The Way Back, a book with a very unique premise. Ever since then, I became a fan of Stephanie Doyle, so I was eagerly anticipating the release of One Final Step. What I didn't know is that I, once again, was getting an original story with some very unique characters and subjects.
Madeleine is a former political advisor famous for two things: being so good at her job that turned an unknown person into the President of the United States; and for sleeping with him and getting caught by the First Lady. Years later she lives in almost complete isolation working for a consulting firm but never in direct contact with her clients. That is until she’s assigned to work with Michael Langdon, a famous race card driver, turned entrepreneur. Her job is to make him believable as a business man so that he can attract investors. The rest you can probably guess. Forced to work together they fall in love, but things aren't as easy as that. They both have many complicated issues to work on before they can live happily ever after.
This book deserves 5 stars just because of originality and balls. The heroine is based on Monica Lewinsky, or at least inspired by that scandal. And the hero, well, I won’t tell exactly what’s going on with him, but I never thought I would see the day. That is all I’ll say about that. The reason why it doesn't get a 5 is because we have two wonderful and complex characters but the romance doesn't do them justice. The romance happens not because two people spend time getting to know each other, but because Michael develops a serious case of insta-love and relentlessly pursues her. She doesn't want it at first, but he’s too hard to resist. They do get to know each other throughout the book, but I never quite understood why he fell for her so quickly. So that part of their relationship was the weakest.
However, I thought Michael was a great hero, very supportive and sweet. I liked him a lot and I think he’s the real star of the book. It’s not just that his particular brand of issue is very rare in Romance, but also because he was a great person. The resolution of his personal conflict was easier than I would have liked, but it was satisfactory and it’s clear that he had been dealing with it for a long time. I really want you to read the book and then come back and tell me your thoughts, because this is a story worth discussing.
Madeleine was harder to like because of her closed and prickly nature. I liked how the author portrayed her situation and the consequences of her affair. It made sense for her to be so uptight and reserved, and at times I just wanted to give her a hug. It was harder for her to move on and reach the emotional strength to have a healthy relationship, than it was for Michael, the ex-con with a very rough past. But of course being a thief is not as bad as having sex with a married man, especially if the man happens to be the President (insert sarcasm here).
Michael and Madeleine are both equally damaged characters and they help each other, but ultimately they must find the strength within themselves. This is clearer in Madeleine’s case because her issues take some introspection to get a resolution.
A lot of people think that Romance is repetitive and predictable, and I think that Ms. Doyle is an example of how wrong that statement is. Yes, the happy ending is always predictable --it’s a necessary part of the genre and I wouldn't want it any other way-- but as long as there are authors willing to explore unique individuals and to break genre conventions, there will be freshness.
One Final Step isn't perfect, in fact, I feel like its potential was greater than what it ultimately delivered, yet I thoroughly enjoyed it. I want to read more books like this one, stories that explore complicated characters and situations. I think you should read it, flawed romance and all. I liked it a lot and I can’t wait to read Ms. Doyle’s next book.
NOTE: Stephanie Doyle is giving away a copy of the book to one lucky reader of Romance Around the Corner. For a chance to win click here. Giveaway ends on Sunday and it’s open to US residents only.
Review by Brie
A new image step by step. Who said moving forward is easy? Car thief turned race car driver, Michael Langdon has worked hard to build his image. Now to take it to the next level and become a successful manufacturer, he needs to kick that image up a notch. Enter Madeleine Kane, a genius at adjusting public perception. With her in charge, he's guaranteed to look better while keeping his darkest secrets where they belong—in the past.
Doesn't take long, however, for his ambition to change and the campaign to become personal. Because he wants Madeleine—as beautiful as she is talented and smart. First, Michael must overcome her reservations about crossing professional boundaries and persuade her he's worth the risk without revealing those buried parts of himself. Good thing he's verypersuasive.
Harlequin Superromance. October 2, 2012.