Thursday, October 25, 2018

One Step Back by Edie Danford Release Blitz

When you fall for a guy who's about to become your stepbrother, do you listen to your heart and risk everything? Or listen to your head... and take one step back?

In high school I had a hundred reasons to steer clear of my soon-to-be-stepbrother, Joe Beneventi. He was a hothead, and I was reserved. His life was football, mine was academics. He wanted to be out and proud, and I desperately needed to keep my orientation secret.

But when we fell in love, my heart took the wheel, and I took every risk to be with Joe. Then one horrible night our secrets shattered. Joe disappeared--wrecking our families and breaking my heart.

Eleven years later, I landed a challenging job at a premier PR firm. And the hotshot publicist who's been assigned to my first big account? Yep. It's Joe. Fate truly hates me because now Joe and I have three days to hole up in a Chicago hotel room and nail down a deal that could make or break our careers. He keeps distracting me, but I'm too jaded to fall for sexy smiles, bedroom eyes, and his impossible-to-ignore body. Except...

I like being close to him again. A little too much. Working together 24/7 is showing me sides of Joe I've never seen before. And when we touch, being together seems like the only step worth taking.

One Step Back is a stand-alone m/m romance of 95,000 words.

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I take a deep breath. Gotta prepare myself for being up-close and personal with the force of nature that is Joseph Vincent Beneventi.

“Hey, Joe,” I say, my voice cracking. Not how I’d wanted to sound.

His sexy mouth curves, and I get hit with the full impact of his attention-sucking energy. It zaps across the entryway. Through the guesthouse and the five-acre yard. All of Chicagoland. The state of Illinois, the entire Midwest…

Yeah, you get the picture. Joe has it. Chemical hoodoo-voodoo oozes from his pores and makes you forget whatever it is you’re doing, whatever happened to be on your mind. And all you can do is stand there and stare at him. And listen to the ridiculous shit that comes out of his gorgeous mouth.

I’ve had to cope with this Joe-phenomenon for three years now, as long as his mom and my dad have been dating. Weekends and vacations together at first, and then mostly full time as of last year, after Kim and Bernie got engaged and bought this monstrosity of a property together.

Wedding-planning and “a home where we can be a family” was supposed to bring us stability. Wishful thinking, because things between my dad and Joe’s mom—between all of us, really—seem rockier than ever.

“Hey, you.” Joe leans against the door jamb, killer smile flashing.

He’s a big, glossy beast, and he lights up the night that I’ve tried to darken. I look away from his shining eyes, but his jacked chest and abs, his maybe-too-tight board shorts, his legs, his feet, aren’t any easier to ignore.

“Why didn’t you tell me you’d be home tonight?” he asks. His deep voice has a slight throb, like he’s actually hurt. “You didn’t answer my message. Any of my messages. I get why you didn’t want to show for my amazingly fucking boring graduation, but… I was hoping to hear about your plans. For the summer.”

He reaches up to brush damp hair from his face, the movement popping every muscle from shoulder to wrist. Matty actually sighs from behind me. I try not to notice how the longer hair and the scruff on his chin make Joe look hotter than his usual smoking hellfire.

He spent his senior year at a therapeutic high school here in the Chicago area and the place didn’t demand buzz-cuts the way the military school did. The longer black waves do amazing things for his cheekbones, his squared-off chin, his sin-dark eyes.

I’m supposed to be saying something. So I open my mouth and a lame excuse comes out. “I wasn’t sure about flight times. Until the last minute. Storms in New York.”

He nods, head tilting as he scrutinizes my features. He wants to believe me even though it’s obvious I’m lying. The sky had been clear when I’d jetted away from LaGuardia, my freshman year of college complete.

I’d been avoiding all contact with Joe since Christmas break. I’d figured he’d understand why I didn’t respond to any of his messages today. Or at least take the hint. Hey, Joey, after I don’t answer your two-hundredth-and-seventieth voicemail, maybe that means I don’t want to communicate with you. But Joe is thick in more ways than one.

His dark eyes get warmer as they take me in, the dimple in his right cheek popping. His thumb traces the sand-dollar tattoo under his left nipple, a move I’m sure he’s making unconsciously. I do the same thing sometimes. I have a matching tattoo; we’d gotten them in Mexico during Christmas vacation two years ago. The ’rents had been very confused when both of us suddenly wore rash guards 24/7 for the rest of the break. Joe had come up with a BS-but-brilliant excuse about stingray sightings and the angle of the sun and the chemicals in sunscreen lotion killing off coral reefs.

And, okay. I’m not being fair. Joe isn’t thick. He’s probably smarter than me. He just doesn’t know how to rein in a lot of the bad shit that constantly roams his head. I’ve actually tried to help him figure out some stuff, given him some pointers about how to focus and prioritize—

There’s a crashing noise from the pool area. More shit breaking.

“Fuck,” he mutters, looking over his shoulder.

“You better get back there. Broken glass. Blood. Nastiness. It’s all gonna happen.”

He sighs—a shudder wracking his six-five frame. “Should’ve never invited anyone over.” His smile is crooked. “Your fault. I wouldn’t have had to get up to shenanigans with Bran and Troy if I’d known you’d be here tonight.”

And, there it is.

The reason why he always, always manages to piss me off. I’m not responsible for him. Not responsible for his feelings, for his actions. I refuse to be.

“Not my fault,” I say, my voice cracking again, damn it. I take a step backward, my hand pulling the door closed.

“Asher, come on. You know I didn’t mean it like that—”

I shut the door in his face. Then I pull the blinds closed, blocking out his beauty, blocking out his hurt expression. Maturity can go fuck itself, because literally closing off Joe from my senses will be the only way I can survive the summer.

“Wow,” Matty says.

“Yeah,” I agree.


It’s probably a few hours later when something jolts me awake. It’s Joe looming over me. I must’ve passed out after Matty left. I’m sprawled on the big chaise in the guesthouse’s living room, Joe standing so close his knees are touching the cushion’s edge.

There’s only one light on, a yellow glow coming from the glass-fronted cabinet that displays Joe’s shell collection. It creates weird, streaky shadows across his super-defined chest and abs.

His shorts are dry now, not as tight on his thighs or his package, but I can see he’s erect, a righteous bulge that’s impossible to miss. And, when I look up into his face, my gaze snags on his parted lips, his heavy-lidded eyes .

The house is quiet. No more party outside. When Joe inhales suddenly, I can feel the sharpness of his breath in my own lungs.

I sit, swinging my legs to the side of the chaise, planting my feet on either side of his. He takes my face in his hands. His fingers are warm, familiar, his touch so tender it makes me want to cry.

And, God, when our gazes connect, and I immediately fall into that dark brown and gold I dream about, tears clog my throat, for real.

“Ash,” he whispers, his voice so hoarse I can barely hear it. The pad of his thumb passes over my lower lip. I lick away the taste of him and he sighs. “Damn, I missed you.”

I nod. I can’t speak. It hurts.

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

One Step Back is told both in the past and present, dual-narration first-person.

Asher (the socially awkward introvert who is leery of romance) met Joe (the bad boy with a sensitive heart) when they both were young teenagers. Asher's father and Joe's mother were affianced, making the boys almost-stepbrothers. The bond was instantaneous, opposites attract and it evolves into experimenting and romance.

In the present, Asher and Joe haven't spoken in eleven years, but they're never far from each other's thoughts. This adds an angsty delicious second-chance romance vibe to the novel that made it hard to put down, where I read it in one sitting.

The slow-burn friendship evolves to more, as Asher and Joe work together and support each other's choices. This felt realistic, unfolding naturally, both magnetized to the other. The drama centers around their mutual boss.

In the past, there's a coming-of-age vibe, where both boys struggle with coming out. Their parents marrying isn't so much the issue as fear over how Asher's dad would react. The intensity of first love is hard to shake, even when running from it for over a decade.

My only con on the novel, as I found it endearing and warm and fuzzy, was the pacing. There was a bit of filler, with a few scenes that didn't add anything overall, not to the relationship or character development. While pleasant to read, it slowed the pacing and had my mind wandering.

Highly recommended to fans of the author and the MM romance genre.

On a funny note: Every time Joe Beneventi was written on the page, Joe Morelli from the Stephanie Plum series popped into my head, which gave me a good chuckle time and time again. I have no idea why I found them similar, but I did.

This is a second chance romance about teen lovers and almost stepbrothers who reconnect as adults ten years later. It’s a beautifully written book that moves between past and present, giving readers intimate access to Joe and Asher’s long history together. I couldn’t help but fall hard for both Asher and Joe.

I love Edie Danford’s writing. The author’s characters always feel like intimate friends and Danford’s thoughtful and considered observations are wonderful. Asher and Joe’s teenage connection is a beautiful, gritty mix of innocence and angst. Their awkward adult connection is almost painful at the start. Much of the adult relationship builds through a few interactions spread across a few days but readers are taken back and forth between the somewhat mundane work encounters in the present and memories of the past. I love that the memories don’t build chronologically. Readers are jolted between beautiful firsts and painful hurts until the past feels more real than the present. At its heart, this is a growing up story. I love the way these men grow into themselves and I love the way they struggle to make their second chance work.

Beyond Asher and Joe’s personal relationship is a story about a growing disillusionment with the corporate world both men are tied to. It’s a story about Asher and Joe’s teenage dreams that somehow turned into skewed priorities that make them unhappy adults. I loved the romance in this story, but I also enjoyed the hard look at the compromises we make for our professional lives. I really loved this book and I’m excited for the author’s next book.

I'm probably in the minority but I wasn't fond of this book. I didn't like the first-person point of view in this book and the flashbacks didn't help. Plus, all the inner monologue. I need dialogue!!! I felt like my connection with the characters was lost and never picked back up. I found myself skimming pages without dialogue and honestly not even worried if they got their happily ever after.

Joe is the is the popular guy at school, the jock, and sexy as sin on two legs. He is hot-headed and will pout after he throws a tantrum. When his mom starts dating a guy, Joe gets a best friend out of the deal. And it turns out that he might lose his heart to this guy too.

Asher lost his mom at a young age, when he tells his dad that he likes guys, his dad thinks he will grow out of it. So, Asher keeps to himself and being the nerd that he is, things are easier this way anyway. When his dad starts dating a woman, he gets a best friend in Joe.

When the wedding comes crashing down, Joe wants to continue a relationship with Asher, but Asher needs time to think. And that leaves Joe wondering all the wrong things and what little relationship there was is over. Years later they cross each other’s path and the feelings are still there. But Asher is so shaken up that he runs away as if he is scared of Joe. Joe wants to talk to his old friend, lover, and soul mate.

Will Asher give Joe a chance and they talk for old times’ sake? Will old feelings come back, and they basically pick up where they left off but only better? Will love finally win in the end for Joe and Asher?

This is a first for me from this author and although I don't read a lot of M/M, I found I really liked Joe and Asher. Their story was real, heartfelt, heartbreaking, and sexy. I look forward to reading more from Edie Danford in the future.

I didn’t re-read the blurb before starting One Step Back and I’m glad I didn’t. While it’s a pretty accurate description of the plot, it suggests that the story is told from Ash’s point of view, when in fact, we are treated to both Ash and Joe’s points of view and, for me, it made for a much richer story because of it.

Despite being near their thirties, this story has a slight angsty, new adult feel to it, but not in the “they’re too old to be acting like that” way. Ash and Joe fell in love in their late teens and when their world imploded, they went eleven years without seeing one another. Between the resurrection of past hurts, teenage insecurities, and forbidden love, along with the way the story shifts from the present to the past (something the author does very well), there’s an angsty deliciousness that kept me glued to my Kindle. I had to know what it was that caused the split, why Ash is riddled with anxiety, how much of Joe’s bravado was arrogance and how much was a mask, and whether their past would help move them forward or be a hurdle they couldn’t overcome. On top of all that is an undeniable chemistry between Ash and Joe that time and distance has not quelled in the least. Seriously, the sexual tension between these two made me want a cigarette… and I’m not a smoker. But it was more than just that, the more I read and the more I got to know the guys, there was a depth to their connection and their feelings that I wouldn’t have expected from two people who are such polar opposites, and yet I should have. They are a perfect example of an opposites-attract couple as they complement and ground one another so beautifully.

Typically, I’m not a huge fan of books that go back and forth in time, but that’s because I’ve read too many of them in which the author doesn’t do a good job of marking the transitions. Honestly, it’s extremely frustrating to be reading a chapter only to realize halfway through that it’s a scene from the past. In One Step Back, Danford not only clearly marks each chapter so the reader knows whether it’s in the present or how far back in the past it is, but she also marks the changes in the points of view. On top of that, the characters themselves behave differently in the past versus the present. Even though we don’t get to see them grow over the eleven years they were separated, I could easily see the character growth that occurred when Ash and Joe are put in trying situations in both the past and the present. For me, the author did an amazing job with the shifts in time and points of view, making it an absolute delight to read and making the characters’ growth and maturity believable and relatable. For example, Ash’s confrontation with his boss had me wanting to high-five someone, I was that stoked because teenage Ash could have never even contemplated such an interaction whereas adult Ash had something worth fighting for and knew it. I absolutely loved One Step Back and am kind of sad that it’s a standalone because I want more Ash and Joe. On the upside, it reminded me of how much I enjoy Danford’s writing and that there’s a bit of the author’s backlist that I can binge on until the next release.

Edie lives in Vermont with her husband, two sons, and random creatures that might or might not be pets. She loves libraries (where she's found play, work, and love since she was a kid), long walks (unless ice is involved), lewd language (in the right context), luscious romance (of any variety), and alliteration.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of One Step Back by Edie Danford to read and review for this tour.

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