Book Reviews

The First Step (Coastal Carolina 1) by Shira Anthony at Dreamspinner Press

Genre Gay / Contemporary / Military/Former Military / Romance
Reviewed by Lena Grey on 17-September-2019

Book Blurb

The first step is the hardest. After a scandal, New York political reporter Reed Barfield is lying low at the North Carolina coast, writing a story about the seafood industry. But it’s the harbor pilots on the Cape Fear River who capture his interest—men who jump across ten feet of open ocean to grab a rope ladder and guide huge container ships into port. Men like sexy but prickly Justin Vance. 


After surviving an abusive childhood and a tour in the Navy, Justin isn’t fazed by his dangerous job—it’s certainly easier to face than Reed’s annoying questions. Justin isn’t out at work, and he doesn’t need Reed digging into his personal life or his past. 


But Reed’s no stranger to using his considerable charm to get what he wants, and as he wears Justin down, they realize they have a lot in common—and that they like spending time together. Moving beyond that, though, will mean Justin confessing his sexuality and learning to trust Reed with his secrets—if Reed even decides to stay. Both men want a future together, but can they find the courage to take the first step?


Book Review

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase, just the first step.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

The last place Reed Barfield wants to return to is North Carolina, the state where he had a less than stellar childhood and could not wait to leave, but when he gets in trouble at his job, it seems like a safe place for his editor to send him in hopes that he can redeem himself and get his old job back. Reed expects it to be a boring, miserable trip, until me meets Justin Vance and immediately decides that he is one of the bravest, but most infuriating men he’s ever known.

As a reporter Reed is accustomed to breaking rules. When Justin first encounters him, Reed is trespassing; he is somewhere he is not supposed to be. Automatically this gets them off on the wrong foot. Justin notes that Reed is attractive, but when he turns up constantly, his persistent questions begin to annoy him. Justin is a private person who is deep in the closet. He doesn’t trust Reed or almost anyone else with his secrets. He is afraid if his coworkers know, they will look at him differently. If they no longer trust him, that may put him in danger. Justin needs the satisfaction his job affords him. He has spent years building himself back up after his abusive childhood tore him down. Yet, even now, Justin is never satisfied with his achievements; he feels as if he has to constantly prove himself.

Reed is supposed to be concentrating on what he considers to be an unimportant story, when he becomes enthralled with the men who pilot the huge tankers into port. Reed knows that he’s in no position to become involved with anyone, but there’s something intriguing about Justin that stirs up feelings he has not had for anyone before. Soon Reed realizes that there is infinitely more behind Justin’s one-word replies than he first thought. Through interviews with other people, Reed gets inside information about Justin that helps him begin to understand this enigmatic man but, instead of asking Justin directly, he waits until he is ready to tell him himself. Sooner than he expects, Justin begins to open up to him. Doing so is freeing to Justin. He realizes how much he’s been holding in and, even though he knows Reed will be leaving soon, he realizes that he is falling in love with him.
Shira has written an exciting, intense story, with excellent characters set in an amazing place. I’m not from North Carolina, but I grew up in a similar environment, in Tidewater, Virginia, just north of where her story takes place. Many of the men in my family made their lives on the water and had the same love and appreciation for it as the characters in Shira’s book. I was particularly enthralled with the part of the story explaining the pilots, especially the “first step” - jumping ten feet from a small boat to a gigantic ship in order to get it safely into port. I can hardly imagine the bravery it takes to do this job! Thanks, Shira, for sharing your love for the water with me, along with the invaluable information you portrayed in this story. Also, thanks for finding a middle ground for Justin and Reed. I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series.





DISCLAIMER: Books reviewed on this site were usually provided at no cost by the publisher or author. This book has been provided by Dreamspinner Press for the purpose of a review.

Additional Information

Format ebook and print
Length Novel, 229 pages/72333 words
Heat Level
Publication Date 17-September-2019
Price $6.99 ebook, $14.99 paperback, $14.99 bundle
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