First Star I See Tonight
Finally! This is what longtime fans of Susan Elizabeth Phillips have been asking for: another Chicago Stars book! But after years away from the Chicago Stars, how would this stand up? While it hasn’t toppled my all-time favorite – Match Me If You Can – it comes pretty close. Normally I’m all about the heroes in this author’s books. While I like the hero – a recently retired Chicago Star – I love the heroine. In fact, it’s going to take a lot to knock her off my ballot as Favorite Heroine and Favorite Kick-Ass Heroine in AAR’s Annual Poll.
As the book opens we learn a lot about Cooper Graham as he runs along Lake Michigan in his first September of retirement. Perhaps his defining characteristic is he hates to lose, and as he jogs along the Lakeshore he refuses to let a “kid” beat him, running through hip and shin pain from old injuries. Winning is all that matters in Coop’s mind, and he’s now directed his competitive drive to creating a chain of high-profile nightclubs. But while his first nightclub is a success, he needs financing to expand.
Our heroine Piper Dove is also competitive, also driven. She longed to work in her family’s detective agency, but her father would have none of it. After he died, Piper bought the family agency from her stepmother, only to discover it was in bad financial shape. But Piper now has a prestigious case, tailing Coop to get information on him. She longs to be the best detective in Chicago, but so far things aren’t going well as Coop has spotted her on several occasions
A word of warning: do not read the first few chapters in public. I found myself laughing out loud repeatedly during Coop and Piper’s first interaction at his nightclub, where she convinces him she’s British and is his stalker. Coop quickly finds out who she actually is, and demands to know who hired her, threatening her with the loss of future jobs. But Piper hates to lose as much as Coop does, and is just as stubborn, if not more so. In anger she tells Coop his bartender is cheating him. He doesn’t believe her, then figures out she’s telling the truth, and hires Piper to work in his bar for a few weeks.
A strange series of incidents lead Piper to believe someone is trying to hurt Coop and hurt the reputation of his club, do she makes herself his unofficial bodyguard. Talk about your kick-ass heroines! She defends Coop numerous times – and he doesn’t want to be defended. His bouncers are eventually more afraid of Piper than of Coop.
But Piper is so much more than tough. She’s self-aware; she knows she can’t stand to show weakness, but still picks fights, has to show she’s stronger than everyone else. I love how she accepts when she’s wrong, doesn’t make excuses, and admits it.
Piper has no interest in relationships and thinks men are a lot of work. When Coop and Piper head in that direction, they believe it will be temporary and will just be about sex. It’s fun watching the couple develop feelings for each other, almost in spite of themselves. I also love how well they know each other. Piper gradually learns more about Coop, realizing he’s so much more than a famous football player. And the ending is just perfect, demonstrating just how well Coop loves and understands Piper.
There are some fun cameos by some of my favorites from previous Chicago Stars books, most notably Heath and Annabelle from Match Me If You Can. It was nice seeing where they are in their lives a few years later. Does this mean you shouldn’t read First Star I See Tonight if you haven’t read the rest of the series? Not at all. This is truly Coop and Piper’s story, with the cameos merely adding context.
This is very close to a DIK for me; just a few minor things kept it from that, most notably a Middle Eastern subplot that felt off. But despite a few issues, I loved Piper and Coop, and highly recommend this book.