On the verge of a stilted life as an aristocrat's wife, Poppy Hammond does the only sensible thing—she flees the chapel in her wedding gown. Assisted by the handsome curate who calls himself Sebastian Cantrip, she spirits away to her estranged father's quiet country village, pursued by the family she left in uproar. But when the dust of her broken engagement settles and Sebastian disappears under mysterious circumstances, Poppy discovers there is more to her hero than it seems.
With only her feisty lady's maid for company, Poppy secures employment and travels incognita—east across the seas, chasing a hunch and the whisper of clues. Danger abounds beneath the canopies of the silken city, and Poppy finds herself in the perilous sights of those who will stop at nothing to recover a fabled ancient treasure. Torn between allegiance to her kindly employer and a dashing, shadowy figure, Poppy will risk it all as she attempts to unravel a much larger plan—one that stretches to the very heart of the British government, and one that could endanger everything, and everyone, that she holds dear.
I'm a huge fan of Deanna Raybourn, particularly of her Lady Julia Grey series, and her three latest stand-alone novels are taking readers to some exciting, exotic new locales for historical fiction. Night of a Thousand Stars starts off in London, shortly after the end of World War I, as we witness our intrepid heroine, Poppy, who, much to my delight, is the niece of my beloved Julia, climbing out of a window to flee a marriage she does not want just moments before it is to take place. She is aided by a seemingly humble church curate, Sebastian Cantrip, who volunteers his rather flashy sports car as her getaway ride and inadvertently finds himself in the middle of a melee when the bride's family and jilted groom track them down. Then, just as suddenly as he appeared, Sebastian disappears, leaving a trail of maddeningly curious clues for someone who was supposed to be a simple man of the church. Questioning what she wants out of life and convinced that an adventure is just what she needs--and that Sebastian is in need of rescuing and she is just the person to help--Poppy becomes obsessed with finding him. And thus begins her trek across the globe as traveling companion to an elderly soldier with his handsome valet and her stalwart maid in tow.
With a copy of her Aunt Julia's memoirs and a trunk full of travel guides, Poppy embraces life on the road and relishes the new sights and sounds around her. But when her party arrives in Damascus, she begins to realize that nothing is quite what it seems. She suspects their hostess, the beautiful Comtesse de Courtempierre, and her son, the smooth and charming Armand, are hiding darker secrets. Hugh, the valet, has set his sites on wooing Poppy, but her skeptical nature suspects he has an ulterior motive, and even her maid, Masterman, seems far too adept at subterfuge and ferreting out information. As political unrest mounts and whispers of a long-lost treasure swirl, she discovers that Sebastian is far more than a curate, and she becomes even more convinced that he is in danger and in need of rescue. But there are those that will stop at nothing to deter her, and she becomes intimately acquainted with the more sinister side of the enchanting city of Damascus. But her real adventure doesn't begin until she finally comes face to face with Sebastian again, and Poppy finds herself on an epic journey across a foreign land facing a brewing civil war, tested in ways she never imagined, and confronted with life-altering decisions she never anticipated.
Night of a Thousand Stars has a little bit of everything I love in a good novel: adventure, history, intrigue, betrayal, and of course, romance. Poppy is a lot of fun. She has the March zest for life in spades, and it was wonderful to watch this new generation of the family while catching up with those we met in Lady Julia's novels. Poppy always speaks her mind, and that makes for some pretty zippy exchanges between her and Sebastian that had me laughing out loud. And she's a smart cookie, which I really appreciated. She was not easy to fool in her quest. The mystery had me burning through the pages, the descriptions of Syria and Lebanon in the 1920s had me fully immersed in those lush lands of contradictions, and the push-pull between Poppy and Sebastian kept me on my toes as I tried to figure out how it could all possibly end well in the face of such adversity. But end well it did! I found some of the final revelations to be a little over-the-top, but that last scene was totally swoon-worthy and had me shedding a tear of happiness and closing the cover in complete satisfaction. Another great read from Deanna Raybourn!
My Rating: 4 Stars out of 5
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