Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Helena Hunting’s Starry-Eyed Love is the contemporary romance that you expect from her. This story is the follow-up one to her When Sparks Fly where we are introduced to the Spark sisters, Avery, London, and Harley. Struggling to take their generational hotel and events space, Spark House, to the next level, we find these ladies meeting their matches and falling in love. In her newest story, Hunting creates a sweet story for London Spark and Jackson Holt, a multi-media billionaire who champions sustainability, which happens to be a hallmark of Spark House. When these two meet, it’s instant chemistry, even though London spurns his invitation for dinner. Thanks to fate, they meet several months later when Jackson’s media conglomerate reaches out to the Spark sisters and invites them to engage in a partnership to connect them with green-friendly sponsorships. London and Jackson are instantly attracted to each other again, but given their business arrangement, they deny their attraction until they finish a charity auction held at Spark House. There is much back and forth between these two until they can no longer deny themselves. Thankfully, their resistance holds out until after the charity auction, and they fall head over heels for each other. Sadly, there are aspects of Jackson’s past that come forward to complicate a happy ending for these two; however, what is standard and foundational to this series of standalones is the loving relationship between Avery, London, and Harley.
While I don’t believe the Spark sisters’ stories (Harley’s is still to come) epitomize the depth of Hunting’s writing, they are easy, engaging reads that remind you of Hunting’s capacity as a writer. With When Sparks Fly and Starry-Eyed Love, however, there is a bit of her magic missing. I wondered in my review of When Sparks Fly if it’s the influence of the more mainstream publisher. But the things that make you adore her Pucked series are missing in these stories. That aside, here’s what I loved about her newest book:
- London is the stalwart of the sisters. She’s also made the biggest sacrifices of the sisters as she handles the business for Spark House when she’d prefer to be more creative. She does this out of the love and protection of her sisters. This instantly makes her admirable. It also makes it easy to see why Jackson falls hard for her. Her story becomes one about “shape” meaning she isn’t “shaped” to the business aspects of Spark House, and she struggles with anxiety in her role. When she’s being creative, we ‘see’ her shape, and it draws us emotionally to her because she spends much of Starry-Eyed Love denying herself. Thankfully, Jackson’s role in her life emboldens her to make better choices by its end. Her evolution engages you in her story.
- Jackson isn’t as decidedly drawn as London. In fact, he’s troublesome because he has an integrity issue. As a business person, Jackson’s charisma is undeniable. He champions London to his business associates, and this makes him loveable. But he makes some unwise choices in his relationship with London. As a reader, you see the train wreck coming ahead of them, but you have to bear his ignorance. This sometimes undermines his loveability, unfortunately, because he appears careless. However, his past informs these choices, and you find it easy to forgive him for his foibles…eventually.
- For me, London and Jackson’s story is more palatable than Avery and Deacon’s. While I enjoyed When Sparks Fly, I ended Starry-Eyed Love preferring it more. I’m still troubled by Avery’s stubbornness and inflexibility, and it intensifies in this book. I’m hoping when Hunting gifts us with Harley’s romance that Deacon and Avery’s union will have mellowed her a bit.
- Hunting makes communicating via a Google Doc the newest form of foreplay.
- There is a lovely bit of cross-over with other Hunting titles in this story which connects you back to earlier stories in her booklist. I love when a writer makes connections between her series.
Helena Hunting’s Starry-Eyed Love offered me a respite from the world of adulting. It grabbed my attention and pulled me into the world of the Spark sisters. Jackson and London’s epilogue will make you swoon and offer hope that there is more for them in this starry world.
In love and romance,