I’m a first time reader of Ms. Todd’s and I was super excited to have the opportunity to read “The Brightest Stars.”
First of all, I am an absolute cover snob and I’ve seen a run of really bad ones lately (so sad), but this was an exception. Beautiful, classy, and attention grabbing. The designers and Ms. Todd should be commended because I have deep cover envy here.
“The Brightest Stars” began with a lot of potential. I adore stories that are told in a past/present narrative and this one begins with the introduction of Kael and Karina meeting again after an undetermined length of time apart. I adored their awkward chemistry at being pulled together again for some vague and HIGHLY intriguing reason. I began “The Brightest Stars” full of questions (something I love) and hope for the story.
We are then transported back to several years prior when Kael and Karina first meet. It’s unique and precious, their instant attraction undeniable, and the slow burn as they are thrown together and then pulled deeper is so well done.
Sadly, I must insert a “however” here.
However… I had some issues with parts of this story. There were social issues that were tackled within the confines of the novel (such as racially motivated police brutality) that were touched on so lightly it felt almost dismissive. I personally would have much preferred to either have this dealt with fully and brought into the harsh light of day for the problem it is or have it not mentioned at all because the fleeting nods toward it felt minimizing and insulting .
Additionally, I struggled with believability. Kael was brought up in a rough, urban area by a single mother who, apparently, has some financial struggles because it is mentioned that he sends money home to her (and this felt incredibly like a racial stereotype). He was discharged from the Army for medical issues after being injured while deployed. None of these facts show that he has any great financial wealth… yet we find out that he has purchased two homes with the intent to remodel and rent or sell. I found myself confused and asking how. Sure, he could have purchased one with a VA loan and used combat pay as a down payment, but how could he possibly secure a second mortgage so easily?
Along the same vein, Karina is a massage therapist, an occupation that is feast or famine and highly dependent on tips. She also bought a house. These are two 21 year olds. It’s hard to believe that they’d have enough of a credit history to be approved for mortgages when combined, much less solo.
And then I got to the end and if I had been holding a paperback book instead of my tablet, I would have thrown it across the room. The story ends in a cliffhanger. An unhappy one. I’m not sure if this is Ms. Todd’s usual style, but as a new reader I wasn’t prepared for it and it made me downright angry. Uttering innumerable curses at the screen level of angry here. There should be a warning somewhere indicating that this is the first in a series and ends in a cliffhanger. I am a lover of over the top, saccharine sweet HEA’s so while I wouldn’t have been happy to know that it wouldn’t end well, I would have at least appreciated a little heads up that happy wasn’t coming my way.