In Step (Painted Bay #3) ~ Jay Hogan
Jesus. Fucking. Christ.
That pretty much sums up my thoughts about this book. This book hit all of my buttons and it was the perfect book for me, even if I spent hours trying to find something that I didn't like in the book. I couldn't, because this book was exactly everything I have ever wanted in a book. This book was my second most anticipated new release of the entire year and safe to say, it lived up to my every expectation.
While this book could be read as a standalone if you wanted to, it’s the redemption of someone who did bad things in book 1 of the series so I feel like it would be beneficial to read the series in order, so you have the full picture of what the character did previously.
When we met Kane in book one of the series, it’s because he was one of the main character’s, Judah, bully in high school and he had kicked Judah really badly and left Judah bleeding. Which was all I needed to know to want his book, a character who did bad things getting a redemption book is my favourite book trope of all time and the way this redemption was done gave me all of the feels. It was just perfect to me.
Kane just turned 30 and he's living a life he doesn't really enjoy, working at the local mussel farm. He is lonely and all he has is his cat, Bossy. Abe, who is 44, is a choreographer who comes to town for 6 weeks to help with a dancing program that is being done in town. They start hanging out together, they start dancing together and through the time they spend together, they fall in love.
First, this book is as much a journey of Kane falling in love with Abe as it is a journey of Kane falling in love with himself. And I adored that about the book, so much. I loved how we got to see Kane grow during the book and how we got to see him be able to achieve the things he has always wanted in life but thought that he couldn’t have before. The book started on Kane who was so lost and alone in life and throughout the book, Kane found love, friends and what he wants to do with his life and it was such a beautiful journey and one I loved witnessing.
”But you’re not that person anymore and you deserve to live your life. You deserve that.”
Second, I want to talk about the redemption part of this book because it's one of the best redemption stories I have ever read. I liked how the book put a focus on Kane explaining his previous actions to the people he wronged before so that he could stop living with it and start moving on with his life, that part of the book was so well done and wonderful to read. Side note, I love how a lot of the book was focused on Kane who didn’t feel like he belongs in Painted Bay making friends and finding a found family, it melted my heart so much and I just loved it.
I love when redemption books focus on showing what brought the character to act badly in the past and how they changed now and how they are a much better person now and that's exactly what this book did. I must admit that I wasn't the biggest fan of Kane before this book, as he was shown as an evil side character, but somewhere along reading this book, I realized that I had fallen in love with Kane and that he might be my favourite character that Jay Hogan has ever written.
Third, Kane had bullied Judah before and that's all the town could remember of him, and Abe is Judah’s friend so he was told everything that Kane did before. A lot of people in town never forgave him for that, and Kane was so scared that he would never able to move on because of that. And I loved how Abe never judged Kane for what he did in the past. I just adored how even when Abe learnt what Kane did he knew that Kane had changed since then and he never judged Kane for his past actions and he let Kane explain what had happened himself. It was just so wonderful and I loved it so much.
Abe had seen me. Me. Kane Martin. Free of my fucked-up past, the pretense, the hiding, the shame. Abe had simply seen a guy that he apparently found attractive. And wasn’t that just a fucking mind trip?
Fourth, I adored how all of the dramatic events in this book and that the angst that happened during the book was related to the characters and their lives. It’s my favourite kind of angst in books and I loved to see it in this book. I really enjoyed how there wasn't any outside of the character angst, it just really worked for me.
Fifth, Kane is not used to opening up and talking about himself. He always bottled up his feelings and never talked about them or about himself. So it was harder for him to open up to Abe, but I loved how he tried so hard to do it. I loved how he didn’t run away because of that and always tried opening up to Abe, even if it was painful for him to do that. And I liked how these two communicated so much, I liked how they made it a point to always tell each other how they felt and to listen to the other, it was a thing of beauty to read about.
“You are the most important thing I can’t live without, Kane. You.”
Sixth, I loved the relationship between Kane and Abe so much, it was just the best to me. I loved how protective of Kane Abe was and how he made sure to defend Kane and to say how good of a man Kane is to everyone that he ever talked to. I love partners who was supportive of each other and no one is more supportive than Abe with Kane. I loved how Abe was always defending Kane to anyone who dared say something bad about him. I loved how they always protected each other and were always there for each other. Kane and Abe were such a well suited couple and they were absolutely perfect together. I just adored everything about their relationship. I loved how we got to see all of the small moments that made their relationship what is is, it really worked for me.
Side note, I loved the banter between Kane and Abe so much. It was just the best. I love dry humour and good banter, and this book had both of these things and I just loved how they were done.
Another side note, I just want to mention the sex scenes in this book because they were so perfect and so full of emotions that they made me cry my eyes out. It’s not often that a sex scene makes me cry but damn did the sex scenes in this book tug at all of my heart strings.
Seventh, just in case it wasn't clear, I just loved Kane, so much. I don't even think I can begin to try and count how many times I cried while reading this book because I felt for Kane and what he was going through. He seemed so lost and alone in the world and all he wanted was for someone to see him and care about him and it was a feeling I can really relate to and every time Kane felt that way, I just wanted to give him the biggest hug in the world.
Eight, I'm pretty sure I will have to drink water every minute of every day to make up for how much I cried while reading this book. I started crying at page 10 and I'm pretty sure I only stopped crying at the last page in the book. This book wrecked me and then put me back together. This book was the perfect ratio of hurt to comfort for me, not only did I cry at the angst but the comfort was so sweet and so pure that it also made me cry due to how good it is. Everything about this book made me emotional while I was reading the book and I'm pretty sure I didn't go a chapter without shedding at least one tear.
Ninth, I really liked how important the dancing was to the relationship in this one. I liked how it was how they connected and communicated. I liked how they shared a lot of quiet moments just dancing together, it was just the sweetest thing to read about.
”Do you know I’ve never held hands with a man before?” [...] “I’ve done other things with men, but I’ve never held hands.” [...] “Then I’m honoured to be your first.”
Tenth, It's no secret that I love everything Jay Hogan has ever written, I have read all of her books (but one) and she is one of, if not my favourite, writer. But I just want to comment on how good the writing was in this book. I just love how Jay Hogan describes every details in a book in a way that makes me feel like I'm there with the characters and that makes me want to go travel to New Zealand so I can experience the same things the characters are experiencing. And the way she crafts her stories and her characters is always so beautiful and always makes me feel a million of emotions. She crafts stories and characters that I can relate to and that I would love to be friends with and I love every second I have ever spent reading her books.
Eleventh, one of my pet peeve in books is when one of the main character has a parent who ruined their lives and then they forgive the parent for all of the past hurt they have done to them. And I was so glad that this wasn’t the case in this one. Kane had a really bad childhood and he was scared to be gay because of his homophobic father, and I liked how the book didn’t make it seem like he had to forgive his father for what he did to him, that really worked for me.
I just adored every second I spent reading this book, it was one of the best reading experiences I ever had in this life. Everything about this book did it for me, the redemption, the characters, the romance, all of it, it was just the best. I don't think I will be able to stop thinking about this book any time soon.
In Step is available in ebook
The Painted Bay Series:
Book 1 - Off Balance ebook
Book 2 - On Board ebook