Title: The Stars of Heaven
Author: Jessica Dall
Publication: August 18th 2020 by Red Adept Publishing
Genre: Historical Fiction
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When one of the largest earthquakes in history hits Lisbon on All Saints’ Day 1755, Cecília de Santa Rita e Durante’s life is turned upside down. With her family possibly dead, she must wade through the ruins that were once her home with the help of John Bates. The English Protestant represents everything she was taught to hate, but he is her only hope of making it through the newly destroyed Lisbon.
Faced with both unspeakable tragedy and an unexpected miracle at home, Cecília leans on John for support. When he leaves, she is forced to reconcile her feelings for him with her long-held beliefs. Left carrying a torch for a man she never should have met, she’s cast into a web of deception, religious upheaval, and political intrigue that leaves her on even shakier ground.
The Stars of Heaven explores a clash of cultures between the European Age of Enlightenment and the Portuguese Inquisition as Cecília navigates the uncharted waters of her new life.
I’m having bit of a tough time writing this review, to be honest. And this is only because I loved this book so much. Historical fiction is my favorite genre so I’m pretty picky and skeptical when it comes to those books but oh I was taken by surprise by this one. It was an amazing story with characters that were flawed yet intrigued me so much that I couldn’t help but fall in love with. It’s definitely one of my favorites now for sure!
Even though historical fiction is my favorite genre as I said before, I don’t typically read books set in the 18th century very often. It’s not that I don’t like the era but I usually am more attracted to books set in older times. So with that said I should also mention that I haven’t read many books set in Portugal either but I love that this one was.
Another thing that was new to me was the earthquake that hit Lisbon on All Saints’ Day in 1755, which apparently was one of the largest earthquakes in history. I’d never heard of this disaster happening back then but that’s where the story truly got started. The main character, Cecília de Santa Rita e Durante, gets caught up in it as she’s on her way home. She has no idea of her family is hurt or even alive and has to accept the help of English Protestant John Bates. The story follows Cecília over the next years to come as she’s forced to not only grieve about the disaster that happened in Lisbon, of which the aftermath would have a lot of ramifications for the country, but also deal with dangerous and political manipulations at court.
I do want to mention the romance even though it was secondary (but not less enioyable) to the story in general. Cecília and John had my heart right from the start and I definitely shipped them. I wasn’t sure if they would ever catch a break and be able to end up together because they come from such different worlds but let’s just say that I was definitely happy with how things came to be in the very end.
Overall, I hadn’t expected when I first started reading The Stars of Heaven by Jessica Dall to adore it as much as I did but even so it ended up as one of my favorite books of the year. I loved every chapter, every page and every word. In short, I couldn’t get enough of this wonderful read.
About the author:
Jessica Dall finished her first novel at the age of fifteen and has been hooked on writing ever since. In the past few years, she has published a mix of fantasy and historical fiction novels, along with a number of short stories that have appeared in both magazines and anthologies.
In college, Jessica interned at a publishing house, where her “writing hobby” slowly turned into a variety of writing careers, including creative writing teacher and, her current job, content editor for a small press.
When not busy editing or writing, Jessica enjoys crafting and piano, and spending time with her friends and family. She can most often be found at her home in Maryland with a notebook, her much-loved, sometimes-neglected husband, and toddler.
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