Starlight by Carrie Lofty

Title: Starlight (The Christies #2)

Author: Carrie Lofty

Genre: Historical (Victorian England)

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?

I’ve come to expect certain things from a Carrie Lofty historical: beautiful prose, complex characters, detailed settings, and a great deal of angst. All of these added together usually sum up an amazing read. In this, the second book of Ms. Lofty’s Christies series, three out of four of these elements were present. There wasn’t what I would call a great deal of angst between the hero and heroine, but with the heroine best described as “spunky”, I had no problem with this.

I enjoyed reading Starlight a great deal; where it seems other historical romance authors go for the easy path and write characters, story lines, and settings that have been recycled numerous times, Ms. Lofty works hard to bring us something different, and I very much appreciate her effort.

After Alex Christie’s father dies and requires that he move to Glasgow and turn a profit on his mill or be left without an inheritance, Alex’s first reaction is to stay in the US. He has a son and work he enjoys in America, and has no desire to be rich. But when his father-in-law (Alex’s wife is dead) threatens to take away his son, Alex agrees to go to Glasgow to get far away from the man.

Polly is a millworker and proxy union leader for her father, and as such she has been labeled as a troublemaker by the bosses. When Alex arrives as the new owner, the other bosses try to settle their problems on Polly and the union, but Alex is more concerned about being fair; for the first time, Polly and the union have someone who will listen to them.

The rest of the story unfolds as Alex and Polly’s relationship develops both as owner and millworker/union leader and love interests, and I really enjoyed seeing how their personalities fit together and clashed, as well as having such a unique backdrop for their romance.

A few issues kept me from giving this book a higher grade, though. First of all, there were times when I didn’t feel very much chemistry between Alex and Polly. Having been swept away by Carrie Lofty romances in the past, I felt this lack acutely, and I wish a little more time had been spent on the romance itself than the background issues. Second, I found Polly a wonderful, engaging, extraordinary heroine; Alex, on the other hand, was somewhat forgettable. When I first read the summary for this book, I was excited to read an astronomer hero. It turned out, however, that we see very little of this passion of Alex’s in the book–I just wanted more of him as the astronomer than the mill owner, although I know he had to be both. Finally, I wasn’t a fan of the ending and the secondary plot. It seemed more tacked on than organic to me as the reader, and didn’t leave me on as high of a note at the end as I would have liked.

All in all, though, I would recommend Starlight. The issues that bothered me might be issues that other readers don’t even notice, and when all is said and done, I enjoyed Carrie Lofty’s second book in this series and I’m looking forward to reading more.

Grade: B

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