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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.

One Final Step Stephanie DoyleBut 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-

Best regards,


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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Ridley
    Sep 26, 2012 @ 12:19:42

    Spoiler please. The review hasn’t really sold me, but I might read a sorta OK book if the “taboo” intrigues me.

    Don’t tease me like this, Jane.

  2. Jane
    Sep 26, 2012 @ 12:22:05

    @Ridley: Agh. I don’t want to give it away. I feel like if I tell you that it will be an automatic no for some.

  3. Brie
    Sep 26, 2012 @ 12:22:19

    My review says the same thing: this book deserves a 5 just because of the subject alone. And no, I’m not giving anything away. I’m with you on that one — people should read it and be surprised.

    To be honest, I never quite understood why Michael felt that instant love. She was hard to like at first and it makes no sense for him to be so smitten. And it wasn’t even insta-lust, which would have made more sense, it was a recognition that this was the one.

    I did believe in her ability to trust him, though. To me, she was savy in a professional/political way, but not in a personal way. And all those years of loneliness didn’t help her personal skills. So it makes sense for her to want to grab onto the opportunity to finally experience a personal connection. And she also wanted to be left alone, so why would she pressure him to come clean? I saw it more as giving him space. And in the end, they both bare their souls to each other.

    So yes, the romance was the weakest part, yet I thoroughly enjoyed it and I found Michael to be a delightful hero.

    This author likes to take chances and I’d like to see more of that in contemporary romance.

  4. Darlynne
    Sep 26, 2012 @ 12:38:22

    The sexoring with the candidate/president thing bugs me, but I’m intrigued enough to read it.

    Jane, are you going to review Janice Kay Johnson’s book? I’ve already been over to Amazon to read an excerpt and would love to know more.

  5. Maili
    Sep 26, 2012 @ 13:04:43

    @Ridley: I’m dying to know as well. I think I can guess, but I’m so torn between buying a copy to see if my guess is right and getting on knees and beg Jane to confirm my guess. Argh.

  6. Ridley
    Sep 26, 2012 @ 13:10:42

    @Maili: A little birdie whispered secrets in my ear. I bought it immediately after.

  7. Maili
    Sep 26, 2012 @ 13:12:37

    @Ridley: ….

    Expect my DM in a nanosecond. Or two.

  8. Ruthie
    Sep 26, 2012 @ 14:00:10

    Okay, I want to know, too, but I’m convinced by Ridley’s being convinced by the birdie. Will go buy. I love romances that break taboos.

  9. Jane
    Sep 26, 2012 @ 14:03:05

    @Brie: I wasn’t sure if I was on board with how they handled the issue but ultimately it seemed right for the story’s context although in another book I might like to see it handled differently.

  10. Jane
    Sep 26, 2012 @ 14:05:15

    @Darlynne: Yes, I do plan to review it but it isn’t scheduled until October. I didn’t love it. I felt it was very issue heavy which is kind of like complaining that chocolate is too chocolate-y because HSRs are supposed to be about issues, but a number of issues were raised in the book – the kids from broken homes acting out; the parents finding new love together; the thoughts of having a family when you are of a certain age and so forth – that I felt none of them were adequately addressed. I’d probably give it a C+

  11. Ros
    Sep 26, 2012 @ 14:36:47

    Well, you got me. It’s downloading as I type.

  12. Ros
    Sep 26, 2012 @ 18:12:37

    Huh. I was not expecting that.

    I sort of guessed what the prison experience was but not its ongoing ramifications for him. Interesting and yes, I’ve never seen it in a romance before either.

  13. BadgerChaser
    Sep 26, 2012 @ 18:14:48

    Argh. If anyone will let me know, I may buy the book. Depends on if the issue is something interesting.

  14. Ros
    Sep 26, 2012 @ 18:14:54

    I admit, I am struggling not to giggle at a character called Nooky:

  15. Rosario
    Sep 27, 2012 @ 01:14:36

    If it’s what I’m thinking, anyone who wants a spoiler can listen to the DBSA podcast episode which had the interview with Stephanie Doyle and Molly O’Keefe at RWA. I immediately put it on my wish list after listening to that!

  16. Dabney
    Sep 27, 2012 @ 06:22:56

    I did like the taboo issue wasn’t crazy about the book. I found the insta-love too quick, the secondary romance distracting, and felt Madeleine’s both took forever to get over her past and then was suddenly over it in an overly dramatic fashion. I also wondered at her ending with her father and would have liked to see rather than read about her resolution with her brother. And the descriptions of his car were just vague enough to be too pseudo-sciencey for me.

    That said, the sex and the way they incorporated it in to their relationship was strikingly different. That was a really unusual and interesting story line.

  17. Mo
    Sep 27, 2012 @ 08:46:05

    Using Ros @12 a a guessing guide for the taboo that’s in this book, I think I know what it is, and, if I am right, I read a book that included that same issue within the last oh, 4 months or so. If I am wrong, ah well. I am intrigued, but I am not picking it up without knowing.

  18. RebeccaJ
    Sep 27, 2012 @ 10:09:07

    I’m with Mo #17. It was kind of where my mind went to immediately but minus the prison part….lol

  19. Jane
    Sep 27, 2012 @ 10:13:09

    I don’t want to torture anyone.

    Buried Comment (Reason: spoiler)   Show

    Hero is impotent. Uses the little blue pill to get hard but can’t ejaculate or finish. Fakes it with women. Tries to with the heroine. She confronts him. He does feel passion for her and has some stirrings of arousal but he’s psychologically blocked. Eventually it is worked out. (He’s had a mess of therapy before but stopped going when it didn’t seem to be helping.

  20. Meri
    Sep 27, 2012 @ 12:17:24

    @Jane: I think Mary Jo Putney wrote about that in one of her books – though that was a historical, not a contemp, and I imagine it played out differently.

  21. Mo
    Sep 27, 2012 @ 12:40:26


    OK, was not expecting that. I was thinking of a different taboo entirely. And now that I know, I am definitely going to have to read it.

  22. Justine
    Sep 27, 2012 @ 12:48:06

    @Jane: Thanks for the spoiler! I needed the spoiler to convince me to put this book on my wishlist.

  23. Ridley
    Sep 27, 2012 @ 15:08:19

    This also wouldn’t be the first Superromance with that theme.

    Buried Comment (Reason: spoiler)   Show

    The hero of A Man Like Mac, a Superromance from 2000-ish, was totally incapable of holding an erection or achieving orgasm. No magical cure occurred at the end, either. It’s one of the strengths of that book, imo. It showed that life goes on and happiness exists outside of ideal circumstances.

  24. BadgerChaser
    Sep 27, 2012 @ 17:29:15

    Wow, not what I expected at all. I thought I’d figured it out and if so, it was something I’d seen before. Yep, that convinced me to read it.

  25. Anne
    Sep 29, 2012 @ 22:21:53


    And that is the big brouhaha? There’s Sherlock Holmes fanfiction which has this at (writing) master’s level for free.

  26. jane_l
    Sep 29, 2012 @ 22:24:01

    @Anne – I don’t understand your comment.

  27. Anne
    Sep 29, 2012 @ 22:39:41

    I’m referring to the spoiler. It totally bowls me over that a) people are regarding this as anything special (it’s a common enough topic in fanfiction and can be extremely well-written there) and b) that there are said to be so few Romance novels incorporating this as claimed here. I don’t read that many of the m/f (R)omance genre to be able to make such a statement, but I’d say you and some others here do. So I take your word for it.

    Check out “Wire In The Blood” fanfiction for example.

    Buried Comment (Reason: spoiler)   Show

    Dr. Tony Hill is XXX, a truly tortured character and aches for a relationship with Carol Jordan. This has resulted in some of the best written fiction about XXX in a romantically minded man I have read, and I include not just Val McDermid herself, but also the fanfic writers. The Robert Downey Sherlock has spawned many romance shorts between Sherlock and Watson dealing with Sherlock’s XXX and asexuality. “Weisskreuz” has some of that, as does “Dr. Who”. It’s a common enough topic for many decades now. I believe it started with ancient forefathers Kirk and Spock.[\shush]

    So I find it quite noteworthy that Romance readers find it extraordinary.

  28. jane_l
    Sep 29, 2012 @ 22:44:43

    @anne. Thanks for clarifying. There are a number of people that do not read fan fiction buy I appreciate you pointing it out to readers who might be interested.

  29. Anne
    Sep 29, 2012 @ 22:55:03

    Conan Doyle-inspired stories are technically no fanfiction anymore, there are quite a few excellent gay romances lately written by otherwise published authors under disguising pen names.

    As to (R)omance, I’m still not over that there is nothing much about that topic around, given that it is so very common among fanfiction and so many recent authors started off writing fanfiction. I’d never have thought just because of it there’d be such a commotion.

  30. Moriah Jovan
    Sep 29, 2012 @ 23:02:58

    @Anne: Sadly, not all of us are as well read as you.

  31. Anne
    Sep 29, 2012 @ 23:08:07

    @Moriah Jovan:

    Has it really been a secret that hundreds of current romance writers started off in fanfiction? I think not.

    I agree though, rather many fanfiction stories manage a level of quality sorely lacking from quite a few romances.

  32. jane_l
    Sep 29, 2012 @ 23:11:49

    @Anne since by your own admission you read very little m/f romance I think it is hard for you to make a studied qualitative comparison. Obviously there are fan fics that you enjoy and you believe are well written which is great and if there are readers interested in the same your recommendations will certainly be useful.

  33. Anne
    Sep 29, 2012 @ 23:20:40


    Agreed, I haven’t read romances for decades at a pace of 1 or 2 a day like some here, which makes it hard to state that so and so many (or few as in this case) romance novels deal with the problem of the “spoiler” as mentioned above.

    At a couple of hundred every year I’d say I read enough to have enough of an insight, however. One doesn’t have to cram a genre into one’s head with a huge ladle to get a suffiently large cross sample of where it stands regarding the quality of its writing; or are you going to suggest that one has to read every story out there before one can arrive at an educated opinion?

  34. Moriah Jovan
    Sep 29, 2012 @ 23:22:24


    It might shock you to know this, but I only learned of the existence of fan fiction about 3 years ago, yet I have been reading romance for 33 years and writing it for 26 years.

    It would never have occurred to me in my wildest nightmares that somebody would spend time rewriting characters other people created. I find that utterly inconceivable, even now, even with the existence of Twific: 50 Shades, Bared to You, Gabriel’s Inferno, et al, even with the evidence all around me.

    But now that I know it exists, I am still totally and completely uninterested in the rehashing of characters by anyone but the author who created them–and I am even further uninterested in a “book” that is a series of vignettes strung together by a fandom’s shared knowledge of the characters and thus lacking any real structure or independent characterization.

    But bless your heart.

  35. jane_l
    Sep 29, 2012 @ 23:22:35

    @Anne. The good thing is that you have fan fiction that you find worthwhile to keep you entertained.

  36. Anne
    Sep 29, 2012 @ 23:28:39

    @Moriah Jovan:

    I guessed as much.

    Shakespeare did with the classics what some writers these days do with Doyle. Wouldn’t it have been awfully awful if he thought like you?

    Bowing out of it here. But it still leaves me searching for my jaw that there aren’t more than 1 or 2 romance novels dealing with “spoiler”.

    jane_l: As you obviously haven’t read any of what I refer to, at all as you state and showed, it doesn’t do to condescend. I find the comparison and what it suggests highly interesting is all.

  37. jane_l
    Sep 29, 2012 @ 23:33:46

    @anne you are correct. I haven’t read anything to which you refer nor did I claim to. I was trying to be as polite and positive as possible with you. That you took it as condescending is on you, not me.

  38. Moriah Jovan
    Sep 29, 2012 @ 23:36:25


    Shakespeare did with the classics what some writers these days do with Doyle. Wouldn’t it have been awfully awful if he thought like you?

    Yes, thank you. I’m well versed in Shakespeare’s thievery.

  39. Kaetrin
    Sep 30, 2012 @ 00:49:31

    @Ridley: I want to read that book!! I even emailed eHarlequin a week or so ago and asked them if they plan to release it digitally. They replied that it was on the list, but no guarantees.

    I’ve also pre-ordered this one – I can download it tomorrow I think.

  40. willaful
    Sep 30, 2012 @ 12:39:29

    I just happened across a Harlequin Presents from 1991 with this issue, Such Sweet Poison. It appears to be magically cured, as is the way of older HPs.

  41. willaful
    Sep 30, 2012 @ 12:40:23

    @Kaetrin: So A Man Like Mac isn’t available digitally? That explains why I can never seem to find it…

  42. Kaetrin
    Sep 30, 2012 @ 21:23:18

    @wilaful No. :(. Perhaps we should start a campaign?

  43. willaful
    Sep 30, 2012 @ 23:49:16

    @Kaetrin: I went and clicked the “I want to read this on Kindle” button. Though really, I want to read it on Nook. ;-)

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