If you’ve been following this blog for really any length of time, you know my love for Jane Austen. I love some of her books more than others, but overall, I love her writing and what she does in her stories. So, when I saw that The Stars We Steal was being pitched as Persuasion in space, I was ALL IN!
It probably also didn’t hurt that I loved Alexa Donne’s previous book, Brightly Burning, which is pretty much Jane Eyre in space. If this pattern continues, I’ll most likely be reading all of Alexa Donne’s books in the future. Persuasion also happens to be one of my favorite Austen books of all time. So…as you can probably tell, I was biased going in and let me tell you: THIS DID NOT DISAPPOINT! Let’s get to the review!
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Engagement season is in the air. Eighteen-year-old Princess Leonie “Leo” Kolburg, heir to a faded European spaceship, only has one thing on her mind: which lucky bachelor can save her family from financial ruin?
But when Leo’s childhood friend and first love Elliot returns as the captain of a successful whiskey ship, everything changes. Elliot was the one that got away, the boy Leo’s family deemed to be unsuitable for marriage. Now, he’s the biggest catch of the season and he seems determined to make Leo’s life miserable. But old habits die hard, and as Leo navigates the glittering balls of the Valg Season, she finds herself failing for her first love in a game of love, lies, and past regrets.
The Stars We Steal may take place in the future but that doesn’t mean the dating customs we know are in play. They’re not. It’s back to ballrooms and chaperoned walks and…ok, there is speed dating. But young woman must find a match during engagement season or run the risk of becoming A SPINSTER!! (they don’t use that terminology but it’s implied lol).
As Leo and her family are not doing great in the financial department, she has the extra burden of marrying someone with money. The problem is: Leo doesn’t want to marry anyone. She’s happy as she is and she may or may not still be reeling from breaking up with her first love.
Luckily, she has a plan. Leo has designed a water filtration system that will help her ship (or any ship that uses it) be more sustainable and help them qualify for the usefulness qualification that the government just put into play (a ship has to be “useful” or it’s decommissioned). But she has to get her water system to someone in charge. Her aunt who’s the captain of the ship Leo lives on )the Scandinavian) dismissed it almost immediately, so Leo needs to go higher up. If she can get other ships to adopt this new water filtration system, she can save her family and her family’s ship (the Sofi) from ruin.
That’s not the only way she’s trying to make money. A girl has to hustle even in space. She’s also renting out the Sofi as a place to stay. Her family stays with her aunt on the Scandinavian, and the Sofi just sits inside gathering dust. It seems like a great plan until she sees who’s renting her ship.
She rents the ship to Captain Maxim Orlov and his husband, Ewan Reid. They’re accompanied by Maxim’s sister, Evgenia, and…LEO’S FIRST LOVE WHO SHE BROKE UP WITH BECAUSE HER FAMILY DEEMED HIM A BAD MATCH, ELLIOT WENTWORTH.
Is everyone ok? Did you make it to the fainting couch? I knew this was coming and I still was like OMG OMG GIRL YOU BETTER HIDE IN A SPACE COMPARTMENT OR SOMETHING!
Now, as Leo goes through the engagement season, she not only has to worry about how her family is going earn a living, she also has to meet and date multiple dudes on the ship, including Elliot. While she much rather figure out their financial situation, her father and boy-crazy sister, Carina, push her to go to different engagement events and parties where she is forced to mingle and flirt and…be around Elliot, his handsome face, and the guilt he makes her feel for breaking up with him.
But as they get reacquainted with each other and learn more about how they’ve changed, sparks begin to reignite. Unfortunately, as you can probably guess, things don’t go as smoothly as Leo might like. Her cousin and sister are also attracted to Elliot, her aunt is up to something sinister, and there’s something about the people renting the Sofi (including Elliot) that doesn’t seem quite right.
And that’s not all! There’s also a secret resistance group fighting against people like Leo’s family and ships like the Scandinavian that are pure luxury ships with pools, fancy decor, and rich people who live for leisure. They are very “Eat the rich” and I can’t say I don’t approve lol.
Ok, besides Leo and Elliot, who I loved, I also really enjoyed the characterization of Carina and Evgenia. If you know anything about Persuasion, you know that the sister in it is kind of unbearable. That is not the case with Carina. Leo and her fight plenty but they have respect for each other and really care.
I also loved Evgenia for many reasons: she is gay af and not afraid to shout it at anyone, she’s an amazing friend to Leo even when it might be inconvenient, and her clothes are outstanding.
ALSO, there are multiple LGBT+ characters in this book including an ace character!! Leo and Elliot aren’t, but a lot of the supporting characters are.
The Stars We Steal is the perfect sci-fi Jane Austen retelling (who would have thought I would ever type that?!). It’s romantic af, thrilling, fun, and wonderfully written. I am giving it 4 out of 5 stars. If you’ve loved Brightly Burning, are a fan of Austen retellings, or are just looking for an intriguing romance, you have to check out this book.
The Stars We Steal by Alexa Donne comes out February 4, 2020.
Thank you to Edelweiss and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the free eARC in exchange for my honest review.