Stardust Summer by Lauren Clark finds us back in two worlds, much like Dancing Naked in Dixie. Plunged between the simple deep south and upstate New York, Grace Mason, a single mom doing her best to raise her elementary age son Evan, receives shocking news that all starts with a brown box on the front porch that, "could have been missed all together" in the Mississippi heat. Then again, as the story unfolds, if "you wanted to take a broad view of the thing..." (Lee 3, To Kill a Mockingbird) it really all started when Grace was a little girl and her father was her whole world.
From the beginning, the reader is immersed in the difficult adult relationship between Grace and her father. But, as fate takes a turn for the worse, the brown box on the porch means more than Grace will ever realize, because it turns out the be a shove off an emotional mountain for Grace, Evan, Kathleen (her father's 2nd wife and step-mother), and the handsome next door neighbor, Ryan (who just happens to be the town doc).
While Grace thought life in Mississippi was what she needed, a pull to survey her surroundings at the hand of her father (you'll see) allows to view upstate New York in a new way. But the punches keep coming for both Grace and Kathleen. These two women spend their time wrapped up in a very difficult duet making choices to save their own sanity and protect those they love.
Happy endings are always a pleasing outcome, but the hardships endured to get there should never be forgotten.
Stardust Summer was a quick read for me, finished in two days. The plot moves forward aggressively and I appreciated the dynamics between the characters. But, no matter how hard I tried, I could not like Grace, who serves as the protagonist of the novel. Her childish behavior irked me constantly, but that may not be the case for all readers. I find weak and whiny women often force me to seek fascination with another character. In this, Clark did not disappoint me. I adored Kathleen and loved Ryan. The young boy, Evan, reminded me a lot of my own son and I can admit that during a particular struggle involving him, I did feel a pang of emotion for Grace, from one mother to another. I think this book has potential, and it certainly satisfies the romance reader cheering for the girl to start all over again.
I see a trend in Clark's book, well at least between Dancing Naked in Dixie and Stardust Summer: a struggle of relationship between fathers and daughters. I found this hard to connect to myself, but I know it's a problem for a lot of women out there. Clark's writing might be a soothing balm to those dealing with this particular conflict.
Overall I'd give this a 3.5 out of 5 stars. The plot was forward moving and the characters developed well, but a few of the events were contrived for me and I knew the ending long before I got there. With that said, I'd read another novel by her as there is always the element of Southern charm weaved within the pages.