Women’s Fiction is all about the heroine’s journey. Whether she is a mature woman facing a major life change or a young woman just starting out, the focus of the book is always growth, growth, growth. Fading Starlight lacked the depth that I feel belongs in such a character building story, although the tales of old Hollywood glamour and the discussions of Lauren’s job in fashion were intriguing enough to hold my attention. It was like a cupcake that’s almost all icing and no cake: super sweet but far from satisfying.
Lauren Summers is sitting before a TV screen when her world unravels in a spectacular, national news style manner. The dress she had worked so hard on for a young diva suffered a body baring wardrobe malfunction while the star was climbing the stairs to present an award. The people watching the show with her try to assure her everything will be okay but of course it isn’t. She’s fired by the firm she is doing her internship with, the owner of said company calls her out in the media for her mistake and she’s blacklisted in the industry. Even the flowers she receives from Cody, the man she’s just met, can’t cheer her up. She’s broke, jobless, blackballed and the subject of tabloid fodder. Wisely, she feels this is no time to start a relationship.
The one thing Lauren isn’t is friendless and one of those friends, a former professor, hooks her up with a new gig and a new place to live. The job doesn’t pay well but it is in a small town and her new domicile, while a fixer-upper, is in an exclusive neighborhood which comes complete with a guard who protects the residents from the press. As Lauren settles in she prays for guidance, especially in dealing with the neighbors, who she has heard can be more than a little cantankerous.
One of those neighbors, Charlotte Montgomery, is already planning to force Lauren to leave. Charlotte learned a hard lesson in her Hollywood era many years ago – trust no one. She determines that having Lauren live next door to her will be detrimental to her privacy and launches several schemes to get the young woman kicked out of the neighborhood. Charlotte has secrets to keep and she can’t risk anyone getting close enough to find out what they are.
When a reporter approaches Lauren about a decades old murder involving Charlotte, she offers a lure for her aid that is hard to resist: information exists that will exonerate Lauren in the dress fiasco. The reporter will make that information public in exchange for Lauren’s help. Lauren struggles to know the right thing to do; exposing a murderer would be justice but exposing an innocent old woman to gossip would be unchristian. She prays for guidance but what God seems to be telling her sounds confusing, not informative.
Actually, no it’s not. I could go on a religious rant here on the dangers of waiting for personal words from God as opposed to just following the dictates in the book he provided but I’ll spare you that. Suffice it to say that if people received such clear, personalized messages from the Lord every day as Lauren does in this novel, our world would be a vastly different place. Lauren chooses to more or less ignore what God is screaming at her and proceeds forward in an iffy manner. Fortunately, the intel she has on the neighbor is so superficial it doesn’t really matter.
Which leads me to my major complaint about this novel – for a story of faith, it is colossally superficial. Scripture verses are thrown around which Lauren occasionally acts on but there is little to no look at how steps of faith which seem small on the exterior can be monumental internally. Re-arranging how you think can be far harder than rearranging where you live or what job you have. For a story about how God is at work in our lives, all I saw take place was a bit of genie like fixing of Lauren’s problems, making the bad guys pay (or in this case, the mean girls) and bringing about an HEA for the heroine. Which would have been acceptable if the story wasn’t trying to have such a high religious level but since it does, this Santa Clausification of spiritual life isn’t appropriate. Lots of big events happen in this novel but the fact is they impact the character’s lives but not their souls, and that is not what something which a book concentrating this hard on our personal growth should do.
Moving beyond the emotional and spiritual frivolity, we arrive at the romance, which was perplexing to me as well as being superficial. Cody hangs out with Lauren when she is hanging out with her friends but I don’t get why he is interested in her. The two barely have any dialogue together. There is zero, zilch, nada mention of chemistry. It’s not just that we don’t see the relationship build, it’s that there is no reason for the relationship to exist. I’m friendlier with my mailperson than these two appeared on the page.
As I mentioned, the old Hollywood portions of the story are intriguing. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the designers, the way the studios sometimes worked and what life was like for someone who grew up in that world. I also enjoyed the very light look we got into the fashion world. Like glittery sprinkles on one of those store bought cupcakes, these segments served as alluring decorations that captured the interest.
The mystery here was intriguing, too. We don’t learn much about it but I felt we caught a real look at what it is like to be a part of an investigation into something you actually were just a fringe player in.
But overall I was disappointed in Fading Starlight. While the prose was good and the plotting adequate, I felt its message was jumbled by its need to keep Christian characters from being actual humans and its desire to keep the romance so pure that it had to erase it from existence. I can’t recommend this novel other than to readers who are completely obsessed with fifties and sixties era Hollywood.