Under the WIshing Star
I’d read a couple of Diane Farr’s books and liked her writing style, so I picked up Under the Wishing Star, a book that many readers I know have loved. While it started off well enough, the relationship dynamic started to annoy me midway through, so it ended up being only a slightly better than average read for me.
The book starts off with what feels like a Cinderella-style setup. Natalie Whittaker has cared for the family home for years. Due to a crazy entail, the home skipped over the elder son and goes to the youngest. The youngest son happens to be Natalie’s hateful half-brother who has just returned home with his pregnant wife, who is equally unpleasant. Reduced to poor relation status, Natalie’s home life is decidedly less than happy.
On a trip to the village, Natalie encounters a girl being bullied by a rather cold governess. She intervenes, and unknown to her, the child’s widowed father is watching. Malcolm Chase fires the governess and ends up hiring Natalie. Natalie adores the little girl, Sarah, and she is frankly not displeased at the idea of taking a job to tweak her unpleasant brother.
While children in romances can sometimes detract from the plot, Sarah does not. She has been through the trauma of losing her mother and as readers, we see how that effects her. However, the author writes her as a child, rather than as an overly wise or overly cutesy plot device, as I’ve seen happen more than once. She and Natalie have a great bond and I enjoyed their interactions throughout the story. I also appreciated that caring for Sarah brought Natalie and Malcolm together in a rather natural fashion. Their friendship over the shared time with Sarah quickly blossoms into something deeper, and at first I found it rather romantic even though Natalie’s continued protestations that she could not possibly be with Malcolm got old pretty quickly. However, as things moved along and we learn more about Malcolm, I couldn’t help being uneasy.
Given that the hero is a single father, readers go into this story knowing that he had a past relationship. However, the more we learn about Malcolm and his late wife, the more I had a hard time warming to him. From the text, it sounds like that first marriage was a practical aristocratic marriage on his side but that his wife envisioned more of a love match. Rather than feel sympathetic for the hero, as he describes his late wife’s desire for love to the heroine as manipulation, my heart ached for this woman who had been trapped in a loveless marriage. Was the first wife a perfect saint? Definitely not,but she was a human being. More importantly, the hero’s depiction of her didn’t exactly convince me of his worth as a partner either. It read too much like those guys who like to tell their dates all about how every ex they ever had was “psycho.”
And therein lies my major issue with this book. Stylistically, the writing is lovely and there are some scenes in this book that really work. For instance, the instant rapport and developing relationship between Natalie and Malcolm’s young daughter, Sara, is very sweet. And then there are Malcolm’s romantic gestures. The scene where he throws a party and just happens to have musicians on hand so he can dance with Natalie made me sigh. Still, because of how Malcolm described his first marriage, I couldn’t help having those little quivers of doubt at the back of my mind.
While Farr is undeniably a skilled writer, I ultimately could not warm up to this book. Under the Wishing Star has its moments of feeling like a sweet fairytale, but I had enough doubts about Malcolm and enough irritation with Natalie’s selfless doormat tendencies to come away from this book feeling a bit blah. The book has enough moments to be somewhat above average, but still not quite up to what I would recommend.