This is a sweet and slightly paranormal village soap opera kind of story, kinda like reading Alice Hoffman or Sarah Addison Allen books. I think the best way I can attempt to explain the book is to give a character rundown.
- Etta: runs the title shop and sews rather enchanted dresses that give the wearer an emotional boost of confidence and sexy when she sews a little star into the cothes. Fifty years ago she fell in love with a priest and still misses him to this day.
- Father Sebastian: Etta's priestly love who still misses her.
- Cora: Etta's scientist granddaughter who shut off her emotions after the deaths of her scientist parents many years ago. She's been way too closed off to notice the childhood pal who's been pining after her for years. After Etta works some magic on her, Cora starts focusing on the deaths of her parents and whether or not they were murdered.
- Henry: a detective with an inner lie detector who helps Cora investigate.
- Francesca: Henry's ex-wife who still loves him--so why did she divorce him?
- Dr. Baxter: Cora's boss/mentor, who's hiding some things from her she doesn't know about.
- Walt: Cora's aforementioned pining childhood friend, who hits his limit after Cora rebuffs him and decides to date someone else. He has a side gig as ""The Night Reader" on a radio show that gets him a lot of fan mail that he usually ignores, and he starts dating a fan.
- Milly: The fan that Walt dates: she's a lonely widow dying for another husband and children. Too bad for her this book makes it clear that Walt's destined for another.
- Dylan: Walt's radio station boss who decides to answer his fan mail for him and falls for Milly in a Cyrano-sort of way. (Which made me go, GEEZ, DUDE, THIS IS A TERRIBLE IDEA.)
I had a fun time reading this, though there were the occasional plot elements that made me go "Oh nooooo" (namely, Dylan's pen palling and Milly's considering "oopsing" Walt if they ever have sex). One plot revelation surprised me even though I suspect it shouldn't have. And the ending line...wow, that was also a surprise. Generally speaking, the characters are sweet to read and I liked the quiet magic aspects of the book, particularly Etta's sewing, which makes me want to put stars in my clothes now.
On the other hand, I felt really sorry for Milly and winced pretty much every time she was on stage, and I wasn't emotionally involved in the idea of getting Cora and Walt together because they don't spend much time together for me to think they are MFEO as personalities. Okay, fine, they knew each other as kids, but what makes them soulmates now? I don't exactly see them together enough to sell me on them, especially since Cora spends most of the book now that her feelings are "on" again looking for her parents and what happened there, NOT with Walt, and the little I saw of them together before that wasn't winning me over. We see a lot more of Milly and Walt together. Hell, I just wished Walt would go for Milly already and get over Cora, but nope. There's a ton of "I'm going to confess my love but there you are with someone else" moments that were exasperating the more they went on. Oh, and "I want them to have a million babies!"--a remark made several times--was kinda making me gag.
(Admittedly, I'm childfree and thus not sold on proof of Our Love involving proof of babies, but really: do you want your favorite couples to have huge numbers of kids and be worn out and exhausted and not swooning in love with each other because they're too tired for that? Really? Why not just stick to two or three? But I digress....)
I think I'm going to give this three and a half stars. It's a pretty good sweet soap opera read, even if I was not quite so into the romancing and how it was handled.