On the verge of a stilted life as an aristocrat’s wife, Poppy Hammond does the only sensible thing—she flees the chapel in her wedding gown. Assisted by the handsome curate who calls himself Sebastian Cantrip, she spirits away to her estranged father’s quiet country village, pursued by the family she left in uproar. But when the dust of her broken engagement settles and Sebastian disappears under mysterious circumstances, Poppy discovers there is more to her hero than it seems.
With only her feisty lady’s maid for company, Poppy secures employment and travels incognita—east across the seas, chasing a hunch and the whisper of clues. Danger abounds beneath the canopies of the silken city, and Poppy finds herself in the perilous sights of those who will stop at nothing to recover a fabled ancient treasure. Torn between allegiance to her kindly employer and a dashing, shadowy figure, Poppy will risk it all as she attempts to unravel a much larger plan—one that stretches to the very heart of the British government, and one that could endanger everything, and everyone, that she holds dear.
You know how sometimes you read the opening line or two of a book, and not only does it hook you immediately, but you can just tell it’s going to be a great read? Well, Night of a Thousand Stars is one of those books.
It opens with Penelope Hammond, step-daughter of a rich American industrialist running out on her wedding to a stodgy viscount’s heir with the help of a rather attractive and delightfully unflappable curate. He introduces himself as Sebastian Cantrip, and agrees to drive her to her father’s house in Devon. On the way, Penelope explains that she prefers to be called by her nickname “Poppy”, and that her last name isn’t actually Hammond, because her step-father has never legally adopted her. Her actual last name is March.
Which is where I might have squealed, just a little bit.
Because – as anyone who has read any of the books in Ms Raybourn’s series of Victorian mysteries will know – March is the maiden name of the eponymous Lady Julia; and as Poppy’s father turns out to be none other than Eglamour, or “Plum” March, it makes Lady Julia Poppy’s aunt.
Having safely deposited Poppy with her father, the obliging curate leaves the following morning, which, for some reason she can’t fathom, leaves her feeling a little flat.
Poppy’s parents are divorced and while her step-father treats her as one of the family, she has never really felt as though she belonged. She was the same at school, her quick wit and adventurous nature getting her into trouble more often than not. She tries to live up to her mother’s expectations of what a young lady should be and gets engaged to a worthy – if dull – young man, but no matter what she does, she just doesn’t do “conventional”. Reading her aunt’s journals (the first of which is entitled Silent in the Grave), something finally clicks for Poppy, and she determines it’s time to be herself rather than try to fit in with other people’s expectations. She wants to have a “little adventure”, and decides to start by going to London – where she will have to put on a brazen front to brave the gossip – in order to find Mr Cantrip so that she can thank him properly for his assistance.
Returning to the church from which she ran away, she is disturbed to discover that the curate is in fact a Mr. Hobbs, who tells her that the name Cantrip is actually an archaic Scottish word meaning “trick”. Something is obviously not right, which makes Poppy – who has started to believe that perhaps Sebastian is in some sort of trouble – even more determined to track him down.
Her investigations eventually lead her to discover that Sebastian – whose real last name is Fox – has travelled to the Holy Land and Poppy must find a way to follow him there.
You can read the rest of this review at All About Romance