You remember the story of Cinderella right? A girl who is a lowly, miserable servant, who meets a prince, they fall madly in love and it’s all happily ever after? Starlight by Carrie Lofty is along the same lines. It’s a rags to riches romance..say that three times fast.
An esteemed astronomer, Alex Christie, the eldest and most steadfast of the Christie siblings, has never possessed his late father’s ruthless business drive. But to protect his frail infant son from his cruel father-in-law’s bid for custody, the young widower must undertake Sir William Christie’s posthumous million-dollar challenge: to make a Glasgow cotton mill profitable. At sea in an industrial world of sabotage and union agitation, Alex meets Polly Gowan, daughter of a famed union leader, who hopes to seize a mysterious saboteur without involving the police. Because a sympathetic mill master would aid her cause, Polly becomes Alex’s guide to urban Scotland. From soccer games to pub brawls, Alex sees another side of life, and feels free for the first time to reveal the man–vital and strong–behind his intellectual exterior. Polly is utterly seduced. Their ambitions, however, remain at odds: Alex vows to earn the mill bonus to save his child, while Polly fights for the needs of her people. Is there strength enough in their sparkling passion to bind them together in their quests– and in a lasting love that conquers all?
This has to be one of the most unique plots I’ve read in historical romance in a long time. There have been many rags to riches stories, yes, but mostly the rich person isn’t working to stay rich or to become rich. He/she is already loaded, and there’s nothing they are actually working for. Alex is a semi wealthy American but to get all of the money promised to him in his father’s will, he has to make a textile mill in Scotland profitable within a set time frame, but that’s not the part that caught me. It’s that he’s a widower and has an infant son Edmund, whose abusive maternal grandfather wants custody of. He’s not saving the mill for the money, he’s saving the mill to protect his son. I wish there were more interactions with his son. You don’t see Alex with him much, and so although you know that he loves the baby, you don’t see the proof of it. It would have been nice to have had a scene or two of him playing with Edmund, something other than him telling him goodnight and occasionally holding him to show just how much his son means to him. Then you have the twist of his late wife, who had been abused by her father. Their marriage lacked passion/lust and bordered on friendship.
Alex is a lonely man, and sadly he’s gotten used to squelching those feelings. Until he meets Polly, who shakes up his world and makes him feel again. It doesn’t end there though, she’s in charge of a union, one who is suspected for damage that was done to the mill. So it’s not this instant coming together between them. They have to fight and work for their relationship and at the same time, in 1880, this kind of relationship is frowned upon, making things even harder. They both know they are playing with fire, but they can’t help their attraction for each other. This made Starlight more real and believable to me. It wasn’t an easy, clear cut romance. The characters have to actually work for something, and they fall down many times before they finally find their footing. Some things were predictable though, this is romance; but some things weren’t, like the bad guy who is responsible for the vandalism, I didn’t see that coming. !!SPOILER!! The only part about the plot that I didn’t like, that to me is something that happens far far to often in romance/historical romance, was a shotgun wedding. I won’t reveal how that happens, but it was the only part in the whole book where I rolled my eyes.
The characters in Starlight were well done. I like how spunky, determined and strong Polly is. She’s not some cowering damsel, she’s not weak, she’s not shy or doesn’t know what she wants. No this girl, grabs life by the horns and refuses to let go. She’s the image of a Scottish lass that you see everywhere, right down to her bright red hair, and it’s a good thing, promise. She’s ambitious but not to the point of stepping on people to get there. She cares for her family and her people deeply and goes out of her way, no matter what it is, to help them. I don’t normally like a stereotypical character, they tend to bore me, but Polly didn’t. Ms. Lofty did a great job making Polly realistic, all the while sticking to the Scottish persona.
Alex…I honestly didn’t like right away. He was so cold initiall, he does love his son and he does get crazy ticked off at his father-in-law for threatening him, but he’s cold emotion wise. It’s like he’s lost the will to go on for himself; he’s only putting one foot in front of the other for his son. Once he meets Polly you see him slowly break out of this hard shell, to feel and want things for himself. That’s not to say he’s a wuss and doesn’t stand up for himself; he’s pretty impressive and not afraid to get scrappy with someone. Many times he has to hold back from hitting people, which shows you he can feel and has emotions, but he has a really hard time accepting his feelings for Polly. It’s not just because she’s a weaver and far beneath him, it’s because he’s shut out those emotions for so long he doesn’t know how to feel. Which means he closes down a lot and pushes her away. Once I got to know Alex, I felt sorry for the man and I may have encouraged Polly out loud to jump his bones…;) the poor guy needed it, come on.
All in all Starlight was a fabulous read. It tugged at my emotions, it made me laugh, sad and angry. I wanted to smack the characters a few times. I also wanted to give poor Alex a great big hug. You know it’s a good book when the characters touch you like that. I have to say, I enjoyed Starlight much better than Flawless, book one in The Christie series. Now I’m even more curious to see how this family’s story is going to play out.