Star Bright by Miranda Jarrett is a thoroughly enjoyable story about two nice people and one nasty person. It doesn’t break new ground in the world of romance, but it’s a good solid read.
Pretty Diana Fairbourne, of the rebellious smuggling Massachusetts Fairbournes, came to England to find a good husband. She succeeded splendidly, and now she’s living (properly chaperoned) in Ashburnham Hall with her fiancé, the dazzlingly rich, handsome and eligible Lord Roxby. Diana was utterly swept off her feet by him, and she is confident in their happy future … except for a few nagging little things. Things like rumors of his mistress, the fact that he doesn’t listen to her, and the way people keep saying things to her like, “You must subjugate your willfulness to his lordship’s wishes in everything.”
Then she meets a man who is very unlike Roxby – a poor, injured sea captain who is regarded as a hero, but who is grounded without a ship. Captain James Dunham is argumentative, perceptive, and very attractive. The two are constantly drawn together, even though Diana has every intention of marrying Roxby. James knows that he cannot hope to win such a prize away from a man like his lordship, but he just can’t stay away.
James Dunham is a solid, ordinary-guy sort of hero. Compared to the glittering Roxby, he’s fairly unprepossessing: he lives off a Captain’s pay from the Admiralty and is physically handicapped by his wounds. But he’s hard-working, has a good sense of humor, and his love for Diana is true and steadfast. Roxby helps James’s cause by turning out to be wicked and debauched in every way.
Some readers may have trouble with Diana: her personality combines spunkiness and naiveté, which some might interpret as stupidity. But I liked her. She is very naïve, because she is very young, and was brought up in the shelter of a loving family. Due to this fortunate upbringing, she is ill-quipped her to cope with Roxby’s brand of sexual possessiveness, and it is almost too late for her when she finally makes up her mind.
I enjoyed this book, but I do have a bone to pick. What is the deal with the magical matchmaking kitten? Every time James and Diana were about to part ways, this kitten would impossibly appear and manipulate them until they got together again. Once it apparently turned itself into a figurine and secreted itself into James’s luggage. This is the second romance I’ve read this year with a magical cat, and I’m here to tell you, authors, that this device does not work for me. If two people can’t figure their lives out without the intervention of sentient pets, maybe they don’t deserve each other.
Mystical felines notwithstanding, Star Bright is a pretty good book. It’s well-written, well-researched, and the characters are enjoyable. Though they spend much of the book apart, when they came together I believed in the solidity of the bond between them. I also liked the way Jarrett doesn’t gloss over the difficulty of the sailor’s life that Diana embarks upon with James. Both protagonists know that life won’t be all beer and skittles, but it’s worth it to them to be together. Sort of like a real marriage. Very nice.