This is a romance that was on my TBR for quite a while before its pub date – I was the first on hold for it at the library after it was purchased. Honestly, there was very little about this fake-dating setup, f/f relationship, astrology-themed story with a swoon-worthy cover design that didn’t call out to me. I have always sort of had a soft spot for astrology (similarly, tarot cards, in case you were wondering), though I don’t know a lot about it beyond that I’m an Aquarius. About halfway through this book, I totally found a site that gave me more info on my natal chart and have definitely been actually looking into it more – the way Elle talks about it as getting to know yourself better, and checking in on that periodically, really spoke to me. So, I see related library books in my future. I love when reading fiction can do something like that.
“Champagne fizzing and shooting stars, fireworks and late nights riding in the back of a too fat car, lights of the city whizzing past, the bridge of her favorite song blaring. None of it held a candle to this moment, this feeling burning in her veins and warming her chest, bubbling in her stomach and erupting goose bumps along her skin. Magic.”
Back to this novel. Elle is an astrologer and, together with her friend Margot, head up the popular Oh My Stars business/social media. Darcy is a logical, practical, getting-over-a-breakup actuary. When Darcy’s brother Brendon (creator of the OTP dating app) brings Elle and Margot on as consults to add a new layer to his app, he sets Elle and Darcy up on a blind date…and it goes disastrously. But awkward as it was, Darcy proposes a fake-dating arrangement to get Brendon off her case about “getting out there” and Elle figures it couldn’t hurt to show her high-pressure family that she’s got herself together. But, of course, fake dating turns into real feelings.
“No, this feeling was magic, like glitter rushing through her veins.”
Wow I loved a lot about this book. There was great physical chemistry between Elle and Darcy. The tension and build-up were spectacular and when it finally developed into something more real, things got steamy in the best way. The growth in attraction in other “opposites attract ways” (as introduced during the escape room scene, which btw was so fun to read) was pretty well developed as the book went along. I also, no surprise, loved the astrology aspects. They were both plot-important and super fun (like the lists for each sign, from breakfast foods to breakup songs), which was a great combination for something that is taken very seriously by some and dismissed by others, but belief in which should be respected in those we love. I also loved the lifestyle choices shown, the way that not every life journey is cookie-cutter or in certain form, that the best way to measure success is the happiness of the individual, and again, that each person’s “perfect” should be respected in its own right, even if it goes against conventional or personal expectations. I also was into the messages that beyond the public view of who we are, there are many hidden/secret depths. To this point, the family struggles of both Darcy and Elle were really wonderfully relatable. For me, Elle’s situation was recognizable in many ways (if not, perhaps, quite as extreme) and it felt lovely to be seen and validated in that way. On the flipside, the relationship of Darcy and Brendon felt familiar to me in many ways and I loved that (human in their mistakes, but supportive despite/because of that). And I have to say that, truly, I loved how the family issues were about such universal topics, that the sexuality of Darcy and Elle (positive bi rep – always gets a “yay” from me, more so in this case even because Elle is seriously the character type I am mostly “into” – I think because she is so much of what I wish I was more of) never once entered the picture as a point of contention anywhere. It was refreshing and perfect for this story, as it is, above all else, a romance.
“What she wanted, what she hoped…so much hope her bones ached, her body too small, almost bursting with holding it inside. Her skin was too tight, hot , itchy, and she wanted to strip it off, strip herself down, let Darcy see the full shape of her heart, messy and imperfect and with a space carved out, a space she’d been aching to fill for so long but no one ever fit, their angles too sharp, too rough, puzzle pieces never lining up right with hers. Elle had been waiting, waiting or the right person to come along who fit inside the space, that space inside her heart carved out just for them. For her person, not a perfect person, but a person perfect for her.”
There were, however, a few things about the story that I was marginally less into and, while nothing that turned me off completely (not even close), I think they’re going to prevent this from being a new favorite… The one big thing, that plays a bit into the other, actually, is the contrived reason for the “fight” at the end that led to the formulaic “break-up before we get together for good” trope of romance novels. Now, to be fair, this is almost always my least favorite part of the formula, so take my reaction with that small grain of salt. But I felt like Elle’s reaction was incredibly over the top and, even if that’s how she acted in the moment (cause you know, impulsiveness and emotions get us all sometimes), why the assumption from both sides that it was over, full-stop, instead of an issue they needed to discuss and work through? I mean, especially cause Elle was eavesdropping when it happened…and after Darcy was so supportive of her with her own family, it felt disingenuous (and actually a bit out of character for Elle) to not give her a little more leeway considering she already knew Darcy and her mom had a strained relationship. Anyways, see what you think and maybe let me know. But I feel like it could have been a normal confrontation and not a break-up level one – it may have been “light” for the romance formula in that part of the story, but would have been more true to the characters. On this note, expanding a bit, I tend to think Elle was right…she deserved more from Darcy, had been clear with Darcy from the start. But Darcy had been equally clear and, despite some proverbial “thawing” on her part, there hadn’t really been much time for her to grapple with it all, process it past a physical connection and deal with what that really meant for herself/her life, much less communicate it clearly to Elle. I don’t know, it just, like I said, seemed a bit too forced altogether at the end.
“There was no word that existed in the English language that meant the opposite of lonely. Some came closer than others, but nothing did justice to the feeling of someone looking into your eyes and connecting with you on a soul-deep level.”
Bottom line, I binged the crap out of this novel and truly struggled to put it down in order to go bed. The key thing, and I’m not trying to be punny here, is Bellefleur can write that “stars in your eyes, flutter in your belly” feeling better than almost anyone I’ve ever read. (Note all the pulled passages as examples). I fell headfirst into Elle and Darcy, their opposites attract vibe, the sweet moments they shared as they supported each other in their own ways (market research and second-hand ornaments – swoon), and the entire set-up of the novel. This novel was just about everything I wanted it to be (and after my personal interest and all the hype reviews, it is no joke that it hit that close to expectations). Overall, this one gets a pretty glowing, feeling all happy in my heart after finishing, rec from me.