“A bright, brilliant, joyful love story.”—Josie Silver, #1 New York Times bestselling author of One Day in December
When childhood sweethearts Justine (Sagittarius and serious skeptic) and Nick (Aquarius and true believer) bump into each other as adults, a life-changing love affair seems inevitable. To Justine, anyway. Especially when she learns Nick is an astrological devotee, whose decisions are guided by the stars, and more specifically, by the horoscopes in his favorite magazine. The same magazine Justine happens to write for. As Nick continues to not fall headlong in love with her, Justine decides to take Nick’s horoscope, and Fate itself, into her own hands. But, of course, Nick is not the only Aquarius making important life choices according to what is written in the stars.
Charting the ripple effects of Justine’s astrological meddling, Star-Crossed is a delicious, intelligent, and affecting love story about friendship, chance, and how we all navigate the kinds of choices that are hard to face alone.
Advance praise for Star-Crossed
“Swoon-worthy . . . a smart, sweet love story about friendship, destiny, and the power of choice.”―Bustle
“[A] juicy romance novel.”―Good Housekeeping
“This cleverly structured first outing from the pseudonymous Darke will appeal to fans of romantic comedy, astrology, and chaos. Utterly charming and ripe for development as a film.”―Booklist
“Winning . . . Unpretentious, well-drawn characters and the fresh twist on the childhood sweethearts reunited setup make this perfect for fans of romantic comedies.”―Publishers Weekly
“Darke creates a world of stargazers whose destinies eventually collide. . . . Funny and enticing.”―Library Journal
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected copy proof***
Copyright © 2019 Minnie Darke
Nicholas Jordan was born, not beneath a starry sky, but in Edenvale Hospital—a modest red-brick building on the outskirts of a town that had four pubs, no banks, one swimming pool, six service clubs and bitterly resented water restrictions each summer. The hospital was surrounded by beds of bright pink bougainvillea and rectangles of thirsting lawn, and at the moment of little Nick’s birth, the sky above its hot tin roof was the scorching blue of a southern hemisphere noon in February.
And yet the stars were there. Out beyond the cloudless heat of the troposphere, beyond the stratosphere’s blanket of ozone, beyond the mesosphere and the thermosphere, the ionosphere, the exosphere and the magnetosphere, were the stars. Millions of them, patterning the blackness and orbiting themselves into the precise configuration that would be forever mapped onto the soul of Nicholas Jordan.
Joanna Jordan—Aries, owner-operator of Edenvale’s Uppercut hair salon, the freakishly accurate goal attack for the Edenvale Stars netball team, and a two-time Miss Eden Valley titleholder—did not think of the stars in the hours that followed her son’s birth. Blissed out and disheveled in the hospital’s sole delivery suite, she only stared into little Nick’s face, and charted influences of a more terrestrial nature
“He’s got your nose,” she murmured to her husband.
And she was quite right. Her baby had a perfect, miniature replica of the nose that she knew and loved on the face of Mark Jordan—Taurus, square-shouldered Australian Rules defender turned polo-shirted financial planner, lover of baked cheesecake and helpless admirer of long-legged women.
“But your ears,” Mark said, feeling his hands to be suddenly and gigantically out of scale as he smoothed back a wisp of the dark hair that feathered Nick’s newborn head.
And so, Joanna and Mark looked over their son and traced back to various sources his cheeks, forehead, fingers and toes. The new parents found an echo of Mark’s brother in the wide setting of their baby’s eyes, and a hint of Joanna’s mother in his full and expressive lips.
Nowhere, however, did they find, or even think to look for, the fingerprints of Beta Aquarii, a yellow supergiant burning some 537 lightyears from Earth. Or the more diffuse touch of the Helix Nebula, or indeed any of the other heavenly bodies that comprised the sprawling constellation of Aquarius, within whose auspices the sun was housed at the time of their baby’s birth.
An astrologer, looking at the pinpricks of destiny as laid out in little Nick’s natal chart, might on the day of his birth have been able to tell you that this child would grow up to be original to the point of slightly eccentric, creative and caring, but with a competitive streak so wide that his siblings would prefer eating Brussels sprouts to playing Monopoly with him. He would love costume parties and have a habit of bringing home any starving dog or flea-ridden cat that crossed his path.
This same astrologer might have allowed themselves a fond smile as they foretold that Nick, from his mid-teens onward, would be a true believer when it came to the stars. Nick would like the fact that he was an Aquarius—a sign he would associate with innovative and original thinking, as well as summertime, music festivals and hot young hippies who smelled of patchouli and sex.
On the day of Nick’s birth, however, there was no astrologer at hand, and the only person who did make an astrological prediction about baby Nick at that time was Joanna Jordan’s friend Mandy Carmichael. Mandy—Gemini, dimple-cheeked darling of the regional television network’s weather report, radiant newlywed, ABBA fanatic—appeared at the hospital like a good fairy, straight after work. Her face was still thickly plastered with foundation and she teetered on high heels as she balanced in her arms an enormous blue teddy bear and a bunch of supermarket chrysanthemums. Soon the teddy was reclining in a chair, the chrysanthemums were in a Fowlers preserving jar and Mandy was barefoot beside the bed, cradling her friend’s firstborn with infinite care. “A little Aquarius, hm?” she said, her eyes misting. “Don’t expect him to be like you and Mark, will you, JoJo? Aquarians are different. Aren’t you, little one?”
“Well, he’d better like sport,” Jo said lightly. “Mark’s already bought him a tennis racket.”
“Which is why he’ll probably be an artist. Or a dancer. Won’t you, my treasure?”
Mandy slipped her finger into the closing star of baby Nick’s hand, and for a moment she was uncharacteristically speechless. Then she said, “Jo, he’s beautiful. Just beautiful.”
By the time Mandy stepped out of the hospital, dusk had fallen, bringing with it a breeze as softly cool as the wistful mood that settled on her as she cut across the spiky grass—carrying her shoes—to the parking lot. The western sky was a smoky blue strung with drifts of low, pinkish cloud, but in the east a few eager stars had already burst through the deepening dark. Mandy slipped in behind the wheel of her car and watched those stars for a good long while. The smell of baby was in her nostrils.
The following Friday, at Curlew Court—a cul-de-sac in a newly built part of Edenvale that was full of concrete curbing and single-story homes with bright-colored roofs, mown lawns and eucalypt saplings in plastic plant guards—Drew Carmichael flopped onto his back and said, “Wow.”
Alongside him, on his next-door neighbor’s trampoline, was an empty bottle of Baileys Irish Cream, two smeary tumblers and his sweaty, smiling, semiclad wife. Drew—Libra, agricultural consultant, amateur aviation enthusiast, Pink Floyd aficionado and fearsome bedroom-mirror air guitarist—had been home from a two-week business trip for less than an hour, and he had a sense of having been quite deliberately ravished. Drained of his essence, even. Fortunately, the neighbors were on holiday in Queensland.
“Mmmmmm,” said Mandy, smiling up into a star-filled sky.
Drew propped himself up on one elbow and looked at his wife. He could see a shadow on her left cheek where it dimpled, and smell the mischief on her damp skin.
“What was that all about?” he asked, putting a hand on the soft paleness of her exposed belly. “Hm?”
“Excuse me,” she said, slapping his hand away but grinning widely, “but I’m a married woman. Don’t touch what you can’t afford.”
He tickled her, and she giggled. “What are you up to?”
“Up to?” she said. “Up to? I . . . am looking at the stars.”
Slightly drunk and entirely happy, Drew pillowed his head on folded arms and followed her gaze, up into space.
On that February night, the Carmichaels set in motion a baby girl, who would be born in the early hours of a November morning under the sign of Sagittarius. She would arrive, petite and perfectly formed, with her skull capped in a finer version of the light brown hair that would eventually curl around the sharp contours of her face. Her eyes would be hazel, her chin would be pointed and her lips—like her mother’s—would form a pronounced Cupid’s bow. Her dark eyebrows would—like her father’s—be straight and almost severe.
An astrologer might have predicted that this baby would grow up to be a straight shooter; playful, but also something of a perfectionist. She would love words, appear at age nine on a kids’ TV spelling contest (which she would win) and usually have a pen wedged behind her ear. Always her bedside table would groan under its payload of books (read, half read, to read), and there was a good chance that you would find, concealed within this pile of books, an Ikea catalogue, since wardrobeorganization porn would, for this girl, be a lifelong guilty pleasure. Her memory would be as flawless as a gleaming, stainless steel filing cabinet and even her text messages would be faultlessly formatted and punctuated.
It might also have been accurately foretold, with a sorrowful shake of the astrologer’s head, that this child would grow up to have scant regard for the stars. To be frank, she would consider horoscopes to be a crock of implausible hog-shit.
“Justine,” Mandy murmured, mostly to herself. “What?” said Drew.
“Jus-tine,” Mandy said, more distinctly. “Do you like it?” “Who’s Justine?” Drew asked, perplexed.
You’ll see, Mandy thought. You’ll see.
Reading Group Guide
1. What meaning does astrology have in your life? How much or little do you feel that your star sign reflects your character?
2. Do you think it was wrong for Justine to meddle with the horoscope column of the Alexandria Park Star?
3. Have you ever made a serious decision based on what you’ve read in a horoscope?
4. What do you think Justine sees in Nick? What does Nick see in Justine?
5. Justine’s advice to Nick is often to follow his dreams. What do you think about people being encouraged to chase difficult creative goals?
6. In the ‘cusp’ sections of Star-Crossed, characters make big decisions based on their horoscopes. Which of these decisions, do you think, is the most significant?
7. With which of the ‘cusp’ characters did you feel the most connected? What was it about their story that appealed to you?
8. Do you ever feel moved to correct errors of punctuation and spelling the way that Justine does? What is your biggest pet peeve, and why?
9. Do you think there is such a thing as ‘destiny’? How did Star-Crossed make you feel about your own ideas of destiny?
10. Did you notice any small details in the story that reflect the symbols, characteristics or constellations of the twelve star signs?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A good story for a rainy day. The changes in Aquarius predictions changed a wide variety of lives. The characters were all well developed and engaging. The ending was perfect for all.
Absolutely Delightful. I needed this book. I've read a long string of mediocre to good books lately, but this was a five-star read. It needs to be a movie, and it will go in my collection right beside You've Got Mail. I loved the characters, I loved the humor, and I loved the host of "six-degrees-of-separation" connections that tie this whole story together. Copy-runner-aspiring-to-journalist Justine has just been reconnected to her childhood first love, Nick, through her OCD of covertly correcting the green grocer's "advocado" sign in the markets. As it happens, Nick is a firm believer in astrology and long-time fan of Leo Thornbury, astrologer for The Star, Justine's employer. As copy girl, it is only too easy to attempt to give NIck a little nudge through some small tweaks of fate. Leo hates tech, he's a hermit, submits his predictions by fax, never darkens the office door, and Justine is already re-typing them for the magazine each month. Easy peasy right? A harmless nudge. But one month's modification turns into three... turns into four... Before you know it, Justine's "tweaks of fate" have mended a relationship, saved a baby from being aborted, changed career paths, and literally set a dozen people on collision courses with destiny. And Nick still isn't getting the hint. The lives of all of these people intersect and entangle over the course of a year, culminating in one giant push of destiny. I loved the humor and wit throughout the book, and Justine and Nick are everything you could possibly want in a classic romantic comedy. Anyone can identify with their quirks and their shortcomings, their embarrassments and escapades. Content wise, there are zero explicit scenes, although characters do sleep with each other the scenes themselves are skipped. There are several f-words scattered throughout, but it's not extensive. If you enjoy humorous fiction, if you enjoy twisty zany plots, and for anyone who loves romantic comedy this book is worth the read.
I could NOT put this book down! As a stars nerd myself, I loved how intricately astrology was woven into the core of this novel, in a way that didn't feel cheesy or forced. I loved the world-building here, visiting different charcters that all came together in the end, and I loved the love story here. It felt real and hopeful and messy and lovely, the way all love stories should. The only thing I took issue with in this book is that, as a female journalist, I always have difficulty finding books (or movies or TV shows, for that matter) who portray journalists in real, believable ways, and unfortunately Justine's character was just as disappointing in that regard. No aspiring journalist would do what she did in the pursuit of love, and no respectable publication would have let her keep her job after that!
Justine and Nick were the closest of childhood friends, but were separated when one of their families moved away. Years later they cross paths and their friendship is rekindled. She’s a wannabe writer working as a gofer at a newsmagazine and he’s a struggling actor working a mascot gig for a local fishmonger. Justine wants more than friendship, but Nick already has a super hot model girlfriend. When she finds out Nick is an astrology nut, she decides to take matters into her own hands. First all, this book if FUNNY. The main character Justine’s conversations with her brain are hilarious, not to mention the mess she gets herself into tinkering with the horoscopes. It’s a charming love story filled not only with Justine and Nick’s unusual courtship, but with multiple star-crossed romances. This is Minnie Darke’s debut novel, and I think she has hit the mark and written an out of this world love story.