The Kissing Stars
When your favorite moments in a romance are food references about a pet pig, that’s generally a good indication the story failed to capture your heart. Such is the case with Geralyn Dawson’s The Kissing Stars, a romance set in Texas during the latter part of the 1800’s of loved lost then found. While the author maintains an exquisite sexual tension throughout, the basis for the original loss of love is very nearly unbelievable. And, after the lost love is found, the excrutiatingly slow revelation of secrets made the light of love dim before my very eyes.
The Kissing Stars opens with Tess and Gabe’s reunion at the State Fair of Texas after her pet pig knocks him unconscious. It’s been twelve years since they’ve seen each other, twelve years since they married, twelve years since the accident. Tess and Gabe were still teens when they married. Gabe’s best friend, also Tess’ brother, is killed in an accident. In the heat of the moment, Tess blames Gabe, tells him she hates him, and never wants to see him again. And so. . . he leaves. Just like that. He becomes a railroad investigator and western hero.
If anything, the accident was the fault of Gabe’s father, an absent-minded professor who never had time for his family. Tess’ father blames his in-laws for the loss of his son and disowns his daughter. Eventually, she ends up in Europe, studying the stars, which was once Gabe’s dream. Now she lives in Aurora Springs, with an odd assortment of dreamers and misfits, studying the “kissing stars” which shine periodically above the desert sky.
After meeting one another again at the Fair, Gabe follows Tess back to Aurora Springs. Each has changed mightily in the intervening years, but what brought them together is still there. There’s that romantic spark, as well as a deep-seated respect. But Tess has many secrets and is slow to reveal them – far too slow, which is problematical for the remainder of the book. To delve too much more into the storyline would reveal them faster than the author intended, but my problems with the book can be discussed at this point.
It seems unfathomable for a man, even one of the tender age of 19, to leave his wife on the eve of a disaster because she lost her temper with him and told him to go. The reader learns this fairly early on, and while the reunion itself is written well, the basis for their break-up cast a pall over the entire read. Then there are that series of secrets I alluded to, which Tess metes out one by one. Had the woman just spoke the truth, the whole truth, originally, it would not have seemed like torture to read the couple hundred pages as she eventually reveals them.
One of the secrets Tess withholds regards a man named “Doc,” a man whose identity is very easy to determine. Gabe should have been able to figure out who Doc was before Tess eventually told him. But the real problem with Doc and his relationship with Tess is that his secrets were too heinous to be forgiven once revealed. He turned out to be such a pitiable figure that he very nearly ruined the book just by being a part of it. I much more enjoyed reading about Tess’ pet pig and Gabe’s constant food references about her. Again, if I prefer animals to human characters in a book, that’s a sign it’s not working as it should.
Geralyn Dawson is known for writing humorous westerns, and part of her humor shone through very nicely in this book. However, certain behavior that was no doubt written to seem quirky and fun ended up seeming annoying instead. For instance, when upset, instead of exclaiming, “Heavens to Besty,” Tess would rattle off, “Pisces, Pegasus, and Polaris,” or three other stars or constellations. Once is clever and fun, twice is okay, but after the third time, it lost its charm.
The idea of reuniting lost lovers after a dozen years has great appeal, and had the reason for their separation seemd more realistic, author Dawson would have won me over immediately. When a reader has to both suspend disbelief and slog through secrets dripped out like a Chinese water torture, that’s asking too much.