Review: Night of a Thousand Stars by Deanna Raybourn

Review: Night of a Thousand Stars by Deanna RaybournNight of a Thousand Stars by Deanna Raybourn

Genres: Historical Romance, Romantic Suspense
Published by Harlequin MIRA on September 30, 2014
Pages: 367
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
    add to goodreads
four-half-stars  

I have truly enjoyed visiting the world of Post-WWI and the 20’s Era particularly as the author has taken the stories from England to Africa to the Holy Lands of the Middle East. So much was happening at that time and yet there was still the age and mystique of those far away places. I have settled into the stories and thoughts of the characters so that they stayed with me afterward.

On that note, it was with eagerness that I picked up this latest of the stories. It reveals openly what had been only hinted at before in that these latest books have a connection to the author’s Lady Julia detective stories set in the Victorian era. I was thrilled at the connection and it left a warm feeling knowing that though the Lady Julia stories are ending, Julia, Brisbane and the rest of the mad Marches live on in this next generation and have their own adventurous stories to tell.

With those thoughts laid out, it is no grand surprise that I eagerly cracked open this latest book that began with a runaway bride. Poppy March- or as her mother and the rest of the glittering, wealthy society world they inhabit calls her, Penelope Hammond- has had doubts all along that slowly culminated the morning of her wedding with the distinct knowledge that she just couldn’t go through with it. She would not take that final step into something that would end all chance of her ever proving herself or finding out who she truly was. She didn’t want predictable, tepid and normal; she wanted an adventure.

So off she runs with the help of a young curate who looked anything like a religious man with his broad shoulders, twitching lips, twinkling eyes and calmness in the face of a crisis. Sebastian Cantrip drives her to Devon where she can hole up with her estranged father whom she hasn’t seen since her parents divorced and her mother remarried and started a new family- a family that Poppy never really felt part of. Her father takes her in gladly and agrees to let her stay on in the face of her latest kick up. Poppy tries to explain about how she seems to always be a disappointment and never follows through on anything she starts. She just doesn’t fit. Her father seemed pleased by this thought and told her that blood will out and that she is after all, a March, and she will find her way.

Poppy’s actions have set London society and her mother on their ears, but in the meantime, Sebastian Cantrip, the young curate who helped her has disappeared. Poppy’s intuition tells her that Sebastian is in trouble. With the help of her stolid lady’s maid, Poppy follows the clues left to find that he has left for the Holy Land. This is the beginning to an adventure of a lifetime as Poppy is determined to help the man who was there for her in her time of need. Danger and intrigue await her on the streets of Damascus.

When I started reading this story, I had the distinct impression that I was reading a story very much like the romantic suspenses of fifty years ago by well-beloved authors. Many of those started with a young girl determined to have an adventure and discovering one right under her nose. There is an innocence and naïveté about Poppy though this is set against a keen ability to read people and an intuition about situations. Poppy is intrepid and willing to live by her wits and opportunities. I did enjoy being right there with her as she nosed things out and finally hunted down her man. The author did a good job of describing Poppy and the world around her so that I had no doubt I was reading about a young society woman of the 20’s.

I held him tightly as we rode, the wind blowing our veils behind us, the dust of the road billowing as we went. It was all I could do not to let out a whoop of sheer joy as we rode. This was adventure at last.  Loc. 63% Poppy, Night of Thousand Stars

It was at that point that I started to have mixed feelings about Poppy. When Sebastian came along was right about the time things turned dark and deadly, but Poppy was still blithely thinking she was on an adventure. Murder and violence shook her a bit, but she seemed able to compartmentalize the two. She also seemed to have an absolute blind spot in her keen skills of reading people when it came to Sebastian even though his closest friend told her explicitly what he was like and of what he was capable. He tried so hard to lead and guide her in a world he understood and she knew only enough to be dangerous. Her smart mouth and attitude were probably supposed to show that she is plucky or something, but for me, she just came across as spoilt and petulant during these times. Her way of treating the situation as an adventure and her superior, knowing and disappointed attitude toward Sebastian were sources of irritation to me. I knew this was all necessary as part of her development and growth and I knew ultimately she was going to get one big surprise when she finally understood that she totally had Sebastian all wrong. I was so glad to see the author put in that big scene near the end so she could see her assumptions blown out of the water in a spectacular way when it came to Sebastian and- well almost everything. I knew that in the end the ‘adventure’ would forge her into someone stronger and mature if I had some patience with her through this part of her life education which it did.

Part of my problem is that I have read Delilah and Evie’s stories first and Poppy is so much younger and more innocent and not quite fully gelled into her full potential so can’t compete with their richer, deeper characters. This was brought home to me when there were references and scenes crossing over from Gabriel and Evie’s story which incidentally I loved. Another thing is that I could never quite see Poppy the way the book described her. Her actions and words and her thoughts gave me a different picture than what the narrative was telling me about her so I felt a bit off balance until near the end when she finally grew into that person and it was only in the denouement that I saw her as a worthy love interest for a man of Sebastian’s ilk.

I guess all this is meant to say that while I had a ripping good time reading this one, I also wasn’t as wholeheartedly engaged with the story and heroine like I have been in the past. I didn’t adjust well to Poppy’s youth and inexperience and need to grow so much and I suppose that is on me. She is a good heroine and her story was captivating much of the time. The setting of the Post-WWI Holy Land was the strongest character in the story. The intrigue side of the plot and the thriller-ish quality was nicely done though I confess that it was fairly transparent to me so that I wasn’t surprised at several of the reveals. I did still have the suspense of wondering how stuff would come about even if I knew the ‘who’ and ‘why’ behind it all.

My recommendation would be toward those who enjoy Historical Romance, Historical Romantic Suspense and even Historical Fiction with a Romance flavor. It’s balance is less on the romance which is more sweet than spicy and I also feel this would resonate well with those that New Adult niche.

My thanks to Net Galley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest review thoughts.

The following two tabs change content below.
I was born and raised near Sacramento, CA. I have read since I was four years old and developed tastes that run the gamut of literature. I went away to college and have a degree in education, a certificate in family history research, and a certificate in social work. I worked for a non-profit agency with low income families for 20 years which included being responsible for the children’s library and promoting/teaching adult literacy. I have lived in Southeast Michigan for the last 18 years and I am currently a book addicted homemaker with a cat and husband who keep me grounded. Recently, I made it a challenge to review each book that I have read as a favor to author friends who said reviews are important. I have done reviews for Good Reads, Amazon, eBay, and Smashwords, but mostly at Goodreads and Amazon.
  • It’s a fine balance getting the heroines age/personality right so they don’t seem too young and innocent/inexperienced. It sounds great otherwise! I do love when you get to see carry over characters like that. It totally gives me the warm fuzzies too 😀

    • You’ve hit what I was trying to convey exactly. I probably wouldn’t have thought much about it if it had been touted as maybe an NA historical suspense or something b/c Poppy is just young with the ‘I’m the King of the World’ thing going for her right before the iceberg. It followed two very mature, seasoned heroines in this loose series of books and that’s what I thought was going to get here. I had to adjust mid-stream with the story so I wanted to give others a heads up so they knew what to expect.

  • I’m not much into this era so I probably won’t read this one.

    • That’s okay, Mary! Not every book is for every reader. I’ve got a few niches that don’t do it for me. Like medical romances? My eyes just glass over. 😉

  • vvb reads

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this one. I was curious about it as I enjoyed reading Deanna’s A Spear of Summer Grass. Not sure if I’ll try this one as Poppy did not sound very appealing.

    • It’s worth a shot if you love the author, the era and the setting and would it would read fine just so that you don’t go into it like I did comparing the heroine to Delilah of A Spear of Grass or the next heroine, Evie. Maybe a good one for when you’ve exhausted the ‘must reads’ from your wish list.