Reviewed by Vicki
TITLE: One Step Forward
AUTHOR: Tia Fielding
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner Press
LENGTH: 236 pages
RELEASE DATE: August 8th, 2016
Sam Becker, a horse whisperer, agrees to take one last job before retiring to his Texas ranch. It’s clear as soon as he meets the Taylor family in Kentucky that he’s in for a challenge. What he doesn’t expect is the way his own wounds reopen. He never really dealt with the suicide of his mentally ill wife, and he won’t be able to ignore that hurt forever.
Joshua Taylor and his horse, Calla, were a force to be reckoned with on the eventing circuit until an accident ended their careers. Most of the pain is on the inside, however, and Sam knows those injuries are the slowest to mend. Sam’s unique methods help Calla and, surprisingly, Josh, but he’s still lost without riding. Their feelings for each other come hard and fast, and Josh starts his first steps of recovery, but Sam needs to return to Texas eventually. Even if Josh is able to move past the accident, they’ll still have a long and difficult journey to make before they can be together.
This book centers around Joshua the injured human, and Calla, the injured horse, and how Sam heals them both. Joshua’s life up to 21 years old has been dedicated to all thing horse, until he and Calla are in a horrible accident, ending both of their careers, and nearly their lives. Joshua has been barely living his life since, physically injured, but mostly emotionally traumatized. Calla as well, she has sustained an injury, but mostly is suffering emotionally. Joshua’s family have tried everything, brought in many trainers, and nothing helps either the man or the horse. Until Sam, a horse trainer from Texas, who is ready to retire, but agrees to take on one last case. Not only does he need to heal the horse, but the man and family as well. Of course it turns in to more than that, this is a romance novel afterall!
So let me start with what I liked about this book. The basic storyline was ok. Joshua and Calla are both in need of help and healing after a catastrophic accident, and Sam is the man to do it. There is some light drama and angst, and a happy ending. I basically liked both men as characters, Sam is the strong, older, cowboy, Joshua the younger, needier character. I liked the family interaction, and loved all of the animals. I liked the friendship and romance that grew between Joshua and Sam, and the care they took in letting it play out. Unfortunately there was quite a bit I didn’t like as well. This story had potential, but it dragged for vast amounts of time. It was soooo slow, and just rambled along with nothing interesting happening for pages and pages. Although I liked Sam and Joshua, there were very odd things about them. Sam plays guitar and sings to Calla, lots of current songs, with no explanation of how he learned to play, or how he knows all of this music by heart. He’s a horse trainer from Texas, yet is an accomplished musician, and covered in tattoos. Joshua is also a piano player. He’s spent all of his time with his horses, eventing and such, has no education past high school because all of his time was spent on horses, yet he plays piano and sings, also current music, with no explanation how he got so good at it. Both sing and play several times early in the story, then it’s never mentioned again. There are lots of characters that don’t seem to add anything to the story, and I’m not sure why they are even mentioned. We are told how traumatized Joshua and Calla both are, but it just never really worked for me. I never saw it. I didn’t understand Joshua’s issue and WHY he was so traumatized. Not to mention the easy and near instant healing of both Joshua and Calla. We don’t see any of the attempts by past trainers, but suddenly Sam gets through to the horse and Joshua in a few weeks. I say I liked the slow burn between them, but then the ending just went to shit. I totally didn’t get why Sam does what he does, and then the even more vast amounts of rambling and time we had to get through to get a very rushed ending. Sam’s issues are touched on, but I didn’t see enough of his background to get why he was so damaged. I get that what happened to him would leave someone emotionally wrecked, but I we don’t spend enough time in his head to really understand what his problem is. Basically the same issue I had with Joshua and his trauma, we are told they are both damaged men,but we don’t SEE the damage or the trauma that causes it. If that makes any sense…
Tia Fielding is a new author for me, and I can see that there is some skill there, I just wish there had been someone to trim some of this down. I think if fifty pages had been cut, if the story had been tightened up, some explanations added or things removed that needed explanations, and the ending redone a bit it would have been a much better story. Her writing isn’t bad, the basic plot line was ok, the dialogue flowed well, I liked the characters, I liked her descriptions of the people, animals, setting and such, and her sex scenes were pretty good. I see what she was trying to do with this story, but it didn’t work as well as it could have. I didn’t hate it, it was an average story for me, but it could have been a great story with some help.