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ALEXANDRIA BELLEFLEUR’S WRITTEN IN THE STARS
You're gonna walk a mile in my shoes--actually, not even a mile, just like, two-hundred steps, maybe, and you're gonna keep stopping at every shelf to eagerly look at a bunch of pretty covers, because this mile/two-hundred-steps is in my local bookstore.
I was looking for a book, and this one caught my eye--two pretty women, staring into each other's eyes all dreamy-like against a dark-blue background. It was obviously queer, and I saw everything that pointed to it taking place in Seattle, and I was like, I like Seattle. The title said Written in the Stars, and I liked stars, and I liked queer stories, so I thought, What's not to love?
A lot of things, it turns out.
The story opens with Elle--she's on her way to a date and she's running a bit late. She's been on tons of dates, but they haven't been turning out super well. For some reason, everybody she likes tends to break things off with her while using the word fun, to the point where Elle worries she won't ever be able to find something serious. She's looking for the one out here, and it kinda looks like the one is actively avoiding her.
But she runs a Twitter account called Oh My Stars! (a kickass name for an astrology-based Twitter account, by the way) and has recently been taking part in a business deal with a dating app called OTP, and one of the people behind it, Brandon Lowell has a sister he's been trying to hook hot girls up with, and because Elle's been working with him and he's so nice, she's hoping for a good date with his sister.
It doesn't go well. Elle's late, and Brandon's sister--the second main character, Darcy--is just about to leave. Elle mistakes her for a hostess, but then realizes that that is her date, and holy shit, is she hot, so she apologies about being so late and asks if she can buy her a drink. Albeit reluctantly, Darcy agrees and orders the most expensive fucking wine she can. Elle accidentally spills it on Darcy's very white dress and when Elle goes to use the bathroom, she overhears Darcy in the middle of a phone conversation where she talks about how awful the date is going and how Elle's a mess. It almost feels like the date somehow can't go well.
Shortly after, we get a bit further insight into both of the characters. Elle lives with the second mind behind Oh My Stars!, her best friend from college, Margot(1) who offers to get her drunk with some margaritas and is perfectly insistent that Darcy can go fuck herself. She's supportive and fierce, and she makes really good margaritas. That's her whole character. Brandon seeks out Darcy for some info on the date, and because she doesn't want to disappoint her brother, but also because she really wants him to stop playing matchmaker, she lies and says the date went great, with no intention to ever follow up on it or ever speak to Elle again.
But the next morning, Elle has breakfast with her mother at some nice place--it's obvious their relationship is strained. Her mother wants her to have a more traditional life, not in the way of her sexuality, but in the way she wants Elle to settle down, and get herself a stable job with a salaried position, and she assumes that Elle is somehow setting herself up to fail. Brandon just so happens to be there, and Elle things for sure he's going to bring up her and Darcy's date, which failed spectacularly, and of course Brandon does bring it up, but it's immediately followed up with how much Darcy enjoyed their date. It's obviously not true, because it was awful, but partially because she's put on the spot, and partially because it'll earn her mother's approval to have had a successful date with someone like Darcy (especially when she's already being grilled about her life choices), she saves face and says she'll have to talk to Darcy.
She does talk to Darcy, and it's obvious that they both need this. Brandon wants Darcy to give the dating world a try, and she just can't say no to her brother, and Elle needs to look good with her family. So, they come up with a plan--they stop dating at the end of the year, citing some mature reasoning for their breakup, and in the mean time, they're gonna act like they're dating. This means, Elle goes with Darcy to some holiday party with her brother, and that Darcy goes with Elle to Thanksgiving dinner as her date. Darcy is that serious, put-together type of person that'll make her look good to her family, and Elle is that fun, lively type that Brandon wants for Darcy.
They decide they have to get to know each other to make it look believable--now, real-life straight couples have lead me to believe that you can know nothing about each other and honestly kinda hate each other and still be a couple, but not only is this novel a romantic comedy based off the whole fake-dating trope (meaning that like, it kinda has to go right), but Brandon is under the impression that Darcy's straight up, head-over-heels in love with Elle, so they need to act like it. They get to know each other over the course of the novel, and what first comes to mind for each of the characters is Darcy's childhood and Elle's interest in astrology.
Darcy grew up in a broken home--her father cheated on her mother for a much younger woman and it destroyed her mother so much that she and her brother were really raised by her grandmother, who passed before the story starts (it's also worth noting that the white dress she wore in the first part of the book was gifted to her by her grandmother, which kinda explains why Darcy would be icy over a stain besides the fact that wine's a bitch to get outta white). She holds a very clear fondness for these bits of her childhood, and she's spent just about her entire life trying to take care of Brandon, even with their family in shambles. Elle, meanwhile, studied astronomy in college, not because she confused astronomy for astrology, but simply because she loves the stars in every which way. She talks about the carbon humans have in their blood, and how we're all made up of, essentially, stardust, and the more she goes on, the more you can see how her love for astronomy and astrology connects, in that it's obvious she also loves people at her core. Astrology seems to just connect her adoration for the stars and people together--she believes people are always just trying to understand themselves, and this weird little quirk of hers with her love of astrology suddenly turns into something much more beautiful than a section on a newspaper.
At some point, Brandon invites the two of them on a double date with him and a girl named Cherry--it's their first date and it's a way for the two of them to really sell the act in front of Brandon. It's not that big a deal--it's just one extra date to their agreement.
So, they get all dressed up and they meet up with Brandon and his date--the first stop of the night? An escape room! It's a bit of a walk, and Cherry has on the least functional possible shoes. As they walk, an employee gives them the background for the escape room. They're all trying to get in contact with a medium, when a fog appears in the room and said medium disappears completely. Darcy comments that the medium's probably 'disappeared' because she's a con artist, but they all take part in the game. Cherry mentally checks out halfway through, and the other three do what they can to solve it.
They're starting to run out of time when they think they find the answer, and they go to one of several doors, but Elle thinks that something's off. With some support from Darcy, she looks at the clues and comes to a completely different but correct conclusion, and they emerge from the escape room victorious.
At this moment, Cherry runs into a friend and completely bails on Brandon, who's upset but is still going on strong, and they continue a date that is now really only Darcy and Elle's (with Brandon tagging along, but like, still, it's obvious to the reader that they're still on their date) to a bar for some trivia.
They are hauling ass, they're doing amazing. The final question comes and it's about a soap opera--immediately, Brandon stands up ready to run the answer to wherever it is the answer's supposed to go, but it's not him that knows the answer. It's Darcy. Elle's surprised that someone as serious as Darcy watches a cheesy soap opera like that, but it's a hint to the hidden depths she's trying to keep from her.
The date ends with another victory. Darcy walks Elle to her door and they decide to kiss in front of Brandon, for no other reason than to further sell their act. It gets very steamy, very quickly--at this point, it's obvious that, regardless of the circumstances, what they have is real. The book continues.
Darcy's mom appears in her apartment--the more their conversation progresses, the more obvious it becomes that their relationship is in shambles. (2) She tries to smoke a cigarette in Darcy's apartment, and she says no--she offers to open a window, but Darcy doesn't budge. Frustrated, her mother says she doesn't remember raising Darcy to be such a hardass, and Darcy responds that she didn't raise her at all--for all her and her mother's issues, the response strikes a chord. This is important for later.
Thanksgiving arrives and Elle gets ready to bring her to dinner with her family. They have this incredibly original tradition of wearing super ugly Christmas sweaters and Darcy will look weird if she doesn't show up in one. They go shopping, looking for one, and in the meantime, Elle finds a jacket she absolutely adores--but she can't afford it, so she puts it back. When she turns her back, Darcy buys it for her, they get their ugly sweater, and they go off for Thanksgiving.
Elle gets along great with her father (like in Pride and Prejudice, y'see?). He calls her Elle-Belle. Her mother rarely cooks, but insists on cooking every Thanksgiving, and this year, she made some lime-cilantro turkey that Lydia's fiancé can't eat, as cilantro tastes like soap to him. I can't fathom this not being a dealbreaker, as anybody who cannot eat cilantro is automatically incompatible with me,(3) but Lydia's engaged to him and everything, so it apparently isn't for her. Out of the blue, Lydia states that Elle's kinda like cilantro, in that she's not to everybody's taste--angry and hurt, Elle excuses herself to the kitchen and Darcy goes after her to comfort her (this is relevant for later). They rejoin and later, Elle's other sister and her husband reach out to apologize for that night, while stating their distaste for Lydia's fiancé.
The holiday party arrives and the two of them are looking hot. It's been established between the two of them that things are serious now--they're in love. They have boinked twice, and it was some great boinking going on between them(4). Love has won again, y'all--but then, Darcy's mother comes over. She's pretty fucking tipsy--and she states her suspicions of Elle--because she's not Darcy's type? Because Darcy's had her heart broken before? Because she wants to do her job as a mother? Unwilling to open up to her mother (for pretty good reason, honestly), she dismisses her concerns and claims that her and Elle are "just having fun."
Elle overhears--once more, she hasn't been on the same page as her partner. She's over here pouring her heart out, and all for what? To be nothing but a good time, and to get her heart broken. Why can't she be more than fun? Why can't anybody take her seriously?
Devastated, she storms off into the winter night--it's snowing, and she's gonna freeze, but Darcy makes to go after her. She genuinely does love Elle, and she wasn't supposed to hear all that. But Elle's been hurt before, and she doesn't stop to listen to Darcy--she heard what she needed to. Why would any of this between them be real, anyways? She leaves (later revealed to have left her phone, so she goes to a store, borrows their phone, and calls Margot), and Darcy falls to her knees, and there's Brandon to comfort her as her world crashes down upon her. She genuinely loved Elle, and she can only spill her guts to Brandon--things between them weren't real, they were lying. Brandon tells her that what he just saw looked pretty real to him. (No idea how the party ended with a scene like this.)
We cut to the main characters coping with this breakup in their own way--Elle is crying and moping on the couch, Margot is buying ice cream for the breakup, and soup for the cold she got, and she tells Elle that she's not a mess and every reassuring thing she needs to hear before they crunk off her margaritas. Darcy is doing everything she can to forget about what Elle meant to her--she is staying in motion, rearranging her living room, everything she can. She goes to jump in the shower, and Brandon bursts in right as she's taking her top off, because he wanted to know how she's doing--immediately, she switches to anger, she only gave him the key to her apartment for emergencies, this isn't an emergency, what is he doing here--
Brandon ends up comforting her on the bathroom floor. I can only imagine with her shirt barely on, and the shower on in the background running up her water bill--and he tells her that it's seriously time to actually open up, because she deserves to be happy with Elle--but how on Earth can Darcy fix this? Well, Brandon can help!
Well, Brandon helped!
Already. He told Elle about Darcy's shitty ex, without her knowledge.
But! Darcy's determined now! She wants to let Elle in, because she loves her, and she was so much more than a good time--this was love.
So she goes out, she buys a plant, she shows up at Elle's place with the plant(5), but Elle isn't there. Instead it's Margot, who's fairly pissed that she's had the nerve to show up to Elle's place without so much as a warning, and she's ready to protect her heart. Under the promise that she's going to make it up, Margot says that she's just the best friend--she's there to encourage Elle, and hold her hand, and make the margaritas, but it's not Elle's heart she gets to give away... but if Darcy does hurt her, she's going to break into her home and move all of her furniture a few inches to the side to fuck with her, a threat that terrifies Darcy--but Margot does tell her where Elle is, at work.
Darcy shows up in a passion-fueled haste, plant in hand to the metaphysical book store Elle has a part-time gig at, where she does readings and such based off astrology--initially, she plans to bother Darcy as much as she can with her chart and the stars, but deflates once Darcy actually gives her the chance to. She firmly believes that astrology is meant to understand people, and for them to understand themselves--she can't warp it into anything else, not over a breakup, regardless of how bad the breakup hurt.
Darcy explains that no, she doesn't believe in astrology--but she knows Elle does, and that means it matters. That matters to her--because she believes in them, and she believes in love.
She goes on to explain--she loved again, a woman. Natasha--but then she caught her in bed with a mutual friend, and all that came rushing down, and she didn't want to love again. Elle, she continues, wasn't what she wanted, but what she needed--she's fun, and she's beautiful, and she's earned Darcy's heart in the most serious way, even if she's got shit taste in wine and believes in crystals and stuff, she deserves someone who can respect that.
And then she hands over the plant--a bush of cilantro. No, not everybody has a taste for cilantro, but Elle? She doesn't taste like soap--Darcy loves her, just as she is (but has no intentions of putting her on a turkey, so there's that). She can respect her beliefs--and she knows what she needs, and what she wants, and what she feels--she is in love with Elle.
And that's where the story closes--astrology may or may not be real, but their love is. Darcy believes, and Elle's finally got what she's wanted--that lifetime of butterflies with Darcy.
Elle's the bubbly, optimistic, spiritual chick you judged in your English class when you were going through a rough, pessimistic time in your life and wanted everybody to use logic to ruin the things that brought them joy, I was slightly worried this book would portray her as a stereotype--written by either a an author with a strong passion for astrology that firmly believes any romance between an Aries and a Cancer is destined to end in the most tragic of breakups, or portrayed as a flat charicature who's entire personality centers around the stars.
Instead, she's sweet, she's sensitive, she's passionate. I'm not actually into astrology, but I didn't need to be to be able to understand her--I think we all have beliefs, and something to give us guidance. I, personally, opt for making up my own deities to worship, my own rules, and pick up bits and pieces from religions that I find most appealing until the world seems beautiful and I can live another day--some people turn to their own respective gods. If that's how you make sense and find beauty in the world, I'm cool with it--I might not understand it, but ultimately, astrology isn't gonna hurt me. But Elle is nothing like Elizabeth.
Like, absolutely nothing like Elizabeth--I fail to see what the need was with the nods to Pride and Prejudice, but more on this later.
She's meant to be the exact opposite to Darcy, but they fail to really butt heads throughout the novel--it jumps into a cliched, bad, first date and then they're working together to trick their families. There's never really any talk of their differing beliefs until they reach a middle ground, no arguing--I expected them to get drunk and reveal their pasts to each ther at some point, falling asleep in the same bed in a drunken stupor, and waking up in each other's arms while the previous' nights events filers back into their minds--no. We jump straight into attraction, and then bam! Love! And then fuck! Heartbreak! And then bam (again)! Butterflies!
Darcy is meant to be a Jerk with a Hidden Heart of Gold, but she's honestly just a jerk in the beginning--because she's too scared to love, y'know? So she sets herself up for failure. But she started off the date by wanting to leave--yeah, Elle was a little late, but ten minutes really isn't much, unless you're in a rush somewhere, or there's a reservation. And she picked a crazy expensive restaurant for their first date, she ordered the most expensive wine she could (they live in Seattle! Rent is crazy expensive in big cities--I don't think I could do this to a date if they started talking about how great cops are, how much they hate animals, mentioned they thought cilantro was trash, and then stated their intent to piss on the graves of all of my deceased family members one by one--fifty six dollars for a glass of fucking wine? I wouldn't let a date spend that much on a whole damn meal for me, seriously. I am a broke bitch, this would be a straight up dealbreaker for me, I wouldn't date someone with that expensive of tastes.And then she goes on to openly diss astrology in front of Elle, after she talks about how she believes in it, and it's her job--she outright never thinks to listen to Elle's actual explanation of it, and regardless if your date's late, that's just bad manners.
Maybe this was supposed to be a minor thing, but it kinda made me hate Darcy--I get she can afford this type of stuff, but she dind't even try to humor Elle. It was just "Yeah, I don't believe in astrology. I don't believe in what you do. Agree to disagree." Over an astrology chart---what harm is an astrology chart gonna do, even if you don't believe in it? Especially if you don't believe in it, Elle wasn't charging her, or arguing that Virgo's were going to Hell, or whatever the worst case scenario of that situation is supposed to be.
So, I understand her love of soap operas, and her dramatic backstory is meant to flesh her out--but honestly, it never made her all that more likable, and I think her speech at the end about how astrology and all mattered to Elle meant it mattered to her would've been more powerful if she actually thought to get to know Elle's hobby--but when Elle talks about houses and charts, Darcy's just as confused as the reader. I get the point of the cilantro, but it sounds like Bellefleur was just looking for a grand gesture to make to add more drama, and that was what she came up with to show that Darcy liked Elle, but I think a stack of books on astrology, promising to learn and asking Elle to talk about it would've been so much more meaningful. As it was, the whole gesture felt kinda empty.
With that all said, I also think the characters needed to be... stronger. I learned it in drama class, but it's something I've tried to carry with me in all choices of characterization, in my occasional acting and my pretty-damn-often writing: a strong choice is better than no choice at all. I know what Bellefleur was going for with these characters, but ultimately, I feel like she should've been stronger. Aside from her astrology and the skeleton in her apartment (which is clearly leftover from Halloween, which didn't even happen that long ago from the story), Elle isn't that quirky. I know more about Darcy's past than I do Elle's, so she isn't all that mysterious.
I love the concept of a character messing up, realizing it, and going out to fix it--fixing your mistakes! Redemption! Admitting you were wrong! That fucking slaps--but this was played so much for drama, and I get it was going for something like a rom-com. From what I can piece together, Bellefleur likes rom-coms, and that's great! Tons of people do, I completely respect that, but it just didn't have the effect I thought it was supposed to. Normally, I feel something at the end of books--this one didn't get that out of me. Ultimately, I can see that these characters are attracted to each other--but I can't really see why, and I don't feel it. It's just, whoa, Darcy's hot, and Elle's cute, polar opposites, and they end it with... marriage? I got nothing against marriage, but it feels out of left field, these two have been dating since... the end of October? The start of November? It's not even the New Year--fuck, it's not even Christmas, Elle makes it a point to say that it's Christmas Eve near the end of the book--date for at least six months before you start talking about marriage like that, I mean... Marry whenever you want, if you're comfortable and you're safe--I won't diss arranged marriages so long as both people in the relationship are happy, it's a healthy relationship, and the whole thing was a discussed thing that was wanted, and even those vary--it's not usually two strangers getting hitched, and the expectation is that love will grow over time, and that's cool--but there's no mention of Elle and Darcy leaning towards any of those types of customs, it's just Elle deciding they're living their lives together.
Initially, their plan was to breakup and cite a difference that just had their lives going in separate ways--like, for example, one of them wanting kids, and the other not, but that's thrown out the window. They never discuss their futures, what they want out of marriage, what to expect. It's just Elle's in love. Forever. Lifetime of butterflies. I get Elle believes in soulmates, and there's nothing wrong with that--but that doesn't exactly make her all that original, and I personally pt for a more modern take on soulmates--I believe they're made, not born. We make our own souls bit by bit, and sometimes, we add little bits of Velcro to join them together into the ultimate, ginormous soul so we can overpower other souls--I can believe in true love, and soulmates, but soulmates doesn't mean they're gonna be on the same page forever, and these things won't just work themselves out. I don't know, it just felt like the last paragraph threw me through a loop and implied a bit more than what I expected. If you're gonna marry someone so quickly in Seattle for a whirlwind-romance, there is a fifty percent chance of divorce nowadays, that's all. I believe in staying together through hardship--I also believe you should know who you're marrying, and what life with them will look like--change happens, and if you're lives are going in two separate directions, that's okay. If you can't figure it out, and the only way to truly live your best life is to separate, it's for the best--but that isn't brought up.
Overall, Darcy's character development is lackluster, and while Elle is a nice concept of a character at first glance, I feel like she falls flat. She's nice, but sh ewasn't all that interesting. What was her childhood like? Tell me about college with her and Margot, about how she did undergrad and changed careers--not how Darcy used to watch soap operas with her grandma--or, tell me that, and also Elle's relationship with her grandma. I get we needed to start liking Darcy, but she's just too cold, even with her backstory.
First Five Pages:
I'll level with y'all--I didn't like this book, but the first five pages are everything a novel should be.
They were funny, entertaining, and they introduced Elle very well--five pages isn't a lot to show what your novel is, but it introduces the bare essentials the reader will need to know for the main plot and conflict: this is Elle's nth first date with the sister of a colleague, and she's got high hopes. These hopes are only higher than the panties she has on that is currently riding up and chafing like a bitch--sometimes, the best way to hook your audience is to shock them, and sometimes? The best way to shock them is talk about the main character's underwear.
But the humor doesn't stop at just the shock-value. Elle's confusion over the door to the restaurant, the entire scene is hilarious. Regardless of all my other opinions on the book, that first five pages thing? Bellefleur's got that down.
I will say it as many times as I need to, and I will mean it when I say it: a book's diversity should not be it's main selling point.
Books should be diverse because it represents the real world--the real world is diverse.
Books should be diverse because your book will reach many different audiences, and those audiences deserve a chance to see themselves in the media.
Books should be diverse because at a certain point, I think it's just lazy writing when it all lacks diversity. Not even just lazy, but uncreative--like, you couldn't come up with a different background for these characters than the same one you've been using?
Every last character--excluding my belief that Margot is Mexican, as there isn't any confirmation that she actually is Mexican, and implied diversity isn't true diversity--is white. There isn't so much as a mention of anybody non-white. And the thing with diversity is that it should make sense--I don't want somebody to throw in a singular black character into a white cast and go, "see? Diversity!" because diversity shouldn't be forced. If you write a story centering around a small town in the south, I can understand why the cast might be mainly or entirely white--but if your story takes place in a big city, that's gonna raise a few eyebrows.
But, y'know, Seattle's pretty white--and the truth is, diversity exists everywhere, and not just racial diversity.
We need disabled characters! Give us characters with wheelchairs, and canes, and hearing aids, and don't make them ashamed of their disabilities. Give us confirmed neurodivergent characters--confirmed and researched, don't keep spitting out a Sheldon Cooper embodiment in a different wrapper and pat yourself on the back. Even with the LGBTQ+ representation in this book, the diversity is sparse--I got mad respect for a WLW couple where one of them is a lesbian, and the other's bisexual, and there's no talk of Elle being dirty or anything of the sort for being into men, because I hate that--but this book doesn't have anything else for it. There's no trans characters, or any other identity--it's gay, straight, or bi (6), and nothing else. Even with the sapphic representation, though--why are all the sapphic characters in novels always white, stick-thin, and conventionally attractive? Butch lesbians are incredibly underrepresented, and honestly? It's a crime--I know some people might worry that making a woman who's into other women stereotypically masculine might come off as offensive or something, and I get that, but in general, butch lesbians aren't offensive. Obviously, you can make them offensive, but just their existence? Masculine lesbians are as real as feminine gay men are--it's not that you need to stop showing them doing those things, you just need to make sure they're fleshed out. Don't keep your butch lesbians centered around flannels, and don't show your feminine gay men in one scene where they paint their straight best friend's nails--the LGBTQ+ community has been defying gender norms for about forever--that hasn't changed.
If you're looking for a book to read under fairly normal circumstances, such as just looking for a good novel, diversity (or the absolute lack thereof) shouldn't necessarily be what makes you decide whether or not to buy this book, but for me? It's just one thing that takes away the experience, and if you're out there looking for a diverse book? Y'all gotta look elsewhere, because this is not it.
I'm deadly serious--for every takeaway from this book, I adored the writing.
There's this certain thing you come to expect from romance novels, and it's that romantiziation of things. Like everything is beautiful--and suddenly, as you read, it is. The mundane world is just a little prettier. It's not quite purple-prose levels--at no point did I find the book hard to read, or that the descriptions took away from the overall story--I found it really charming. There's not much to say on the writing, really, because what exactly can I say? But it flowed good, and it was pretty. Top-notch.
I got to point to the obvious--this is Bellefleur's debut novel. I mean this is her first-ever published novel. I didn't like this novel, but don't think for one minute that that is not the feat that it is--holy shit. That's a big deal! I mean, granted, that's always a big deal, and the thing with this blog is, y'know, I'm always gonna be reading a published novel, but seriously--this thing must've gone through a ton of drafts, tears, sweat, the works, y'all. The worst part about writing is making the time to write, and staring at the screen and fearing it's gonna be for nothing--but this book is published. Her first. Again, that's a big deal.
An obvious fan of astrology and romantic comedies, Alexandria Bellefleur... has the most aggressively French-sounding name I've ever heard in my life.(7) It's pretty, but I looked her up, and I'm still wondering if it's a pen name, and she just leaned heavily into this really specific aesthetic, but from what I can tell? It's not a pen name, and I mean... honestly, I shouldn't be wondering about her name at all, because what she chooses to put out into the world is her business and her's alone, and I totally get that. I just wanted to say? Very French-sounding, just an observation.
Her website is available at https://www.alexandriabellefleur.com/bio if you're interested.
I've glanced at her Twitter enough to know she seems to identify as a "bisexual mess", and as a fellow bisexual mess, fuck yeah. She also seems to be pro-choice, and likes margaritas, and lives in the Pacific Northwest. I'm also pro-choice and live in the Pacific Northwest! Nice.
Now, ther'es this thing with your first novel--your first? Will never be your best.
It can be your baby. It can be your favorite. But you're always gonna continue to grow as an author, if you keep writing--and it's for the better. I did not like this book, but I sincerely doubt that this is Bellefleur's peak--when you get your first book out there, you've gotten your foot in the door. It's going to be easier to publish books from there. Now I've looked at the rest of the trilogy--
--I have no interest in reading them. You shouldn't ever judge a book by it's cover, yeah--but going off the cover, it looks like most of my problems with this one are in those. I don't know that for sure, no--but I'm, as previously mentioned, a broke bitch, and books are kinda expensive. Authors need to make money, y'know--they need to eat!
This author also needs to eat--you know what I use my money on? Mangoes. Mangoes can get expensive! And if I had to choose between more of Bellefleur's work and some mango, I'm gonna choose the mango. Now, if somebody bought me another one of her books, or I found one at a steep-enough discount, I'd probably pick it up--but I don't know if I'd blog about it. As it is, I just don't see myself being an avid reader of her work.
Seriously, though--I'm sure (and I hope!) Bellefleur will grow, and I am rooting for her, but I need to spend my money on things I know I'm going to like.
I already kinda got into this with the plot summary, but I'm going to get into the specifics of why this ending doesn't work.
We've all seen the typical romcom ending--the main character rushing off to the plane their love interest is on, pronouncing their love. I look at WITS as a love-letter to romcoms in general--I think of Until Dawn. Now, Until Dawn is about a group of teenagers going to a secluded cabin in the mountains, plagued by what seems to be a serial killer (and it's a perfectly good game if you can look past the lack-of-research into Native American culture, such as the totems and the W*ndigos), and that's not exactly comparable to WITS--but I mean Until Dawn was a love letter to the horror genre and all the slasher films. That game had every trope any avid watcher of horror films could name, and it worked for it. In that way, I think WITS is a love letter to the romance genre--it's got the more modern trope of fake-dating, but it's got those more well-known ones--polar opposites attracting each other; not exactly... love at first sight, but attraction. The ending Bellefleur was after was dramatic.
It kinda fell flat.
I think it has to do with the fact that this is all a result of miscommunication--it's a bit overdone in romance novels, and a lot of people would argue that as a source of conflict, it's frustrating. I, personally, don't see much that's wrong with it--but I feel like they were so good at talking things out--and already, Elle's aware that Darcy's relationship with her mother's strained at best--she overhears "we're just having fun," and storms out. She doesn't grab her phone, or a jacket, or anything--this is like, immediately after a tender moment where they admire how each ther looks, and Elle jokes about glitter. It feels... forced.
I get that it's a staple--but it just didn't work.
Not helping is the absolutely useless nods to Pride and Prejudice--they add nothing to the story. I don't know what the need for them was. Pride and Prejudice was all about family expectations, and how what's expected of you might not be what you want--that is the exact opposite of this book, in that everybody wants Elle and Darcy to hook up, and what's expected of them is exactly what they want/need. I, personally, love the trope where the characters turn to something they never thought they wanted--a change in careers, dreams, a love interest that they never considered but truly do love, but it just doesn't work here. When I picked up this book, I kinda hoped that towards the end, Elle would call out her family for their treatment of her and for not taking her seriously, and that Darcy would explain to her brother that she knew he meant well, but this was her love life, and that their pressure pushed them so far, they were literally pretending to hook up to get them off their backs.
The best ending would've been them happy together--but criticizing the emphasis on their love lives. Brandon literally talked to Elle about her horrible ex and how she got her heart broken--that is not okay! I can't believe that could be romantic--yes, he meant well, and it worked out for the best, but you don't go talking about that stuff to your sister's ex in hopes to swoon her again for said sister. There's also the fact that a queer novel based off of Pride and Prejudice could amount to so much.
I mean, pride is in the name! You still could've used the fake-dating trope. As it was, this book was just disappointing, and had so many missed opportunities.
Things Counting For:
--the fake-dating trope. C'mon, it's cute.
--I appreciate the attraction at first sight trope. I don't believe in love at first sight--but I whole-heartedly believe in the potential to love, and some things? You just know. I love a good There's something there. We could end up in love and happy together. That shit slaps way more than a I'm marrying this person ASAP, and I appreciate seeing that.
--The use of the term heterocontextualize, including the story--sexuality isn't brought up all that much, because all the characters are out, and they face no judgement. It's all perfectly normalized--but they still talk about how they realized they were queer. In Elle's case, it was when she couldn't heterocontextualize another chick going down on her. Love the term, love the scene.
--Towards the beginning, Brandon is characterized to be shit at winking. This is an incredibly minor detail, but I'm shocked at how well it's stayed with me. A good reminder that characters should have little quirks--like, always wearing mismatched socks, not being able to sleep without all the windows open, or being so bad at winking that it's actually endearing.
Things Counting Against:
--Darcy should've either had a heart-to-heart with her mother about how she wasn't there when she needed her, or cut her mother off completely. Her childhood sucked--I get her mother probably wasn't in a super good headspace when her husband cheated on her and left her for somebody much younger than her, but that doesn't undo the harm her absence did in her children's lives.
--Seriously. Brandon should never have told Elle about Natasha. I liked Brandon, but that kinda ruins him for me. It's just not right. I know this was a way for Bellefleur to reveal such a crucial part of Darcy's past, but honestly, most of the readers (or... at least I did) probably figured out that she'd been cheated on. It wasn't that hard to figure out--that was something Darcy should've been able to explain.
--Elle's mother... put cilantro... on a THANKSGIVING TURKEY... Bellefleur, why?
--Lydia's statement that Elle is a lot like cilantro just comes out of left field. There's no build up. It's just there. Like, I get it's hurtful and all, and I know it's to show Elle's relationship with her sister, but it felt awkwardly placed in the story. Maybe that was the point, with Lydia only bringing it up to hurt Elle, or at least get it off her chest, but it just felt wrong--and I honestly feel bad for Lydia in the original Pride and Prejudice. I mean, she was kinda a bitch, but she hooked up with a much older man (like... there's no way she wasn't groomed. I know this story was written in like, 1807 or something, and times were different, but that's still fucked up, at least slightly more than cilantro on a Thanksgiving turkey), and ended up trapped in a loveless marriage at the age of fifteen while they ran out of money. She was selfish, entitled, and spoiled--but she was fifteen. Teenagers are like that. I refuse to acknowledge Lydia hate on my blog, she was a product of how she was raised.
--A lot of the jokes in this story are just overdone. The glitter-gets-everywhere, for example--look, I've been on the internet forever, and maybe a lot of people thought that Margot's threat to Darcy (to break into her home and move things to the side to fuck with her flow, if you recall) was creative, but I saw it on a Tumblr post, from a teenager who pranked their parents. It just wasn't that funny to me--and realistically, I think somebody would be more baffled than terrified--and I think that would have added more humor to the scene, especially considering Darcy is so much more serious.
All in all, Written in the Stars just... isn't memorable. It's not that good--I don't know how I saw so many good reviews for it. I will admit, when I first read it, I was in a... weird headspace--but I've reread it, and looked it over, and my opinion hasn't really changed. I'm still hoping Bellefleur continues to grow as a writer, and I hope she goes far--but I'm by no means a fan.
Kinda sucks my first review's so low--and I genuinely have no hate towards Bellefleur--my first few stories weren't all that good either, and I thank my lucky stars I never got them published, mine were definitely far worse than this book.
But the next post's gonna be better! Promise. Take care now.
(1): I refuse to believe Margot is not Mexican. She has jet-black hair (a common Hispanic trait), she's got the temperament of most Mexican-coded characters, she likes tequila, and literally every character in this book is white. I mean, maybe she's Mexican and white, which is fine, and I'm allowed to make a joke about Margot being Mexican and white, because I'm also Mexican and white.
(2) I think Darcy's mother comes back into her life with the intention of reconnecting with both of her children. I'm more and more certain, the more time goes on, but I'll admit I might be wrong. This post will go into more detail on just why this might've slipped past me.
(3) Originally, my joke was that anybody who's got whatever gene that makes cilantro taste like soap to them comes from a bloodline too weak for me to procreate with them--but I don't actually want to procreate, and worded like that makes me sound kinda like a snob, I just cannot fathom having to avoid cilantro because my partner thinks I spurted Dawn dish soap on their tacos instead of Vandals--then again, Elle's mother also puts this stuff on a turkey, which is just wrong. There is so many better things to put on a turkey. Go for garlic--or, just make pasta, because your turkey is probably gonna suck. Anyway. Cilantro.
(4) This book does got a fair share of smut, but it's not really erotica. The main focus is the romance--the smut scenes are like, a few pages long, and not even all that memorable, so like, don't go into it expecting tons of boning.
(5) This throws a wrench in my theory that Margot's Mexican, because the plant's cilantro, and she doesn't recognize it. I'm almost done with the cilantro, I promise!
(6) Margot's sexuality isn't mentioned, but Bellefleur has written a book focusing on her and a romance with (spoiler alert!) Darcy and Elle's wedding planner, who's an ex of her's, but I think it's also mentioned that she finds a guy cute, implying that she's into both--whether that means she's bi, pan, or what, I don't know, it's not really discussed.
(7) Okay, no, I've looked up the etymology of Alexandria and I'm pretty sure it's of Greek origin, but that's why I said "French-sounding." It sounds French. Honestly, though--it's a good name. Very pretty sounding.
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