Coronation Street Karen and Steve McDonald Suranne Jones

Steve and Karen: Coronation Street’s fiery love story revisited

He and Tracy seem made for each other but was Karen his soulmate?

Steve McDonald in Coronation Street is happily loved up with Tracy Barlow now – and we’re totally happy about that, because they’re great together.

But we’re not convinced Tracy’s really the love of Steve McDonald‘s life.

We reckon that honour belongs to wife number two – and actually number three, too, if we’re being  picky – Karen Phillips.

Steve and Karen were the Posh and Becks of Weatherfield, back in the day, and their fiery, passionate relationship kept viewers gripped for years. In fact, Steve even name-dropped her this week as the wife he misses the most. Awkward!

So what was their story? And will Suranne Jones ever return to Coronation Street?

Was Karen the love of Steve’s life? (Credit: ITV/Shutterstock)

Steve and Karen’s first wedding in Coronation Street

Early on in Steve and Karen’s Coronation Street romance, Janice Battersby commented that none of Karen’s boyfriends ever took her seriously. She bet Karen a tenner that she couldn’t get Steve to propose.

Karen, who was nothing if not stubborn and determined, managed to get Steve to pop the question in front of everyone in the Rovers, just a couple of days later.

But that wasn’t enough for Janice. She challenged Karen to take it further and said she’d pay her a week’s wages if she got Steve to walk down the aisle.

Steve and Karen both rose to the challenge – though they both expected the other to back out, neither of them did. They tied the knot!

Steve and Karen McDonald say 'I do' at their first wedding in Coronation Street
Steve and Karen’s first Coronation Street wedding was planned in a hurry (Credit: ITV/YouTube)

Falling in love

After their sham wedding, Steve and Karen swanned off on honeymoon, where they soon realised they actually were serious about one another. Aww.

But not for long.

Soon they were apart again as Karen had a torrid affair with newcomer Joe Carter (played by Jonathan Wrather, who went on to play evil Pierce Harris in Emmerdale), who enlisted her help in swindling Mike Baldwin out of the factory.

When Karen realised Joe had been using her, though, she fled Weatherfield in humiliation. But Steve tracked her down and persuaded her to come back and the two were reconciled.

Karen sits at a sewing machine with Mike and Linda Baldwin watching
Karen came to Weatherfield to work with best friend Linda Baldwin (Credit: ITV/YouTube)

Faking a break up

With their marriage back on track, Karen decided that she and Steve should get divorced.

Not because she didn’t want to be with him but so they could have the wedding of their dreams.

They faked a break-up and started planning a huge wedding celebration for February 2004.

But at Christmas 2003, Steve found out that he was the dad of Tracy Barlow’s baby – Amy. The pair had a one-night stand when Karen was away, and Tracy had got pregnant.

And on the glitzy wedding day, Karen was horrified when Tracy showed up and told her the news. Though she and Steve did get married, despite Tracy’s revelations.

Karen in Coronation Street is crying as Steve comforts her at the baby scan
Karen couldn’t conceive and it drove her and Steve apart (Credit: ITV/Shutterstock)

Baby dramas

After Karen’s mum died, she went through some difficult times, with Steve’s support.

The pair decided they wanted to have a baby, but struggled to conceive and poor Karen started to go off the rails, not helped by Tracy who called her ‘barren Karen’.

The feud between the two women took another – slightly odd – turn when the Barlows, and Steve, appeared on a TV quiz show. Karen was Steve’s ‘phone a friend’ and answered the question correctly, winning the family a car. She was fuming!

As Christmas approached Karen was delighted to discover she was pregnant. But when she had a miscarriage, she fell apart.

She stole the car won by the Barlows, and drove off with baby Amy. Tracy was terrified when she found the car on fire at the Red Rec, and thought Tracy had killed her daughter.

A dramatic stand-off on the factory roof followed between the women, before Tracy discovered Roy and Hayley had the little girl.

But Karen had gone too far, and she and Steve split for good.

Drunk looking Steve in Corrie talks to Daisy
Steve didn’t hesitate when asked which wife he misses most – and Tracy wouldn’t be happy! (Credit: ITV)

Steve misses Karen in Coronation Street – and so do fans!

Last night (Wednesday January 4) drunk Steve was propping up the bar in the Rovers where Daisy was quizzing him over his past. And he was less than complimentary to current wife Tracy and revealed he misses ex-wife Karen.

“Who was your least favourite punter?” Daisy questioned.

“Tracy. Next question,” Steve said without hesitation.

“Which of your four ex-wives do you miss most?” Daisy queried next.

“Karen. Next question,” Steve replied definitively. Oh dear, best this doesn’t get back to Tracy!

Fans were thrilled when Steve mentioned Karen’s name and immediately jumped on the fact they want her back.

We all miss Karen!” said one.

Another added: “Karen mention! I know our Suranne is a critically acclaimed player of lesbians these days but we need her back!”

Someone else agreed: “Steve admitting he misses Karen! Come on Suranne. Make a one off return!”

Suranne Jones in black smiles on the Sky red carpet
Suranne Jones’ career is going from strength to strength (Credit: Grant Buchanan/

Will Suranne Jones ever return to Coronation Street as Karen?

With the mention of Karen last night, fans are once again talking about her coming back.

Actress Suranne Jones, though, who played the knicker-stitcher, has gone on to be a national treasure.

She’s won the hearts of viewers – and plenty of awards, too – for her roles in Gentleman Jack, Doctor Foster, Vigil, and Scott and Bailey, among many others.

However, she has revealed a Coronation Street return is unlikely.

Speaking to the Mail on Sunday in 2020, the actress said: “I don’t blame a lot of people for taking a break and then going back.

“It’s a steady job, regular income.

“But I was determined. I felt that if I didn’t make it, I would then go and teach rather than repeat myself back at Corrie.”

However, there is a way Suranne would return – if it was for a Comic Relief sketch.

She previously told The Sun: “If it was for a good cause and we were going to raise a lot of money, I’d ­definitely consider it for Comic Relief.”

In 2020 Suranne also told Give Me Strength podcast she had felt “used” by Coronation Street in photoshoots in underwear.

Read more: Who’s leaving Coronation Street in 2024?

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Coronation Street usually airs on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 8pm on ITV.

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Kerry Barrett
Freelance Soap Writer