Reviewed by Wendy Lipke
Many readers of fiction have trouble reconciling the title on the cover of a book with the story within. This is not the case with Minnie Darke’s romance novel Star Crossed.
The immediate response to reading the title is Romeo and Juliet and yes, the story does have reference to Shakespeare’s famous play. In fact, there are two different productions of Romeo and Juliet within this story.
This is the world of the male protagonist in Star Crossed, Nicholas Jordan. We meet him as a not very affluent actor whose main mode of transport is his bicycle. His current girlfriend, a law graduate and successful model with her face on many billboards around town, has plans to change Nick’s status.
The story is also about astrology, again linking well with the title of the book. Nick, born under the star sign Aquarius, original to the point of slight eccentricity, creative and caring, and very competitive, is a strong believer in what Leo Thornbury writes in the astrology section of the Alexander Park Star (another link to the title of the book).
Justine Carmichael, an astrology sceptic who is now working for this magazine with the hope of gaining a cadetship, has known Nick all her life but they have drifted apart over the years. A recent chance meeting with Nick presents an opportunity for Justine, Sagittarius, aspiring journalist and strictly no-nonsense kind of gal, stickler for good grammar and well-cut vintage clothing, to try to have some influence over Nick’s life through the horoscope of the magazine.
Many chapters in the book carry the title of a star sign, beginning and ending with Aquarius, and usually herald the introduction of a new character who displays the characteristics of that particular star sign. There are many of them and, for a while, they seem totally unrelated to the story, but like all well-crafted story lines, their significance is revealed as the story draws to its close.
The remaining chapters bear the title cusp. In astrological terms, this means someone who is born three days before or after the change in signs who carries inner conflict like part of their DNA. This story certainly contains its share of conflict or things not going to plan.
To produce this storyline, a very complicated map must have been created, linking the huge cast of characters in a meaningful way before the story was written. All of their characteristics and thus their star signs needed to be well organised as this book is all about astrology. A role was also created for a scruffy, one-eyed street dog called Brown Houdini-Malarky.
One characteristic of this author’s writing which I found annoying was the constant argumentative dialogue between Justine and her brain (conscience) when she is constantly compelled to correct grammar on signs and when she undertakes her manipulation of the magazine’s horoscope.
Danielle Wood, a versatile wordsmith and award winner for her work, from Tasmania, has previously written well-received novels and short story collections for adults and children. This book, the first under the name Darke, was written for a bit of a romp – to amuse herself and to entertain us. I believe this story does entertain, and would make a wonderful film for the pre-Christmas market.
It has achieved success having sold world-wide and attracting attention from movie producers.
I found this book to be cleverly crafted, integrating information about astrology, Shakespeare’s work, human aspirations and showing how information can so easily be interpreted in so many different ways depending on human personality traits and the situation at the time.
I believe most people will enjoy this romantic comedy Star Crossed by Minnie Darke and I look forward to reading more of this author’s work.
By Minnie Darke
$ 32.99; 400pp