Night Of A Thousand Stars
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Poppy Hammond is about to be married into an aristocratic family who are sorely in need of her generous dowry. Deciding right at the last minute that this wedding is not for her, Poppy (with the help of a rather handy curate named Sebastian Cantrip) absconds from the chapel in her wedding gown. Sebastian drives her to her father’s home – she’s been estranged from him since her mother left him when Poppy was young although they have communicated through letters. Pursued by her jilted fiance, her mother and various others, chaos ensues briefly and Poppy negotiates one month to discover what she wants to do with her life.
What she wants to do is find Sebastian to thank him for helping her, only to discover that he himself has disappeared in rather mysterious circumstances. One good turn deserves another and so Poppy decides that she must find him, no matter what it takes. With only her maid for company Poppy lands a job as a companion for a retired colonel and sails for the Holy Land where she believes Sebastian has gone. Once in Damascus, Poppy finds that there’s much more to Sebastian than she ever dreamed. She has to make a quick decision on who she can trust as she attempts to unravel a mystery that only keeps getting deeper the further in she gets.
I have to admit, I was more than a little sad when I read that Deanna Raybourn was changing publishers and that her Lady Julia Grey series would more than likely be at an end. There is one forthcoming novella featuring Lady Julia which is due around November but for fans of that series, there is some closure on Lady Julia and several other characters in Raybourn’s last full-length novel for MIRA, Night of A Thousand Stars. I liked the connections that kept being revealed and had she not left MIRA, I’m sure Raybourn could’ve written more novels that tied in with this world and also Lady Julia’s. Although I wasn’t a huge fan of City of Jasmine and I knew this book was linked in some way, I still wanted to read it because I know Raybourn is definitely way more hit than miss with me and this book was definitely hit. I enjoyed it from the very first page which was Penelope (Poppy) deciding to escape the wedding that would see her into aristocracy and a certain, regimented life and basically run for the hills. She’s assisted by a handily placed curate who is definitely not what he seems.
It’s not really surprising that Poppy reminded me a lot of Lady Julia, given the connection between them that is revealed relatively early on into the book. Both of them have been trying to be something they’re not, trying to fulful a role in a way, a societal expectation. And in both their cases something happens to make them rebel, to break out of those moulds and attempt to find out who they really are and what they really want. They’re not afraid of risk, of a little adventure and trouble tends to find them almost effortlessly. It also rarely seems to bother them as they bounce cheerfully from one sticky situation to another.
I have to admit, I did query the ‘neatness’ of several events and happenings along the way – it all seemed to come together way too easily and too smoothly for Poppy. She seemed to have no trouble getting where she wanted to go and I was glad that was all explained rather satisfactorily and wasn’t just put down to good luck or good organisation on her part. I did really enjoy the setting of Damascus in the 1920s (in fact it was one of the things I enjoyed most about City of Jasmine) and I felt that it was portrayed really well and the way in which someone such as Poppy would view it. She was a good observer with keen instincts and really wants to do the right thing. She feels that Sebastian went out of his way to help her when he didn’t have to, getting mixed up in the craziness that ensued when her family and former fiance caught up with her and now that he appears to be missing, she wants to do him a favour and help him out. Poppy does continually underestimate Sebastian in this book which actually makes for several rather amusing scenes as she finally comes to terms with the fact he’s not really just a curate. For me it’s hard for Raybourn’s male leads to live up to Brisbane, who is a character that I just adore. I was discussing this with a blogger friend who mentioned that when an author crafts a character that you really just love, it can be pretty hard to duplicate that. I ended up really liking Sebastian and I thought that the chemistry between him and Poppy was very well done. The scene where she describes something that happened that made her bail on the wedding is just hilarious (she and Sebastian had only just met) and there are several scenes later on when they’re in Damascus where Sebastian’s desire for Poppy basically leaps off the page but for various reasons, it’s something that he keeps on a pretty tight leash. A lot of the time, less really can be more.
I know there’s one more Lady Julia novella to go but I’m assuming that’s set around the same time as the rest so this book, which is set decades letter really seems to end this journey on a good note and gives some closure. I’m really looking forward to whatever comes next from Deanna Raybourn – she’ll probably always be an auto-read for me.
Book #190 of 2014