Before I plot the star chart that is my review of Star-Crossed, let me ask you this: do you believe your destiny is controlled by the stars? I certainly don’t. My sign is cancer, believers in astrology tell me. Apparently this means the universe has endowed me with the unique gift of emotional sensitivity and a fundamental relationship with water. Like thrashing waves, I can experience emotions with great force, but I ride these waves with deep understanding.
She who is tossed by the waves but doesn’t sink I write about myself, but so far, I’ve never heeded astrology’s warning that I might become overly submerged in the influence of water. There’s more: according to astrology, both the moon and Pluto are the planetary rulers of my sign. I must say I very carefully choose which human beings I allow control and influence over me, so I don’t succumb even to the idea of celestial bodies beyond earth’s sphere ruling over me. I don’t look down on believers in astrology, I simply don’t have time or concern for it.
Where am I going with this? Recently, a copy of Star-Crossed by Minnie Darke fell into my hands. This romantic comedy, like a Woody Allen movie (I’m thinking of Magic In The Moonlight, in particular), takes a singular idea on which to build an entire story: Nick, Aquarius and astrology believer, bumps into skeptic and Sagittarius Justine. They’ve been childhood sweethearts, and in Justine’s mind, destined to a life-changing love affair. Only Nick doesn’t fall for her this time around. As fate would have it, he is guided by the stars. Or, more precisely, by his horoscopes – published by the magazine for which Justine happens to write. When she takes Fate into her own hands, the star charts she’s penning down have a ripple effect that goes beyond just Nick.
As Allen’s movies can be entertaining when you accept their basic premise, I thought I’d give Star-Crossed a chance and tore into the book’s 350+ pages for entertainment. I wasn’t disappointed. It’s a contemporary romance novel with a astrology take on the classic disguise theme. To a rational mind, it’s incomprehensible why so many characters in the book would make things complicated for themselves by leaving it up to the stars or Fate rather than taking more direct actions. But Star-Crossed achieves a balance between lending credence to astrology for the sake of the story, and delighting with a smart and funny approach to the characters, reminding you to not take things too seriously.
Destiny doesn’t happen by accident…Minnie Darke, Star-Crossed.
When Justine Carmichael (Sagittarius, aspiring journalist and sceptic) bumps into her old friend Nick Jordan (Aquarius, struggling actor and true believer) it could be by chance. Or it could be written in the stars.
Justine works at the Alexandria Park Star – and Nick, she now learns, relies on the magazine’s astrology column to guide him in life.
Looking for a way to get Nick’s attention, Justine has the idea of making a few small alterations to ‘Aquarius’ before it goes to print. But ‘small alterations’ can lead to big ripple effects…
Star-Crossed has a broad appeal, even – or especially – when you don’t connect to any of the astrology in it. Minnie Darke shines when it comes to bringing secondary characters to live in just a few sentences. Yet the B story of how their lives are affected by Justine’s alterations to the Aquarius forecasts remains sketched out at best. A smaller cast might have worked just as well, or even better.
Another theme of the book is introspection, and regardless of the story, my takeaway was that destiny is what you make it. When it seems as if your stars don’t align, stay light of heart, and look for the change within you.
This book manages to entertain stargazers and skeptics alike. 4 out of 5 very aligned stars.
Minnie Darke: Star-Crossed. Penguin Random House.
I did not receive a copy of this book for a review or mention.