I was of two minds about this book. It’s worth five stars. No doubt about it. The main character and her world are expertly evoked. The emotion brought me to tears at least THREE times.
And, yet, I had some issues with the execution.
The genre is hard to pin down. It’s all well and good to say, “just go with the story.” That’s not how brains work. It’s normal, as one reads, to make rapid-fire comparisons to everything else we’ve ever read. Part of us is with the story, another part is using cues from the text to surge ahead and make predictions about where the narrative is heading. This is especially the case if we think we’re reading suspense or mystery. After all, catching the clues becomes critical to understanding the resolution.
Emma Grayson is a fascinating character. She’s suffered significant losses and they’ve made her wary of people and their motives. We see this in the solitary way she lives her life. The author delves so deeply into Emma’s back story (and so early) that it at first appeared this was straight literary fiction. The suspense elements are hinted at–her new employer’s interest in her kickboxing skills, the way he and Emma’s eventual love interest take off on mysterious business trips, etc–but never strongly enough for us to say “Okay, this is suspense.” Not until someone causes Emma to be thrown from her horse are we sure something odd is going on. Same goes with the romance element. The hints are bigger, but the romantic elements don’t really come into serious play in the first half of the book.
It might have been better for the author to seed the facts of Emma’s past throughout the first half of the story, so that the pace could have been picked up a bit. As it is, we know everything about Emma right from the start but far too little (too late) about her new love’s past. Because of this, the climactic situation seems to come out of left field. We don’t have enough information to fully process what’s happening or believe the motivations behind the final blitz attack on Emma. I have to tread carefully here to avoid telling too much, but the author falls into a common confusion about the nature of two distinctly separate mental illnesses. Also, these illnesses (as character traits) aren’t developed in way that feels as genuine as the character building in the rest of the book. As a result, the rationale for the “villain’s” actions are rushed and confused and TOLD to us in a chunky summation.
In conclusion, A SINGLE STEP is an excellent novel with a problematic story arc. Some of this may have to do with it being the first of a trilogy. There’s a lot of attention paid to setting up the situation. On the other hand, by staying so close to her character, Georgia Rose makes us feel Emma’s sorrows and hopes. Rose also has a great romantic touch. She knows how to build passion slowly, so that the reader is itching for the couple to finally come together. There are also plenty of great details of life on the estate and the care/activities surrounding horses. Rose’s created world is so real, I felt part of it and it’s Gothic, slightly JANE EYRE atmosphere. It’s for these reasons that a book with some technical flaws still rates FIVE stars, and that the next Emma Grayson story is on my must-read list.