I know that some of my fellow readers are absolute sticklers when it comes to reading books in a series in order. I am less rigid about this particular issue. I have found that a talented author will always create a book that can stand alone. Sometimes, though, it may be a good thing not to have read a previous book. I think that in this instance, such may be the case. Having read Cathyís description of the Diana Fairborne in Star Light, I am not sure I would have wanted to read her story. On the other hand, perhaps it is the mark of a talented author to show how an unattractive character grow and improve.
As Star Bright opens, Diana has come to stay at the country home of her betrothed, the Marquis of Roxby. A ravishing beauty, Diana took London by storm when she traveled from her home in Massachusetts. As the granddaughter of a duke, Diana had an entree into English society. She caught the attention of Roxby, who quickly won her heart and hand. In a few short weeks, she will be marrying the man she loves. In the
meantime, she has come to Ashburnam Hall to learn how to be a marchioness.
Away from society, in the impressive family home, Diana begins to realize how very different her life soon will be. The formality of the household is far different from what she has known. And now that he has won her, Roxby seems to have changed. Or is she just getting to know him better. And when she receives an anonymous letter warning her that Roxby has a mistress in London, she confronts her betrothed. He is not pleased. He expects Diana to conform to his wishes and his ways. Little does Diana realize what those ways are.
While wandering around the estate, seeking to escape its stifling atmosphere of the house, Diana comes across a man fishing in one of the ponds. Thus, Diana meets Captain James Dunham.
Captain Dunham is on sick leave, having been wounded in a naval action. He is a hero, but his greatest concern is whether he can recover enough to return to active service. He is recuperating at his sisterís home, the local vicarage. The son of a clergyman, he is far removed socially and economically from Roxby.
James and Diana meet and spar and become friendly before either realizes who the other is. When James realizes that Diana is to marry Roxby, he is both saddened because of his growing love for her and fearful. He knows the real Roxby; Diana has not had time to discover what kind of man her betrothed truly is.
If Diana was annoying in Star Light (at least this is what Iíve heard from other readers and reviewers), in Star Bright, she is a young woman who has been bedazzled by a charming and handsome man and who gradually - along with the reader - comes to realize that Roxby is not what he seems. She is understandably confused about her growing feelings for James. After all, she has given her word to marry the marquis. But will keeping her word cause her to lose herself?
Jarrett uses the backdrop of English upper class society in the 1740s very effectively. This was an era of excess, of loose morals, of perversion. Diana is clearly out of her element and she shows wisdom in recognizing the solid worth of her naval captain. She comes across as young, but not foolish. And she discovers what true nobility is.
There are lots of exciting adventures in Star Bright, but what makes the story work is the romance. Diana and James are a delightful couple; the sexual tension simmers between them even while they are trying to ignore their growing love.
Jarrett introduces a magical cat into the story, why Iím not sure. Fond as I am of the feline critters, I really didnít see that ďStar BrightísĒ presence added all that much to the tale.
I assume that the Fairborne saga will continue. I sort of hope that Jarrett will return to 18th century New England for the rest of the stories. She does it so well. Still, I enjoyed her excursion to Old England.