Saturday, 7 May 2011 / No comments

To Touch The Stars - Jessica Ruston

Having been part of the same online community as Jessica Ruston for a number of years, I was really excited to read her first novel, Luxury, and I wasn't disappointed. So I was doubly looking forward to To Touch The Stars. It was released in hardcover late last year and came out in paperback and Kindle in February.

This romantic drama tells the life story of Violet Cavelley, matriarch of the Cavelley family and founder of a fashion empire. As Violet prepares to celebrate her 60th birthday her friends and family gather, but someone is watching as the guests arrive. We meet the family first - eldest son Flip, responsible workaholic who expects to take over when his mother retires, and his fiancée Tillie; younger son Blue, sensitive, damaged and brilliant and his partner Adam, who keeps him centred; Fran, the youngest, scarred and trying to avoid notice. On the surface, it appears that this family have it all, the villa in Capri, a successful business and money to burn, but what they have in abundance is secrets.

As the story unfolds, we learn of the secrets that the individual members of the family have been keeping, and the consequences of revealing those secrets. Much of the story is told in flashback and we're taken from the 60s to the present day. We see Violet's early years through her own eyes, but hers isn't the only point of view. We also see Violet through the eyes of those around her. Jessica manages these different viewpoints well, giving each character a distinctive voice and personality. The sprawling timeline gives us the opportunity to revisit the fashions of the last 50 years. I particularly enjoyed the description of Boodle's dress when she first meets Flip. It has a black velvet bodice with sweetheart neckline and raspberry taffeta skirt. It reminded me very much of the dress my sister wore to my débutante ball in 1991, except she had a green skirt and sleeves.

There is plenty of drama and suspense to keep you turning pages. I didn't see the end coming at all, it was brilliantly handled. There's room for a sequel here, I'd love to know how things turn out for the younger members of the family. I was a bit disappointed that we didn't see more of Adam, he was introduced early but after the party we don't see him again. I would have liked more of Blue as well, but I guess his thinking style would be difficult to write (and read) for an extended period.

I really enjoyed this book, it's a suspenseful insight into how the other half life, and a reminder that while money can make life easier, it can't buy happiness or longevity.
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