Starlight Serenade (Debra E. Marvin) – Review

5 stars


Starlight Serenade

Publisher’s Description
The Englishman would look back one day and blame it all on Jazz…

Flagstaff, Arizona 1930. Full-time Astronomer, and part-time sharp dresser Julian Dyson didn’t discover Pluto but he does discover a nasty case of self-righteousness when a former Ziegfeld Girl’s folly threatens his good name.

Broadway understudy Clara Longworth and her peculiar younger brother are on their way to a new life in Hollywood when they are stranded along Route 66. Clara is asked to fill in as nightclub entertainment, but her good intentions set her up as accomplice in the blackmailing of a government man who makes the real thugs look classy.

Until Julian and Clara put their heads together for more than dancing the Black Bottom, their big-as-the-night-sky dreams are on target to fail. Maybe they need a telescope to see what’s right in front of their starry eyes.


She was suddenly too tired to move, but an odd sound – like a man calling for help – made her hold her breath.  The voice was strained and sent her to the door to listen.
Help.  Somebody.  I can’t breathe.
Horrified, she opened the door.  Henry covered his ears and shrank into the seat.  “Stay here, buddy.”  She stood in the hallway and listened, then rushed to the first room she found and peeked behind a partially closed door.  Illuminated by a too-small table lamp, a man lay sprawled, face up, across a tall iron bed.
“Mister.  Are you okay?”  She shook him before realizing she’d rushed in.  It was the fat cat from Mr. Dyson’s table.  The short one with the big cigar.
She tried again.  Still he didn’t move.  Oh Lord.  Was he even breathing?
To reach his collar, she climbed up, kneeling next to him to work at loosening his tie.
“Wake up!”  Her heart banged away in her chest.  “Come on, buddy.  Wake up!”
Her fingers felt clumsy, but the collar button slipped free.  She shook him harder, driven by the terror filling her chest.  “Someone?  Help.  Please?”
Where were the rest of them?
“Someone, please!  We need help!”  Her chest burned for lack of air.  For him.  She sat up, squeezing her head.  Oh God.  What do I do?
“Help.  Please”  Her voice sounded foreign.  She struggled to make it work.  To be heard.  “Is anyone there?”
She shook the guy’s shoulders, then tried slapping his face.  Nothing worked.
Footsteps.  Finally.
“In here.  Hurry!  Something’s wrong with him.”
She glanced around, surprised to see a camera.  “Oh good.  Finally.”  But why wasn’t he –
A nasty shove sent her down across the sick man.
“Ow!  What do you think you’re doing?”  She pushed herself up, ready to swing.  A camera flash burnt her eyes.


My review
Are you after a quick read that’s engaging without taking itself too seriously?  Light, without being frivolous or silly?  If you are, then I recommend you pick up this novella.  It was just the change of pace I needed after the last few novels I’ve read.  There’s no complicated back story or plot developments to try and get your head around; just two people who chance to meet along Route 66, get caught up in a bit of intrigue, and discover that maybe they’ve found something they didn’t know they were looking for along the way.

Clara Longworth and her brother Henry are headed to Hollywood when their bus breaks down near Flagstaff, Arizona.  Thanks to a cameo appearance by novelist Zane Grey, they find themselves at The Weatherford Hotel, where Clara is asked to fill in for their regular singer.  Backstage in the dressing room, she responds to a call for help and discovers one of the hotel’s patrons, a government representative by the name of Hugo Bruno, sprawled across a bed and unresponsive.  She calls for assistance, but is appalled when the first person to attend shoves her across the ill man, snaps a few photos, and runs.

Englishman Julian Dyson has been entertaining some federal government representatives at The Weatherford Hotel in the hopes of securing funding for the Lowell Observatory.  He enjoyed the performance from the cheeky brunette showgirl, but thanks to his brother he has a less-than-flattering opinion of their characters off-stage.  So he’s not exactly surprised when he races to answer the showgirl’s cries only to find she’s in a room with one of his government visitors, wrapped in little more than a dressing gown…

Mr. Dyson’s misunderstanding is eventually cleared up, but when someone tries to blackmail Mr. Bruno with the photos, Clara’s reputation is still on the line.  As they spend the next few days trying to get to the bottom of the whole imbroglio, Julian and Clara discover an ever greater reluctance to be parted from one another – as well as eventually working out who was behind it all, of course!

One of the most delightful aspects of this book was the gentle flirtation that went back and forth between Julian and Clara.  There was nothing forced, no heavy-handed clichés, just a subtle but engaging rapport developing between the two.  The other thing I loved was the way Debra headed each chapter with an astronomical term and definition that was a metaphor for what took place in that chapter.  Entries like Light Pollution: Ambient light in your observation area that reduces how many stars you can see; circumstances that obscure your view at the beginning of chapter one; or Escape Velocity: the speed required for a heavenly body to escape the gravitational pull of another; and later Conjunction:  When the moon or a planet appear especially close to another planet or a bright star.  They worked on so many levels!

Oh, and I mustn’t forget the scene with Julian’s declaration.  I’m still smiling over that one 🙂

Really, what more can I say?  Find yourself a comfy chair, sit back, relax, and enjoy!

Buy from:                      Amazon US icon us-flag-small                                     Amazon US icon australian-flag small

Release date:  19 June 2016
Pages:  106
Publisher:  Forget Me Not Romances
Author’s website:

About Fiction Aficionado

Homeschooling mum, word lover, reader extraordinaire, and follower of Christ
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