When Stars Collide
Grade : B-

Susan Elizabeth Phillips returns to the world of the Chicago Stars with When Stars Collide, a road romance between the Stars’ backup quarterback Thad Owens and opera singer Olivia Shore. Being hired to endorse the male and female models for a French luxury watch brand has thrown them together, but someone is sending Olivia threatening messages blaming her for the suicide of her former fiancé. At the end of the day, there’s just too much going on here for even SEP’s talent to elevate to an A, but it’s a solid read that I did enjoy, especially in the middle section.

This book had ground to make up after genuinely irritating me with its opening enemies-to-lovers plot device. A friend of Olivia’s confides that she was sexually assaulted by Thad Owens at a party years ago, so of course Olivia is horrified to find out that she’ll be working with him. But when she confronts Thad with the accusation, he presses her to check with her friend, and it turns out the friend fabricated the entire story. Does this happen? Yes, in an infinitesimal percentage of sexual assault accusations. Does it need to be platformed in a novel? Absolutely not.

This Big Mis is cleared up very quickly, and after that, Olivia and Thad start to bond. The main conflict is one I genuinely enjoyed: how can two elite-performing adults at the peak of their professional lives find a way to be in each other’s lives without one of them being subsumed into the other? Olivia worries that she’ll diminish herself professionally,, the way she found herself doing with her insecure fiancé. What happens if Thad is in a big game while Olivia is slated to perform? What if Olivia is invited to live and perform abroad, but Thad is tied to Chicago?

The mystery of who is coming after Olivia is complicated and hard to solve, not necessarily because it’s well written but because apparently everybody and their uncle is up to no good. You can’t figure out which one person is behind fifteen things because each one has a different perpetrator. I found that pretty ridiculous - but not as ridiculous as Thad’s secret career

[spoiler title="Show spoiler"]as a forensic financial analyst for the nonprofit of a previous Phillips protagonist that hunts down pedophiles.[/spoiler]

I mean, if you’re just the backup QB, I guess you have to have something to occupy your time while you’re holding the clipboard.

One thing I did appreciate was how evident SEP’s research into the world of opera singers was. Olivia’s story does involve a plot-convenient psychological voice loss, and we know from the moment that it happens that it will resolve conveniently. But it isn't impossible; just convenient. The other details, like warm up routines, beverage choice, breath control, opera fan conduct, the politics of mezzo sopranos vs higher pitched voices, even clothing and image, are authentic. When we see her give two performances, and one is supposed to be acceptable and the other brilliant, the writing supports it. I don’t get the ‘musician to the tips of her fingers’ vibe that I get from the best authors of a ‘genius’ character type, but I thankfully also didn’t feel whatever the wallpaper version of a character is.

While When Stars Collide is a serviceable read, it’ll take its place with SEP’s backlist, not with her most beloved works.

Grade : B-

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : July 3, 2023

Publication Date: 06/2021

Review Tags: Chicago Stars series

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Caroline Russomanno

I'm a history geek and educator, and I've lived in five different countries in North America, Asia, and Europe. In addition to the usual subgenres, I'm partial to YA, Sci-fi/Fantasy, and graphic novels. I love to cook.

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