Starlight, the first of a series of two books, offers yet another of the ubiquitous Fairbournes, this time Alexander. Alex, son of Joshua and Annabelle of The Captain's Bride, is a ship's captain in his own right. However, at present he's performing a rather distasteful function: squiring his lovely, spoiled sister Diana around London in hopes of attracting a wealthy suitor for her. Hard times back in Massachusetts have made such a match a necessity. But this is not the only odious task set before Alexander. He must also try to convince Sir Thomas Walton to repay a twenty-five-year-old debt to his father.
While attending a party at the home of Lady Waldegrave, a friend of his mother, Alex takes himself into the garden and spies a young woman chasing a black kitten. This kitten is the selfsame cat who was offered to his sister Diana by an old crone in the street. The thing disappeared, leaving Diana distressed. Now here it is again, but the woman, Cora MacGillivray, refuses to give it up.
Cora has been hiding out in Lady Waldegrave's house for two years, ever since the disastrous Battle of Culloden wiped out her Jacobite-sympathizing family. Jacobites are wanted by the Crown, and Cora must lay low. She has been serving more or less as an unpaid companion to Lady Waldegrave, afraid to venture out in the street for fear she'll be recognized. Alex is immediately attracted to her and returns again and again to see her. Cora soon becomes convinced he's "The One" promised by her father the man who will take her safely home and deliver the family estate, Creignish, back into her hands.
It's hard to say exactly what went wrong with this book, but it fell flatter than a pancake for me. Perhaps it's because none of these characters were very interesting. Diana is self-absorbed and thoughtless. Cora spends most of the book afraid of her own shadow, and when she does finally decide Alex is The One, she shows remarkably little common sense about the reality of her situation and what he can offer her. Alex is standard stuff; loyal, competent, etc. but the attraction he feels for Cora didn't ring true, perhaps because she's not a very compelling character. And finally, the unbelievable coincidence linking Cora with Sir Thomas Walton was nothing short of cartoonish.
And the kitten, other than serving as a "cute animal hook", did nothing for the story.
The best parts of the book are the vivid settings and descriptions, particularly the bleakness of Scotland after the failure of the Jacobite uprising. Ms. Jarrett does an outstanding job of conveying the desperate straits of the Scots as Cora and Alex travel back to Creignish. This was gripping and quite moving.
Interestingly, for all that Diana offered little to like here, the preview of the second book (her story) was intriguing. Perhaps Star Bright will offer more meat and intensity than Starlight. When the best I can say about a book is that the settings were outstanding, it's not one I can recommend.