The Girl With Stars in Her Eyes
The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes is a contemporary romance about a young Black woman making her way through the music industry, and her reconnection with her childhood sweetheart.
Antonia – Toni – Bennette has no interest in super-stardom, or, really, any level of fame. She grew up with a mother obsessed with the spotlight, and Toni has no aspirations to grab it for herself – she just loves music, and wants to make a living at it. Living in Philly, working as a session musician and an artist in residence at an eclectic club, Toni is paying the bills, though not exactly living the dream. She wants to make music without being shouted at by random middle aged men who doubt her talent. Out of the blue, she runs into someone she thought she would never see again, the boy who left her behind: Sebastian Quick.
Seb is not exactly in a good place. He is currently on the hook for looking after Candi, a loose cannon and the guitarist of the Lillys, a band on the rise. Seb manages the girl band and has a close friendship with all of the members, and a dysfunctional relationship with Candi. When Seb unexpectedly sees Antonia again after eight years, he is blown away. He feels guilty, but also desperately wants to reconnect. Toni isn’t having that, and Seb leaves her be, regretting the loss of her despite the intervening years.
But fate has its own plans, as Toni is called in for an audition in New York, where she sees Seb again, and has to work with him. Given their new proximity, Toni finds herself softening toward Seb, and Seb has a harder and harder time keeping a professional distance.
I loved reading Antonia’s story. She’s really tough; she has to be out of necessity, working in a male-dominated field as a young Black woman. Toni had a rough childhood, and you can see that in her goals and the way she conducts herself. She’s very motivated and professional, and really takes advantage of any opportunities that come her way. Toni longs for stability, and tries not to rely on anyone else more than she has to. I also loved her chemistry with Seb; they both are incredibly scarred from their rough upbringings, and have a lot to work through, both individually and together. Seb is a great love interest, and I loved his tenderness toward both Toni and all of the women in the Lillys.
This is a really strong novel, mostly because the main characters are so well established. I normally don’t like shorter flashbacks throughout a novel, but it makes sense here, as we see Sebastian and Antonia growing up together in little vignettes. It’s easy to sympathize with both protagonists, but the supporting characters really add another dimension to the story. The band members are mostly interchangeable, with the exception of Lilly and Candi, who are very distinct and memorable. I’m interested in what their story is, and maybe if there’s another book we’ll get to see more of the internal framework of that relationship. I liked that Candi isn’t entirely villainized, but is more depicted as a self-destructive and selfish person than an evil one. A lesser writer would rely on an audience hating one character to garner sympathy for another, but Candi comes across as crying for help rather than a Disney villain. Similarly, other antagonists aren’t over-the-top, mustache-twirling evil, but regular people with discernable motivations. I also really enjoyed Jordan, the band’s lawyer and Seb’s friend, who really comes across as kind of a voice of reason amid all of the band’s antics.
Though I absolutely adored this book, a few things stuck out to me that didn’t quite work. I would have liked to see more internal growth from Seb, and I wanted more resolution of his unhealthy dynamic with Candi, which we didn’t really get to see. The plotline with Toni’s parents worked in some parts, but there were times when it didn’t really fall in line with the rest of the story. Both parents were very well fleshed-out, but Toni’s conflict with her mother didn’t feel resolved, and felt a bit out of place towards the end of the story. Also, the ending is a bit rushed. I liked the way it resolves, but it feels a little anticlimactic given the pace of the narrative previously.
Overall, I would not hesitate to recommend The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes to any romance reader. It’s excellent and I will be looking forward to reading more of the author’s work.