(Yes, somewhere in revision I lost a footnote, and I’m too lazy to fix it.)
I can count the number of realistic fiction authors I read on one hand, even if you count historical fiction. But I picked up Starling because it was written by two of my favorite fanfic writers, Racheline Maltese and Erin McRae, and I figured that even if it wasn’t the sort of thing I’m drawn to reading lately, it would be interesting and complicated, and probably suck me right in. Which it did.
Starling is about Alex Cook, a guy who didn’t mean to become an actor, or famous, but who does both things within, like, chapter one of the novel. He ends up in a relationship with Paul, one of the writers on the show he’s on, and then there’s sex, some discord, and an ending. Yes, this is quite possibly the lamest contemporary romance plot summary ever, but I don’t want to spoil anything, and the things that make Starling really fun and interesting to read aren’t, exactly, the plot.
Like, Alex is extremely internal. He’s really irritated at fame. I found his whole attitude toward it fascinating, especially because he doesn’t stop acting. Then there are the characters: Victor, the show runner, Liam, the lead on the show (who, for a while, looked in my head like a very tall, very hyper, very bizarre mashup of Darren Criss and Cory Monteith. Thankfully, by the end of the book he was not nearly that tall, and he looked like … well, not that anymore)—Victor is asexual; Liam is bisexual, and he and his girlfriend are poly; Victor and Liam have a relationship, as well; Liam’s girlfriend, Carly, used to date Paul. All of this is interesting—give me all the complicated group dynamics to sort through, seriously—and Alex has to navigate it to different extents. And I have no idea what an actual TV show is like behind the scenes, but this definitely felt a little more real than some of the books I’ve read with a setting like that.
I read it in, like, two days—which is not a bad thing. It was interesting, and very enjoyable, and I finished it more than ready for the sequel, Doves, which I bought the day it came out and also read in, like, two days.
In Doves … well, without spoilers it’s hard to explain? Okay, you know what, I know how to say this: everything I thought was really interesting in Starling was opened up more in Doves. And characters that I didn’t really invest in during Starling (like Liam, which might have been because of the weird mutant Glee actors mashup I saw in my head) became way more important to me by the end. The rest of what I want to say verges on spoilers, so I am going to stick it in a footnote.
Also, OH MY GOD, VICTOR. OH. MY. GOD.
So, yes, if you like romance, if you’re looking for a romance novel that includes a lot more types of relationships than just straight and monogamous, and if you want something a little complicated … well, start with Starling and then read Doves. They’re really good; I highly recommend them, and I’m waiting impatiently for the third one.
1 [back] Jason, he’s a ginger. Just putting that out there for you.
3[back] POSSIBLE SPOILERS IF YOU CARE: Liam, I think, becomes an interesting mirror to Alex in Doves. Alex doesn’t use his words (so internal); Liam sometimes loses his words, or doesn’t have words. And the way that affects how the people who love him … well, love him, in ways specific to them is one of the things about Doves that has stuck with me to the point that it’s the first thing I think of when I see the title–even though I am way more invested in Alex and Paul’s story than I am in Liam’s.