4 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
Swearing Off Stars, written by Danielle Wong, is a historical romance novel set in the early 20th century. It centers on two young women, following their lives from 1920 through approximately 1950 and chronicling their adventures, their struggles, and their feelings for one another.
Amelia “Lia” Cole, an American university student, travels to Oxford in 1920 to study. There she meets Scarlett Daniels, a fashionable, independent young actress who gets Lia involved in the women’s movement and introduces Lia to her close-knit group of friends. The two become inseparable, first as friends, then as confidantes, and finally as something more. But in 1920s Britain, a relationship such as theirs must be a closely guarded secret. Forced to live double lives, neither of them is truly happy, and so Lia and Scarlett are faced with an impossible decision: either to fight for each other while risking disaster or to walk away from their perfect love. Will the stars align for them? Or were those stars crossed from the beginning?
Though homoromanticism has always existed, history has not always looked kindly upon it, with its reception shifting from era to era. Books of this type generally portray the protagonists’ friends and loved ones as either excessively supportive or excessively malign, depending on what the author wishes to highlight. By contrast, Wong’s supporting characters are all three-dimensional with just the right balance of historical accuracy and modern sentiment. Although the prevailing views of the time period are presented believably, the secondary characters each approach the situation with varying reactions dependent upon their relationship to Lia and Scarlett. Wong colors the responses of each supporting character with a mix of compassion, concern, and awareness in a way that feels true-to-life.
The story focuses on Lia’s perspective with occasional inputs from Scarlett for the reader’s benefit, in order to clarify seemingly illogical actions or to contribute events of which Lia is unaware. This produces an insight into the tension between them that allows the reader to understand and empathize with both women at the same time. I found this approach refreshing, since it allowed me to come to my own conclusions and formulate my own opinions, rather than simply adopting the ones the author wished for me to have.
In the entirety of the book, I found absolutely nothing to dislike. Errors were few and minor, and the titles, headings, formatting, and cover were all polished and professional. The storyline was internally consistent, the characters well-rounded, and the events dramatic yet believable. Profane language was used sparingly and in ways that felt appropriate for the events. The sexual content was infrequent, veiled in euphemism, and respectfully and tastefully depicted, and so I see no reason that a teenager couldn’t enjoy this book. This novel is Wong’s first, but I eagerly await more of her work in the future.
Swearing Off Stars earns a score of 4 out of 4 for its realistic depiction of gay love in the early 20th century. It would most appeal to lovers of historical fiction, particularly of the Roaring 20’s, and to romantics. Readers with a distaste for homosexuality should steer clear.
Swearing Off Stars
View: on Bookshelves