Keeper of the Stars by Robin Lee Hatcher

This RITA® Reader Challenge 2017 review was written by Iola. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Romance with Spiritual or Religious Elements category.

The summary:

Penny Cartwright found it difficult to understand why her younger brother would choose to join a country singer’s band rather than return to Kings Meadow after college . . . and the separation strained their relationship. Then a car accident made certain her brother could never return.

Trevor Reynolds has chased stardom in Nashville for more than a dozen years, but it remains out of his reach. After an accident kills his young drummer, Trevor goes to Kings Meadow to keep a promise—and perhaps to discover what truly matters in this life.

Thrown together by circumstances, Penny and Trevor must learn to give and receive forgiveness. And if they do, perhaps something beautiful can rise from the ashes of heartbreak.

Here is Iola’s review:

When the RITA finalists were announced, I found I’d already read and reviewed three of the four finalists for my favourite genre, Romance with Religious or Spiritual Elements. And three worthy finalists they are. I will admit to a natural bias in favour of Close to You by Kara Isaac, because she’s a fellow Kiwi and the novel is set in New Zealand. Close to You also finaled in Best First Novel, so I’m not the only person who thought it was awesome.

So that meant when the ladies of SBTB called for guest reviews for the RITA Challenge, I had to sign up for the one remaining book I haven’t reviewed, Keeper of the Stars by Robin Lee Hatcher. Hatcher is a multi-published Christian romance author, but I’d only read one of her novels before—her new release, You’ll Think of Me. I read it between signing up for this Challenge, and actually reading the Challenge book.

Unfortunately, I thought You’ll Think of Me was brilliant. Unfortunate, because that perception of brilliance no doubt tainted my perception of Keeper of the Stars—which is solid, but not brilliant.

Keeper of the Stars starts at a funeral, which is somewhat of a cliché. What’s less of a cliché is the way Penny greets Trevor—with a slap on the face. Penny has issues. She thinks she’s mad at Trevor for taking her brother Brad away from his family, and for directly or indirectly causing Brad’s death.

If Brad had been at home, where Penny had planned for him to be, he wouldn’t have been in that fatal car accident. But I think Penny was actually more angry at Brad—he left to follow his dreams (which meant she couldn’t, because she didn’t think their father would cope alone).

Then she was mad at Brad for dying—like it was his fault. Yes, Penny has issues.

The story starts at the funeral (no year given, but we assume it is the present), then immediately moves back to 2003 and Brad’s reaction to his mother’s death. Then it moves forward to the present, two months after the funeral, then back to the past, and so on.

This moving backwards and forwards in time confused me. It took me a while to work out that the flashbacks were showing those portions of Brad’s earlier years which lead to him being on the road with Trevor that fateful night. In hindsight, I can see it was a clever writing device, but it took me a while to get into the swing of reading scenes from the point of view of the dead guy.

Trevor was a great character. He’d been planning to visit King’s Meadow with Brad, who had told him a lot about the town, his family, and his faith. It was through Brad’s influence that Trevor had recently become a Christian:

“God,” he whispered, “I want a faith like Brad’s. I don’t want to be the guy I’ve been for so long.”

Penny was a more difficult character to know and like, because she was carrying so much baggage. In some ways, that gives her the more dramatic personal journey. After all, Trevor is half in love with Penny before he arrives in town. Penny’s feelings for Trevor are as strong, but can’t be described as positive (remember that slap on the face?).

The other thing I didn’t like so much was the ending. One minute, Penny and Trevor are making friendly and I’m wondering what bad thing is going to happen before they get their happy ever after (my Kindle tells me I’m 85% of my way through). The next minute, I’ve turned the page and found the Epilogue. This could be why I felt the story was slow in places—I was subconsciously expecting the midpoint to be in the middle, and for the story to finish somewhere close to 100%. Instead, the big thing which happened at the 43% mark was actually the midpoint.

The way the Christian faith was discussed was a high point of the book for me. I read Christian fiction to read about characters who share my faith, but that doesn’t mean I want to read a sermon. Equally, I want the characters to acknowledge their faith, to live it, for it to contribute to their character. Sometimes I read a Christian novel and feel their faith is more something they wear rather than something they live. I liked that the Christian elements of Keeper of the Stars felt real and livable.

Overall, Keeper of the Stars has a theme familiar to any parent. No matter what we want for our kids and those we love, and how much we think we know what’s best for them, everyone has to be free to live their own lives.

Easy to say, harder to live.

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Keeper of the Stars by Robin Lee Hatcher

January 26, 2016

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