In Step is part of the Painted Bay series, which has an overreaching arc and this review will naturally reveal plot points for the series.
Kane Martin is just happy these days that he has a roof over his head and a job. The job and lodgings came from the last place he expected and Kane is trying to stay focused and out of the way. It’s not easy running into Judah, and Kane carries a lot of shame for his past behavior. While Kane is proud of his job, working for Leroy still has him feeling unwelcome due to everyone knowing what he did to Judah in high school and Kane feels like he will always be that guy the town knows as a bully. Kane also has to deal with his abusive father, with whom he is trying to sever ties, but they have a common interest that his father is not letting go of so easily. Painted Bay is a small town and when choreographer Abe Tyler arrives, it’s impossible not to notice.
Abe lives his life on the road and that was worked well for him. He’s in demand as a choreographer and he’s looking forward to spending time with his friend Judah helping him with the children’s recital for his dance studio. Abe sees Kane the moment he arrives in town and Kane gets all of Abe’s interest right away. Abe can’t get a read on Kane and he’s not sure at first if his flirting is hitting its mark, but there is no denying the heat in Kane’s eyes when he looks at Abe. Kane has a few secrets, and he doesn’t think he deserves anything good for himself, but Abe sees him and is determined to make Kane see that he can have a life and love all for himself.
Abe and Kane’s story brings us to the third book in the Painted Bay series. While Abe is new to the series, Kane is a familiar character and I appreciated having read the other books to be able to fully capture his story. I had mixed feelings about a story for Kane. The author did her job of making him unlikable in the series as Judah’s former bully and sometimes I’d prefer if the bully was left out of it and wasn’t redeemed. It’s a tough sell for me as a trope, but as far as understanding Kane, Hogan has hit the mark.
Kane is still living in the bedsit above Leroy and Fox and working for Leroy on the mussel farm as well. He’s been doing his job well and gets along with Leroy on the boat, but he needs to stay out of Judah’s way and, other than work, he lives a lonely and isolated life. He left his family farm and tensions with his abusive father are at an all time high. When Abe arrives, Kane can’t take his eyes off the older man, but he can’t admit it because Abe is Judah’s friend, Kane is not out, and Kane has another secret.
At 44, Abe has been content with traveling for work and not settling and he’s had his choice of an array of bed partners over the years. Abe is in town for only a few weeks, and the men know there is no future for them, but they can’t stop themselves from wanting to spend all of their time together. The chemistry between Kane and Abe is intoxicating as Abe teaches Kane how to dance and their first kiss is all kinds of sensual.
The series has been so focused on everyone in town knowing Kane and knowing what he did, and this book shows a new perspective as Abe sees Kane for the man he is now and the man he wants to be. When Kane reveals a life-changing secret, Abe handles it remarkably well with lived experience and a secure sense of how to handle it. He rallies for Kane and respects and protects him and the focus for Kane shifts. There is no trying to explain away Kane’s past behavior, but there is understanding of the road he has traveled that is designed to pull on your emotions.
In Step once again returns to Painted Bay, which is a picturesque village that sets a scene for love and family and the entire series is worth a visit.