“I was a commodity in a pretty dress, on display for all to see.”
– Alexa Donne
Thank you to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourtfor an eARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review!
Engagement season is in the air. Eighteen-year-old Princess Leonie “Leo” Kolburg, heir to a faded European spaceship, only has one thing on her mind: which lucky bachelor can save her family from financial ruin?
But when Leo’s childhood friend and first love Elliot returns as the captain of a successful whiskey ship, everything changes. Elliot was the one that got away, the boy Leo’s family deemed to be unsuitable for marriage. Now, he’s the biggest catch of the season and he seems determined to make Leo’s life miserable. But old habits die hard, and as Leo navigates the glittering balls of the Valg Season, she finds herself falling for her first love in a game of love, lies, and past regrets.
The Stars We Steal was the cute, fluffy and futuristic romance I needed in my life. A retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion in space with some nods to The Bachelor. It was a decent mix mix of politics and romance with a dash of sci-fi to make it that much better.
The novel follows Her Royal Highness Princess Leonie Kolburg aka Leo on her journey to save her destitute family in the futuristic version of what use to be known as the “social season” with some bachelor like aspects. The Valg Season is a month or so of events for eligible rich teens to descend from numerous ships and do a series of group/solo dates to find the one. At the end of the month proposals are announced and that’s that until the next Valg Season in four years. Everyone participating is of course very privileged which gives Leo the perfect chance to snag a rich beau and save her family from a life of poverty. She had love years ago and was talked out of it because he was below her class. While she may never find love she can find money, but marrying is her last ditch effort. Just when things couldn’t get worse her ex shows up with a new inheritance, a dark secret and a not so subtle grudge.
In addition to being a kind soul, Leo was also very smart and resourceful. Social she is not though. Her dragging her feet on going to social events or being self conscious about her weight or how guys thought of her was relatable. It’s always nice to see something of ourselves in the characters we read. While she has her doubts about herself though, she is a very capable girl who had been keeping her family afloat for years by handling all the financial responsibility. While marriage is a solution to all of her problems, she was smart enough to build her own water purification system. The nerdy water engineer in me was so impressed by this aspect of the story. Beyond all that though, she recognized the class differences and while saving her family had taken over her life, she had good ideas and opinions on how to help the lower classes.
The “romance” was actually quite funny. Eli, Leo’s ex, shows up and starts flirting with the two most important people in her life to get revenge. Leo obviously still has some feelings left but she was truly such a kind person she just let it happen. She was always thinking of others and how they felt versus how she felt. I understand being nice but this girl took it to a new level and I’m impressed that she didn’t lose her crap in more than a few situations. While she wasn’t looking for romance, she didn’t really put herself out there regardless. I totally understand being self conscious and feeling left out, but she kind of did it to herself. It was cute when she actually did start trying though and that’s when we get a bit of love and camaraderie.
This was a book that tried really hard to have a political plot and a villain when it should have just stuck to the romance plot. There was too much going on politically to be quickly wrapped up in such a short book. I get that it allowed another option for Leo beyond marriage, but it just seemed like the poverty situation was glossed over at the end. We get an ending to Leo’s story and she’s now got money so it felt like the poverty issue wasn’t even a concern anymore.
The Stars We Steal was a tad like The Selection in space. The overall romance plot was a good one and had some good friendships tossed in as well. It was the political plot that needed to be fluffed up more while the villain story line just needed to be tossed out altogether. If you’re looking for a quick and unique romance in space novel definitely pick this one up; just don’t think about the other story lines too hard. If you were not a fan of The Selection series, skip this one as well. I however really enjoyed Leo and all the romance fluff along with the cuteness of Eli.
Disclaimer: All quotes used in this review are taken from an advanced copy and may be changed from those that appear in the final version. Quotes will be updated to reflect such changes, if any.