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A Single Step: Book 1 of The Grayson Trilogy Kindle Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
I don't understand why so many writers feel the need to create friction between two characters by having one misinterpret something, blow up, run off, and find later they were wrong. No one asks questions but its a favorite technique in so many books.
Other than that its caught my interest and I really need to figure out Emma's past.
Though I've read the entire series -- A Single Step, Before the Dawn, and this one, Thicker Than Water -- I am leaving the same review on all three pages because my perspective is about the trilogy as a whole (rather than any one of the three books), which would accurately be described as "Parts One, Two and Three" of an unfolding narrative, rather than three standalone books. But I urge readers to start from the beginning with the first book, necessary to getting the full arc of the story, and certainly the most enjoyable way to experience it.
Georgia Rose is a skilled, engaging writer who pulls you into the story immediately, without an overabundance of hyperbole and fluff, which I particularly enjoyed. Her protagonist, Emma Grayson, is a young woman brought up in foster care, who's lost her only child by illness, her marriage by affair (her husband's), and her entire sense of self due to the critical mass of these devastating events. She takes a job as a stable master at a large and somewhat enigmatic manor out in the English countryside, looking both to find solitude and detach from life as she's known it, and this is where the story unfolds.
There is the requisite cast of characters that inspires immediate laying of bets as to who will be become her romantic interest (I guessed correctly!), but despite that unavoidably predictable element (these ARE romance novels!), Rose finds a way to roll out her story with a depth and detail that is unexpected. I particularly enjoyed the specificity with which she describes Emma's job as a stable master; the arcane details of caring for horses and their environs was not only educational and interesting, it contributed a very visceral backdrop for the plot, which was expertly interwoven throughout.
Another touching and thoughtful plot element was the emotional and very relatable journey Emma experiences in continuing to mourn her daughter. As readers, we could feel the loss and agony along with her, and Rose does an excellent job of bringing this in and out of the story without making the topic maudlin or manipulative. The impact of losing a child becomes a very salient part of Emma's character and the journey she's on, impacting the choices she makes, both good and less good, and we are always led to feel both empathetic and hopeful that she will traverse that loss to allow herself a happy life once again.
The other characters in the book, from the man she falls in love with, to the "noble couple" who own the Manor, to the other Manor staff, are individually defined, with specific character traits and compelling roles in the drama, and, again, Rose shows her skill in fleshing those out in ways that are rich in detail and personal narrative.
The thriller plot line (which I won't give away!) was unexpected and initially struck me as a bit larger-than-life (certainly the life we're set up to believe Emma will be living!), but once you hop on board and just decide to take this wild ride-- inclusive of international espionage and some nefarious characters up to no good--it's darkly suspenseful and quite the page-turner. Rose's imaginative twists and nail-biting turns are exciting and visual, and here is where a reader is obligated to read all three books to get the full spectrum of that storyline and its denouement.
Which is also true of the romantic side of this tale. Emma's slow opening up, of her heart, her trust, her willingness to once again embrace life and love, is tender and affecting, and we WANT her to get there. Rose pushes her character, sometimes to uncomfortable places, to force her face all the corners of her life, past and present, dark and light, allowing her to come into her own as a newly realized woman, and for the reader, it is a lovely journey.
I thoroughly enjoyed this series and recommend it to readers, even those who don't normally turn to romance...because it's certainly more than just that! Additionally, it's written by an author who obviously put a lot of care and attention into creating not only an engaging story, but a physical book put together with a professional touch, from the well-formatted interior to the beautiful covers, something I, for one, always appreciate!
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