A Karen Review: The First Step (Coastal Carolina #1) by Shira Anthony

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I got to learn about a new and interesting job in this book – that of river pilot.  I hadn’t really thought about it, but never would have guessed that the pilots of the big container ships didn’t do the job all the way from port to port, but had separate pilots to guide them that last bit from the harbor to the docks.  The fact that one MC of the book was a reporter who was himself learning about river pilots as he did a feature on them made it almost feel like I was reading his article myself!

Reed Barfield is a reporter from NYC who had been covering a high profile political beat, when he disgraced himself by punching a politician (yay, my hero!).  His boss sent him to North Carolina to do a few fluff pieces, with the promise that if they were good enough, he would be able to return to his old job.  While there, he learned about the river pilots, was fascinated, and even more so when he met Justin Vance.  The exile to North Carolina became a lot more bearable when he found that Justin was to be his subject to learn the personal aspects of the job.

Justin is one of the best river pilots on Cape Fear, but he is extremely private.  He keeps to himself, and his only real friends are his mentors – one of whom is in the early stages of dementia in a local care home, and the other has moved to Florida after a severe on-the-job accident.  He is mostly estranged from his family.  His co-workers don’t know that he’s gay, and he goes out of his way to keep them at arm’s length so they don’t find out.  Reed is exactly Justin’s type, and his attention and personal questions are exactly what he doesn’t need at work.

Despite my initial interest in the characters and their jobs, I found myself unable to connect with them.  Everything about them seemed fairly superficial – Reed’s passion about his job, Justin’s fear of being out, and even their shared history of being bullied.  These were the things that supposedly brought them together, but I never felt the emotions they should have brought out in me as a reader.  I didn’t even feel the emotions were very real to the men themselves.  The thing that I found most real was how both men were stereotypical in their desire not to admit that they might ever need help, or that they worried for others, or were pleased that someone was worried about them.  For that, I give the author kudos, and that bit of reality made me feel like these were genuine men I might actually meet in North Carolina.

Overall a decent read, but nothing I will go back to again.

Cover art by L.C.Chase is rather generic, but the models are what I envisioned the characters to look like.

Sales Links: AmazonBarnes & Noble | ITunes | Kobo

Book Details:

ebook, 229 pages
Published September 17th 2019 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 139781644055274
Edition Language English
Series Coastal Carolina #1

By Scattered Thoughts

At over 50, I am ruled by my terriers, my gardens, and my projects. A knack for grubbing about in the woods, making mud pies, and tending to the injured worms, bugs, and occasional bird and turtle growing up eventually led me to working for the Parks. I was a park Naturalist for over 20 years, and observing Nature and her cycles still occupy my hours. From the arrival of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in the Spring to the first call of the Snow Geese heading south in the Fall, I am entranced by the seasons. For more about me see my bio on my blog.

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