Desert Isle Keeper
One Small Step
Those of you who follow my reviews are probably aware that I don’t frequently assign ‘A’ ratings. (In fact, Tessa Bailey’s Fix Her Up was the last romance that I deemed deserving of DIK status, and that review was published six months ago.) Jaded by past disappointments, my most fervent hope was to quietly end 2019 with a romance of ‘B-minus’ caliber. BUT then, MA Binfield’s début friends-to-lovers romance, One Small Step, entered my life. The author crafts a deeply emotional romance that is as grounded in stark reality as it is elevated by the ethereal nature of love.
A devastating breakup convinces Iris Miller that she is a failure at relationships and unworthy of a second chance at love. Refusing to date, Iris effectively eschews desire and intimacy. But her resolve falters when Cameron ‘Cam’ Hansen joins Iris’s London law firm and football team (UK football = U.S. soccer). The affianced American is not only gorgeous, but possesses an endearing candor that Iris finds attractive. Since Cam’s workaholic future husband Ryan is selfish with his time, Cam seeks a friend with whom to tour the city. As Iris and Cam grow to respect each other as teammates, they also bond over their love of running, poetry, and reading. The women’s’ close relationship eventually progresses to romantic feelings that they vehemently resist. Neither Iris nor Cam is willing to risk their friendship and to disrupt their lives in order to satisfy their passion for each other. However, maintaining a platonic distance proves difficult in the face of rising jealousies and shared confidences. It becomes painfully clear to the lovers that “The smallest steps are hardest to make / Much easier the big mistakes…”
One Small Step exquisitely explores Iris and Cam’s awakening from companions to lovers in beautifully detailed alternating points of view. As best mates and a charming couple, they are relatable in their imperfections and likable in their efforts to lead more fulfilling, authentic lives. Not only do Iris and Cam fall in love with each other, but they learn to better love themselves. Their mutual affection softens their critical inner voices and reinforces the lesson that one’s past does not dictate one’s future. Binfield’s deliberate, steadily-paced narrative succeeds in building a believable love story and creating sexual tension that leads to powerful lovemaking.
A tip of the hat goes to Binfield on writing a B-story that centers on the successful, yet underfunded, football team to which Iris and Cam belong. Real-world women athletes are underrepresented in romance fiction, and I enjoyed reading female characters who are wives, friends, lovers, and competitive teammates. But while I enjoyed the large cast of vibrant, supportive women, I admit to suffering from occasional bouts of character confusion. The number of names mentioned in a single paragraph was sometimes overwhelming. This aside, I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of Iris’s London, such as the cloudless view from Parliament Hill, the snug Dog and Gun pub, and Dawat curry restaurant in the East End, which exists in real life. I even appreciated Binfield’s use of cold winter weather to serve as a cozy backdrop for romantic moments between Iris and Cam.
One Small Step is a tremendous romance début. MA Binfield’s portrayal of a couple in search of the courage to fight for the love that they deserve is written with sheer honesty, humor, and heart. Cheers to ending 2019 on a literary high note!