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One Final Step by Stephanie Doyle

Why I read it: I heard the author talking about this one on a recent DBSA podcast and saw the review at Dear Author.  After getting spoilers (because I had totally forgotten the podcast which let the cat out of the bag) I went out and bought it.

What it’s about:  (from Goodreads)  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 very persuasive.

Warning:  Possible spoiler-y review ahead.

What worked for me (and what didn’t): Madeline Kane (I so keep wanting to type Kahn) has been in hiding for 7 years after being a “Monica Lewinsky” to a former president.  The scandal has died down (of course, it’s been 7 years and she’s been completely out of the spotlight) but Madeline is not “over” it.   I had quite a bit of sympathy for Madeline. I understood completely her dismay with other people having a timetable to which she should adhere for everything to be all right.

She hated when people recited the number. It was like there wa some magical timetable in the universe for recovery. After two years she should have moved on. After five years she should have put it in perspective. After seven years she should have forgotten it entirely.

Because I related to that aspect of her, I felt kindly disposed toward Madeline and found her less cold than other readers have.  And, I think she has a point.  If Monical Lewinsky was in the public eye now, wouldnt’ the first thing that anyone said about her be “former paramour of Bill Clinton…” or words to that effect?  Isn’t that something that the media will never let go of?  I guess if Madeline embraced it and there was a certain level of media saturation maybe it would get tired, but after dealing with 6 months of harrassment and inappropriate come-ons and sexual expectations from people who thought she was a slut (and not in the sex-positive way, in the shaming way), I can certainly understand Madeline’s reluctance to go anywhere near that kind of media exposure again.  And, I think she’s also right – her job is to help other people in the media spotlight – she would hog their story and most likely, damage the reputation she’s trying to promote.

I appreciated her relationship with Ben Tyler (friend and employer), as (aside from setting up Ben and Anna’s story for a future book?) it showed that she was a caring friend and not a stone cold bitch.

I also liked that Madeline took responsibility for her actions with the president and wasn’t his victim.  That was a twist I appreciated.

I liked Michael also.  Here comes the potential spoiler-y bit.  I’m not sure it counts as a spoiler if the author let the cat out of the bag on a podcast, but just in case, BE YE WARNED.

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He’s impotent after an incident in prison.  Generally, I liked the way this was handled in the book, but I have a couple of quibbles and because of them, I had to reveal the issue.  At one point in the story, Michael wants to do more than just kiss Madeline.  He wants to touch her and go down on her and make her come.  Even though he can’t.  Or, he wants to use the little blue pill and have intercourse with her and make her come – even though he won’t.  He’s at the point where the intimacy and connection of the acts have their own reward, where he wants to share physical pleasure with Madeline, even though as far as orgasms are concerned, the pleasure he will share is Madeline’s.  And Madeline says no because it’s unfair/unequal.   I didn’t really like that.  I wouldn’t have minded it perhaps (maybe?) if that had’ve come up later after he’d been intimate with her for a while, but Madeline drew the line right from the start.  This denied Michael pleasure and satisfaction as well as herself and I felt like it showed she didn’t really accept him.  Now the story sets up that Madeline has some intimacy issues so maybe that’s why but I would much rather have seen the story arc toward Michael learning to enjoy physical intimacy with Madeline without orgasm and then progressing from there.   And also, what if he didn’t get “better”?  What if Viagra was the best he was ever going to do?  Would she have refused them both any intimate satisfaction forever?  I would have liked to have seen them enjoy sex together without a hard dick in the mix.  As it was…

Potential secondary spoiler.

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He gets better.  And it’s pretty spontaneous and it seemed a bit quick for me.  Even though in the story it was specifically said to not be as a result of true lurrve, it did kind of feel that way for me.  Having said that, I know nothing about male impotence.  So who am I to judge?  But, if he hadn’t got better, I don’t think they would have made it as a couple – not unless she changed her position on the “equality” thing.  Moving on.

I did like the chemistry between Michael and Madeline and I thought the author portrayed Michael’s “guyness” really well.

“I didn’t date much, but there were a few dates. I never cared  for the feeling that I was something to be conquered. I liked kissing, but when I was with a boy I always felt like he was lying in wait, ready to pounce and move on to the next step.”

“That’s because he was. He was a boy.”

“And you’re a man.”

 “Have to tell you, we don’t change much in that regard.”

and I liked the subtle humor throughout the book too:

“I bet you’ve got glass ring stains on all your tables. Maybe dried milk at the bottom of cereal bowls left scattered throughout the house.”

“Now you’re being ridiculous.”

“Oh, shit…you’re not a hoarder, are you? I’ve seen those shows on TV and those houses creep me the hell out.”

He was playing with her, and in an odd way it helped to calm her nerves. “You’ll just have to see.” She got out of the car and he followed, grabbing his overnight bag from the backseat and swinging it over his shoulder. 

She unlocked the front door and swung it open. “I hope you don’t mind cats. I’ve got twenty-three of them.”

He stopped at the door.

 “Kidding.”

What else?  I enjoyed the author’s voice and found it an easy and enjoyable read.  Brie from Romance Around the Corner tells me that The Way Back is even better so I’ll be checking that one out for sure.
Grade: B
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