Literary author Danielle Wood assumed the pen name Minnie Darke to write the commercial fiction novel Star-crossed (Penguin Random House 2019), which has already sold into 20 territories and garnered attention from movie production houses. So it seems she has already achieved her aim: creating a commercial success that sells!
Star-crossed is the romantic comedy of the novel world – moving, funny, light-hearted and heart-warming.
The novel features a huge cast of characters and I do admit it kept me on my toes trying to keep track of them all, and how they connect to each other, and – importantly – which star sign they are! Because this is a book all about astrology, and about whether what happens in life is written in the stars or merely occurs by chance.
When Justine Carmichael (Sagittarius) bumps into her childhood friend Nick Jordan (Aquarius), sparks fly. But the world seems to be conspiring against them getting together. Or is it? Justine learns that Nick inexplicably relies on astrological forecasts, particularly those featured in the Alexandria Park Star, where she works as a journalist, to make his life decisions. She decides to take advantage of her access to the magazine’s astrology section to make a few predictions of her own…after all, how much damage could a few small changes make? Well, like the butterfly that flapped its wings on one side of the world and caused a tsunami on the other, it turns out that the answer is ‘quite a few’.
Justine means well, and only has Nick’s best interests at heart. But when her alterations are taken the wrong way or have a different effect than the one she planned, she gets herself into an even bigger mess trying to fix things.
The further complicating factor is that of course there are many other people who read the stars religiously and follow their advice…and it becomes obvious that Justine’s tinkering with Nick’s star sign is having a ripple effect on a whole lot of other people who are also Aquarians, people she doesn’t even know. These include Davina Devine (astrologer-in-training), Margie McGee (Greens political advisor), Zadie (newly-pregnant Qantas flight attendant), Gary Direen (Justine’s neighbour with an unfortunate AC/DC tattoo on his left bum cheek), Tansy Brinklow (oncologist), Len Magellan (dying), Dorothy Gisborne (owner of an extensive collection of Charles and Diana wedding china), and Guy Foley (sometime custodian of one-eyed mutt Brown Houdini-Malarky), to name but a few.
And that’s just the Aquarians. The book is filled with characters defined by their star sign and a few salient facts: Nick’s mum Joanna (Aries) and Justine’s mum Mandy (Gemini) follow the magazine’s predictions, as do Charlotte Juniper (Leo and also a Greens advisor), Blessed Jones (Cancer and famous singer/songwriter), Fern (Libra and florist), Grace Allenby (Pieces and hospital volunteer), Phoebe Wintergreen (15-year-old, Leo and lover of Shakespeare) and Caleb Harkness (Sagittarius and collector of vinyl records) – again, just to name a few.
As the story develops, links begin to become apparent within this complex web of seemingly disconnected people, sometimes direct links, sometimes tangential. We meet all Justine’s co-workers, including her attractive new boss Daniel Griffin (Leo). We learn of Nick’s acting ambitions and meet his model girlfriend Laura Mitchell (Capricorn).
It seems obvious to us – but perhaps not to the characters – that Justine and Nick are destined to be together, but with so many obstacles in the way, will the stars ever align sufficiently to make this happen?
This book is chock-full of quirky and original characters. Several chapters are from the perspective of Brown Houdini-Malarkey, the dog, and Justine regularly has arguments with her brain (or inner conscience) as she stumbles through life correcting the grammar on signage with her Sharpie.
As the book rockets towards its conclusion, connections begin to become apparent between all of the unrelated characters, and chance and coincidence play a huge role in how events pan out. We’re back to the Butterfly Effect, with happenstance creating opportunities that lead to unpredictable (or perhaps completely predictable!) outcomes. This is a fun, rollicking, romantic read – perfect for when you need something light, humorous, easy-to-read and with a satisfyingly happy ending.