Title: Step by Step
Author: K.C. Wells
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 256 Pages
At a Glance: As romances go, this story hit it out of the park.
Reviewed By: Sammy
Blurb: Jamie’s life is one big financial mess, and it really isn’t his fault. However, the last thing he expected to find in the library was a Good Samaritan. He might have been suspicious of Guy’s motives at first, but it soon becomes apparent that his savior is a good man who has been lucky in life and is looking to pay it forward. Guy being gay is not a problem. Jamie’s not interested… or so he thinks.
Guy is happy to help Jamie, and the two men get along fine. But when Jamie’s curiosity leads him from one thing to another, Guy finds himself looking at the young man with new eyes. What started out as a hand up is now something completely different….
Review: K.C. Wells has a distinct writing style and when she sets her mind to writing an unashamedly sweet romance, she does so with finesse and style. She also does not apologize for rolling out tried and true tropes such as insta-love, and even a slightly modified gay-for-you. In Step by Step, the author makes her gay-for-you character more ambiguous and, at times, heavy handedly tries to remind the reading audience that his sexuality should be viewed as more fluid than any label could ever qualify. In the end, this was probably my main concern with this novel—not the idea that a man, or woman, for that matter, defies a label or desires to have their sexuality defined by one, but instead, the idea that by constantly having a character questioning the subject, it actually weakened the whole premise. However, there is no denying that this was a love story from beginning to end and, in that vein, it was a great success.
Due to his parents’ embittered divorce proceedings, Jamie finds his college fund depleted and his future in pursuing a law degree shaky at best. Despite working three jobs, he is not able to make his rent, is being evicted, and is unsure as to how he can pay for the important LSAT test required for entry into law school. Then, something marvelous happens and a Good Samaritan enters Jamie’s life.
As a young man, Guy was also helped along the way by his own knight-in-shining-armor. After a disastrous attempt to try sex with his then good friend, the result was a set of twins nine months later, and the realization that he was indeed gay. Now saddled with support payments at a young age, Guy was at his wit’s end on how to pursue college and be a part of his children’s lives. An older man, Stephen, not only helps him with no strings attached, but the two slowly morph into something more than friends. Together, until Stephen’s death, Guy is now determined to honor his partner’s memory by paying it forward, and finds the perfect candidate in Jamie. The only problem is that Jamie is straight and fears that Guy will expect something more than just gratitude for all the assistance. When the two become roommates, the thin line that separates them starts to fade, and Jamie realizes his own sexuality is more fluid than he first thought. The problem now is convincing Guy that Jamie’s not just wanting to “experiment” to find out if he likes men, but he truly has feelings for the man who took the chance to rescue him.
This is most definitely, hands-down, the sweetest coupling I have read in a long time. No angst to be found here, simply a slow and steady love that blooms over a relatively short time between two very different men. Guy, for all his financial success, has not really been so lucky in the love department. After losing the love of his life in death, Guy had a disastrous short affair with Derek, who used him for his money and left poor Guy rather gun shy for the future. Jamie, who is seventeen years younger than Guy, has barely explored his sexuality, and the lackluster encounters he has had with women leave him rather ambivalent about relationships altogether—not to mention working three jobs leaves little time for much of a social life.
The tentative feelings these two have for each other blossom slowly in this novel. The timing is well thought out by the author, and the escalation toward putting thoughts into action is well paced. Yes, it is a bit of an insta-love dynamic between Guy and Jamie, but the hesitancy with which they follow through makes it much more believable than most stories using this trope. You can feel and understand Jamie’s transformation from almost asexual, to wondering, and then to actually being the aggressor. In less capable hands, this story could have been just over-the-top and cheesy, but this author uses her skill at developing interesting and fully fleshed out characters to keep it grounded in reality. While this kind of relationship might not happen every day, you can absolutely buy into the idea that Guy and Jamie could have a happy ever after together.
Let me return to the first paragraph of this review and unpack my only worry about this story. The gay-for-you trope has really come under fire within the community for marginalizing bisexuality and insulting those who view it as a cop out for calling a spade a spade. In this novel, I felt the author really trying to avoid doing any of that and, in actuality, going to great lengths to acknowledge that everyone’s sexuality is right, honest and their own. I applaud her efforts here—it is a difficult thing to be inclusive when you are trying not to label.
However, I felt, at times, the author tried too hard to keep Jamie from questioning exactly how he defined his own feelings for Guy—avoiding labeling himself as either bisexual or gay and simply just embracing his love for the older man. As a result, it felt almost awkward for such a hard working young man not to grapple with who he was, and that made his instant acceptance of physical interactions with a man slightly unbelievable. Any sense of awkwardness during their first sexual encounter was absent, and it is here I felt that by trying to be all-inclusive and not label, Ms. Wells avoided what might have been a defining moment for the main character.
Despite my thoughts above, as romances go, this story hit it out of the park. Step by Step was a beautiful homage to mutual respect, deep, abiding love and the idea that paying it forward is what life should be all about.
You can buy Step by Step here: