The Astronaut and the Star is an opposites-attract, forced-proximity romance between a driven astronaut and a happy-go-lucky actor who get together when Reggie Hayes has to train Jon Leo on a desert space camp to prepare him for a movie role. I’m a huge space nerd and sci fi buff, and I love nerdy romances, so I had high hopes for this one. Plus, the cover is gorgeous!
The story did pick up part-way through, but I got off on a slow start for me. Part of it is the character of Reggie herself. I’m all for super ambitious and driven heroines, and I’m a major sucker for emotionally complex main characters, but I just found it really hard to root for her either professionally or personally.
First, I get she’s a brilliant astronaut, and I like the development of her character arc, from someone who wants to do everything herself to someone who recognizes she needs help from time to time. The author also did a good job showing the toxicity of her family situation, and it’s believable that someone with those experiences would be so prickly. And I do like that her major life goal is to be the first woman on the moon. But her individualistic attitude isn’t just a character quirk to overcome on a personal level; it would legit be a major liability in space, where refusing to let other people do their jobs might literally get people killed. So the whole time she was working to prove herself ready to go to the moon, I couldn’t get behind it at all. Honestly, I felt bad for the other astronaut who’d been originally booked to train Jon Leo, who seemed legit excited about the opportunity until Reggie strong-armed him and threw around her mom’s name to get the job instead.
And then there’s her dynamic with Jon. Jon is the sweetest golden retriever puppy kind of a guy. A bit clumsy, and a bit disorganized, but overall, from the very beginning, he seemed like a great guy. And Reggie’s job was literally to train him in collecting soil samples and stuff so he can use that knowledge for his movie. So when she instead gives him busy-work, purportedly to keep him out of trouble, it really pissed me off. Especially since the entire exercise was a simulation in the first place — the rocks they collected didn’t matter for space science, and they weren’t actually researching astronaut stuff in the desert. The entire purpose of the exercise was to teach Jon Leo how to do it like a real astronaut. So Reggie had no data integrity to worry about protecting, and by giving Jon useless busy-work, she was downright failing at the very job she had bullied her way into getting in the first place.
And the way she treated Jon was just really mean. She’d catch herself and apologize, but some of the stuff she said was just mean-spirited, and totally undeserved. So it was forever before I could even buy into their relationship. Particularly since Jon was such a sweetheart throughout, Reggie’s barbs at times just felt more like bullying than sexy banter.
The story did improve for me around the halfway mark, once Reggie started opening up to Jon, and actually letting him do the tasks she was hired to teach him to do in the first place. I loved the Christmas scenes, how these showed the differences in their respective family dynamics, and how they responded to each other’s families. And by the end of the novel, I was on-board with their happily-ever-after.
I just wish it didn’t have to take so long for me to get to that point.
Thanks to Thomas Allen Ltd for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.