25% of the book puts the h/h together. The hero, Michael Langdon, is a former teenage felon turned famous Formula 1 driver turned specialty car builder in Detroit who is ready for phase 4 – the mass production of an innovative electric car. Unfortunately, given his unserious reputation, no manufacturer is climbing on board and he reaches out to an image consulting firm.
Madeleine Kane is known as one of the best political handlers ever, in every sense of the term. She turned a virtually unknown politician into the president of the United States. Her one time physical encounter with her candidate turned president resulted in both their disgraces when they were discovered by his wife. She carries not only the marriage wrecker on her forehead but she’s marked as the President’s Mistress and becomes kind like a Bucket List item for wretches, men who want to sleep with a woman who slept with the president.
She went into hiding for 7 years, withdrawing from the public sphere and doing planning and strategizing for a private firm. Working with Michael would be the first time she’s ventured into a more direct contact with a client although one of her demands would be to stay entirely out of the public eye. She agrees to take Michael on and over the next few weeks, arranges his schedule of events and press to create a better image for him, including making him be seen with just one woman on a consistent basis. The two are attracted to each other, although I felt Michael’s bordered on insta love. He targeted Madeleine as someone he wanted in his life forever almost from the very beginning and that was difficult for me to buy into. It’s not that I didn’t like Madeleine or that I doubted the instant attraction. Instead, it was the quickness with which he developed this deep love for her, one that allowed him to overcome a traumatic past and force her to confront her own fears.
One thing that bothered me was that Michael wasn’t completely honest with Madeleine about his past and she accepted the very glossy overview he handed her despite feeling that he was leaving convenient parts of his story a secret. For someone as savvy as she was purported to be, her failure to press him on these issues and her overnight acceptance of him made me think she was less competent than she appeared to be. And maybe I’ve watched one too many prison movies but it was obvious what his secret was.
Nonetheless, the idea that neither of them could have a true relationship without the other being completely naked, emotionally and physically, in bed resonated strongly. As to what grade to give it? I’m going with a B- because taking on a taboo topic in romance deserves kudos and it was the best part of the book. (That and dealing with her fear). B-