Desert Isle Keeper
The Astronaut and the Star
I’ll admit that I cheated a little on TBR Challenge this month. I usually try to dig deep into the archives of my TBR, but when I saw the “Grumpy” prompt, all I could think of was the grumpy/sunshine romance I’d picked up from Amazon First Reads last month, based entirely on the author’s hilarious tweets incorporating 1 star reviews. I’ve been looking an excuse to read Jen Comfort’s The Astronaut and the Star, so here we go.
The setup sounds like slapstick comedy. An intense astronaut, intent on nothing but being the first woman on the moon, gets assigned to provide a movie star with some astronaut experience for what is supposed to be an Oscar-worthy dramatic breakthrough role. Regina “Reggie” Hayes is our very serious heroine who is definitely cast in the “grumpy” role. She’s openly bisexual, unapologetically refuses to suffer fools gladly, and is not looking for a relationship. Sunshine comes in the form of Jon Leo, the sweet and goofy himbo hero, who turns out to be every bit as kind as he seems at first blush – and much smarter than most folks give him credit for. He’s initially not sure what to make of Reggie, but something about her intrigues him.
There’s obvious chemistry between these two from the beginning, so when they get sent to the training station in the middle of the Arizona desert, any reader will know that something is about to happen. At first, things feel pretty rocky. Reggie is undoubtedly talented, but she’s also sarcastic and at times condescending, which makes some of her earlier interactions with Jon a bit uncomfortable to read. However, to her credit, she is one of the first to pick up on the fact that Jon has more going for him than muscles and a handsome face.
While a lot of this book requires major suspension of disbelief, it’s a really fun read so I had no issue with that. Reggie and Jon training out in the desert while trying not to be too painfully aware of each other made for great reading. And while the story may have been over the top, the characters actually made sense in a way. Reggie comes from a family that combines emotional distance with relentless pressure. It’s a wonder that woman hadn’t turned into a diamond.
I adored Jon. Even if they go to extremes, he and his mom model how a family can be imperfect and yet warm and inviting. He’s a kind, fun and slightly flaky hero who tries so hard. Throughout the book, there are hints that Jon may have undiagnosed ADHD and seeing him start to realize why he has the problems that he has was bittersweet. On the one hand, he gets answers but on the other hand, he could have used tools to address the condition sooner.
The romance in this book is very slow burn. That generally works for me, though Reggie’s coldness toward Jon lasted long enough that I found myself a bit worried for their relationship. However, the characters grow throughout the story, so I think that will give a lot of readers hope for them. I have to say that the ending made me believe in them more.
This is one of those books that I suspect will be “love it or hate it” for a lot of people. I think many will like Jon. Reggie will probably take a little longer to grow on most people, but I enjoyed seeing a heroine with such an open passion for her job. Neither is a bland placeholder character and I can see them being polarizing. I fell into the “love it” camp. The over-the-top antics in this book cracked me up in several places and I loved watching the author show readers so many little details of the everyday ways in which the leads came to appreciate each other. I hope Jen Comfort writes more romantic comedy because this was fun.
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I enjoy spending as much time as I can between the covers of a book, traveling through time and around the world. When I'm not having adventures with fictional characters, I'm an attorney in Virginia and I love just hanging out with my husband, little man, and the cat who rules our house.