Night of a Thousand Stars

Written by Deanna Raybourn
Review by Shannon Gallagher

In Night of a Thousand Stars we meet Penelope “Poppy” Hammond March as she narrowly escapes her wedding ceremony to the heir of a viscount. Poppy’s problem with her betrothed is that neither the title nor the life that would accompany it is what she wants. She flees the church in her wedding dress with the unexpected help of Sebastian Cantrip, who, oddly, seems to be the curate of the parish. Poppy is desperate and not asking many questions as she flees to the home of her father, with whom she has had little interaction over the years, but she feels that he will understand.

Initially I found this novel strikingly similar to something that might occur in an episode of Downton Abbey. That is, until Raybourn worked her particular magic of crafting complex, multi-layered characters that are complicated but endearing, conflicted and often confused, but who never fail to be remarkably witty. Poppy March is all of those things and more, and it isn’t long before we are following Poppy on a journey of self-discovery that finds her aboard a ship bound for Damascus and perhaps quite a bit more than she bargained for.

Initially Poppy goes to Damascus in search of the curate who had helped her escape her wedding; she becomes concerned about him after she discovers that he is actually Sebastian Fox and that he had left London suddenly for the Holy Land. Poppy claims she feels she owes him a debt of assistance, but truly is magnetically attracted to him for reasons she does not know or understand but trusts completely.

Night of a Thousand Stars is an eventful, unpredictable adventure filled with intrigue and mystery in the exotic and volatile Holy Land, which Raybourn brilliantly balances with the witty and unconventional Poppy who is every inch the new woman of the 1920s, and who I cannot fathom any reader not being hopelessly enchanted with.