Carrie Lofty continues her nearly Flawless Christies series with this month’s shining Starlight. Book two finds scientist, a widowed father to a young son, Alex Christie pulling his head out of the clouds and putting his mind firmly on task of making the Glasgow cotton mill profitable. Alex is desperately in need of the funds the mill can bring in, in order to fulfill the terms of his father's will and to keep his family intact. But this man of science is a world away from everything he knows — and he’ll need someone, not just constellations, to show him the way. Enter Polly, the daughter of a union leader, who will help Alex, but has an agenda of her own ... Check out why this book has RT’s Morgan and Mala seeing stars.
Morgan: I love a historical romance that takes me a lot of interesting places, and this one does just that. From a mansion in New York City to the slums of Glasgow, readers are in for some very interesting settings.
Mala: So is astronomer/professor Alex Christie! He isn’t much of a world traveler. He’d like nothing more than to teach and take care of his infant son. Alex hasn’t been in a good place since the death of his wife, and he definitely isn’t prepared to go up against his father-in-law, who is determined to get custody of Alex’s son. (And, in case you can't tell already, pretty much the scum of the Earth.)
Morgan: But the death of Alex's own father’s death gives this historical hero a way out of trouble. Sir William Christie’s will states that if Alex takes over a cotton mill in Glasgow, Scotland and makes it profitable, then he will get a huge inheritance. Enough money to make sure Alex’s son is taken care of for life.
Mala: So it’s a total no brainer — Alex will go to Glasgow for a year and successfully manage a cotton mill and its employees.
Morgan: Really, how hard can it be?
Mala: Piece of cake ... or piece of sticky toffee pudding, right? Too bad this plan is a lot more difficult than Alex first thinks. Especially when he runs up against Polly Gowan.
Morgan: Polly, headstrong and never shy about sharing her opinions, is the daughter of a union organizer and a worker at the mill.
Mala: And when you say "worker" you aren’t kidding. The mill is no picnic. Long hours, hard labor, temperature extremes … this is not fun, these are real-life problems.
Morgan: Very real problems. We are not talking ripped ball gown hems here, people.
Mala: Nope! Put down the ratafia and the dance cards. These are working class folk. Toiling for hours a day for little pay and no rights. It’s as far from the glitter and glam of the ton as you can imagine. At the beginning of the novel, Polly takes stock of what her family has been working so hard for:
Polly watched the scene as if outside of herself. A single room for five people. Kitchen and living space and a bedroom, all smashed into one space. The familiar, age-old sense of indignation fizzed under her breastbone. No one on the planet worked harder than her family, unless you counted the neighbors next door and the neighbors beyond them.
Morgan: I don’t know about you, but scenes like this kind of make me ashamed that I find so much to love about the lavish ballrooms with claret and card tables and fainting couches. Because, at this time in history, this was the reality: cramped rooms and hard work, for little reward.
Mala: Yeah, life for the common man kind of sucked. It’s no wonder that Polly joined her father’s fight for a union. She wants more for herself. Who wouldn’t?
Morgan But, it is not all about her. No, Polly is interested in helping her entire community. She knows that they deserve more — so when Alex arrives, and he is not the hardened entrepreneur willing to trade people’s misery for a buck, she thinks that finally she has a chance to make some real progress.
Mala: Polly recognizes right away that Alex is more than he seems. He actually cares.
Morgan: But that does not mean he’s a pushover.
Mala: Ha. No. After he takes a good look at pretty redhead Polly, it’s clear he’s no milquetoast. But Alex is thoughtful. He’s not some self-obsessed rake, which matches up nicely with Polly.
Morgan: But she is not quite as … er, sensitive as Alex.
Mala: Let’s face it, Polly is a steamroller!
Morgan: Well, she has to be to get people to listen to her. Getting heard in a man’s world, a wealthy man’s world, is not easy.
Mala: I’m short, like Polly is, and I sure have a temper, but I can’t command a room like she does! I absolutely love the scenes where she takes charge and makes people listen to her, whether it’s her friends in the union or the bosses. She has so much presence that she practically leaps off the page.
Morgan: And she amazes everyone around her with her strength. Especially Alex. He is not used to such a take-charge woman. His wife was so very different. She lived under the thumb of an abusive father, so she learned to be seen and not heard. And, even though Alex literally saved her, she never got over the scars of her childhood.
Mala: It’s because of this, along with his own experience with a distant father, that Alex has to ask Polly how she has not only survived her own difficult upbringing, but has thrived. Polly tells him:
“You want to know the secret? … You make shields. A half dozen or so. you stake them all around, all overlapped to keep out the pain and disappointment. But you leave a tiny crack, right in the front. That’s for letting the happiness in.”
Morgan: And that’s what Polly does for the people in her area. She shields her community with her heart, but also gives of herself to them so they can let the happiness in.
Mala: And even amidst such horrible working conditions, they still know how to have fun.
Morgan: Like at the impromptu rugby game after church one Sunday.
Mala: Oh, I love that scene! Who doesn’t love men playing rugby? Alex throwing off his expensive suit to join the guys as they fight over a tiny ball … so awesome. It’s the first time he really starts to fit into Polly’s world and really sees the workers as people and potential friends.
Morgan: It is also the first time that Polly sees him as a man. And a desirable one at that. Seeing him without his shirt on, she thinks:
How was it possible for him to be so powerful and robust? His job was to study the stars. Yet he was both posh and rough. The combination was outright sorcery.
Mala: Well, if it’s sorcery, then it’s sure one powerful spell! Because, after this, Alex and Polly start ending up alone together in closets and other clandestine spots.
Morgan: Yeah, they don’t have a lot of shyness about their meetings. They come together with a lot of passion, even while they’re trying to be professional and do good things for the mill and the community.
Mala: Of course, somebody throws a wrench in their budding romance.
Morgan: Ah, yes the touch of mystery amongst the romance. Someone is sabotaging the mill and, regardless of the sympathy Alex feels for the workers or his growing emotions for Polly, he has his son to protect — and that means making money from the mill and stopping whoever is behind the attacks.
Mala: Profit may be the bottom line for the mill, but when it comes to Polly, Alex will have to put his heart on the line.
Ready to jump on the picket line with Polly to join the workers in their protesting? Or maybe you want to sleuth out Alex’s mill’s saboteur. Make sure to pick up Starlight now to get all of the great action and steamy romance in Carrie Lofty’s latest release. And check back on Friday to learn which book RT editors will be Dishing about next week.