by Regina Scott, historical (2003)
Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-7485-9
Traditional Regency author Regina Scott's full-length historical romance Starstruck is at best described as a simple kind of pleasure. It stars a bluestocking heroine with a passion in astronomy who also has to take care of a prettier ward while having to keep in line a younger brother who's not exactly up to cut, but here is a heroine who is sensible, intelligent, free from bewildering Daddy or martyr complexes, and when she is described as plain, she really is plain. Except to the hero, that is. The fact that the heroine doesn't telegraph "I'm so stupid" in at least ten different languages alone makes me enjoy Starstruck much more than I would usually do for stories of this ilk.
Cassiopeia Bentbrooke has been trying to make ends meet since her astronomer father died. No, it's not that she's penniless - technically. All the money, however, goes on to male relatives after her father's passing. The money is there, but Cassie can't touch any of it. Damn. Now, her younger brother Benjamin finally is old enough to inherit (read: use) the money, but he expects her to play chaperone as he wooes the Season's Incomparable. Cassie, as an aspiring astronomer who also wants to give her ward Elise "Liza" Kearney a Season, isn't too fond of this idea. As a bluestocking, she just wants to look at the stars through the telescopes and devices she inherited from her late father.
Trouble looms though when two rival cousins begin their plans to recover some treasure hidden among the Bentbrooke property. Our hero Devon Sebastien - the author must be commended for having the guts to make a Frenchman a hero in a Regency historical - is looking for the jewels before his cousin the Duke of Devonlee beats him to it. Devon's attempt to masquerade as an astronomer is foiled when Cassie sees through his disguise right away. Drats. Things get heated up when there may or may not be an unidentified third party also out for the treasure and are causing more problems for Cassie and her family. Devon and Cassie are attracted to each other along the way.
I enjoy reading about Cassie and Devon. He's a nice hero, not too alpha, not too beta, just nicely in between the two extremes, and his good nature makes a nice change from the usual tortured types. Regina is level-headed and smart, and while she does commit some silly action or two like walking in slum areas alone, she has the brain to get out of these fixes without having to be rescued by the hero. This is also one heroine whom the hero has a tough time trying to fool. Her practical natures makes some of her more stereotypical antics - like wanting to sleep with Devon for That Special Lifetime Memory even when she's not too sure whether he wants her or her usefulness in helping him find those jewels - tolerable because chances are she'll pull through the mess like she pulled through all those binds she was caught in before. The characters and their romance aren't too original and there are some questionable trust issues between them, but Cassie and Devon are enjoyable characters that make everything fun. The secondary characters are also pretty fun and they never overwhelm the main characters.
The plot is quite problematic though in the sense that as the story progresses, some of the twists and turns can get quite ridiculous. There are also some subplots that just go nowhere. And this is probably just me, but a little more fire in the relationship between Cassie and Devon can't hurt. The sensuality in this book is pretty much just a few kisses and a very late quickie love scene that is far from inspiring.
While I sometimes find this book's plotting problematic and I do wish the characters actually display a little bit more sexual tension, I enjoy reading Starstruck because of the characters and their well-written interactions with each other. In a way, this book is like the last few of a dying species: a romance starring an actually intelligent bluestocking.
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