(Image from Barnes & Noble)
When Cal Morgan and Kate Clayton first meet in eighth grade, the sparks immediately began to fly. At least for Cal. As the years go by, the shy farm boy continues to pine after the dark beauty even as she climbs up the social ladder to a rung far beyond his reach. It's only in his 20s, following three years as an LDS missionary, that Cal begins to suspect he might actually have a chance with the vivacious Kate. Even though her parents' long-ago divorce has made Kate leery of commitment, Cal can think of no one he'd rather have as his wife. He's prepared to court her for as long as it takes, but there's one big obstacle standing in his way: war. Can Cal make it out of the conflict alive? If so, will Kate be waiting for him upon his return? Can their love survive the horrors of war? Can Cal?
Inspired by a true story, By the Stars, a debut novel by Lindsay B. Ferguson, tells of a sweet romance that blossoms between two ordinary people living in extraordinary times. Although the war chapters get a little gruesome, the tale is, on the whole, a gentle one. It's a clean, inspiring story that promotes faith, fidelity, and focusing on the good even when surrounded by evil. By the Stars is a timeless tale, the sort you can hand to your teenager or your grandmother without worrying about offending the delicate sensibilities of either one. All the characters in the book are likable, especially our hero and heroine. Both are wholesome, kind-hearted souls; it's easy to root for their happiness.
The thing is, though, it's a little too easy. Because of the book's Prologue, we know the answers to most of the questions I posed in the first paragraph of this review before Cal even starts telling his story. This makes the novel feels very predictable, even dull in spots. I kept waiting for twists and turns, a little suspense to throw the couple's HEA into question, something to make me wonder and worry about their relationship's future. While the action definitely picks up when Cal ships off to war, the first 200 pages or so of By the Stars really dragged for me. It doesn't help that Ferguson's prose is much more tell-y than show-y. Or that the text is liberally peppered with typos, misused words (poignantly and pointedly, for example) and errors. The author assures me all of these will be fixed in the electronic/Kindle version of the novel as well as future print runs, which is good because they are definitely irritating and distracting in a "finished" book.
Overall, I think By the Stars has good bones. It really is an endearing tale, especially because it's based on a real love story. In fact, it reads like a memoir, which may be a better format for it than a novel. To work well as fiction, I think the story needs much more dynamic prose; a focused, less episodic plot; better pacing; and more depth/nuance. For me, as is, it's just an okay read.
Note: Although I always try to write balanced reviews, my style still tends toward the brutal. I know this, you know this. Since my opinion isn't the only one that matters (Shocking, I know!), be sure to check out other reviews for By the Stars at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads. You can also follow along on the book's blog tour:
March 9: Robyn Echols | Rambling Reviews
March 10: Bookworm Lisa | Totally Obsessed
March 12: Novel-ties | Books R Us
March 13: Read Between the Bindings | This Mormon Life
March 14: Marianne Sciucco | Clean Romance Reviews
March 15: LDS & Lovin’ It | Emmy Mom
March 16: I Am a Reader
March 17: Getting Your Read On
March 18: Mel’s Shelves | The Things I Love Most | From Eeka’s Eyes
March 19: Singing Librarian Books | Inklings and Notions
March 20: Ashley Ziegler | Jorie Loves a Story
March 21: Katie’s Clean Book Collection | My Little Sunshines
March 22: Aubrey Zaruba | Making Life a Bliss Complete | The Random Book Blogger
Books Are Sanity | Fire and Ice
March 23: Becky’s Book Reviews | Rockin’ Book Reviews
March 24: My Reading Spot
March 25: September Fawkes
March 26: Wanna Be Balanced Mom
March 27: Compass Book Ratings | Wishful Endings
March 28: Blooming with Books
March 29: Jorie Loves a StoryMarch 30: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books
March 31: The Real Housewives of Riverton
(Readalikes: Hm, nothing is coming to mind. You?)
If this were a movie, it would be rated:
for violence and a few respectful references to sex
To the FTC, with love: I received a finished copy of By the Stars from the generous folks at Cedar Fort. Thank you!