Love is in the air (quite literally), as Jane Austen’s classic romance Persuasion takes to the stars in Alexa Donne’s sci-fi, YA retelling The Stars We Steal, a story of exes, marriages of convenience, and destitute royalty in which vibrant, lovable characters compete in a The Bachelor inspired competition.
Being an avid Jane Austen and sci-fi fan, I was immediately hooked when I read this book’s premise. And to my delight, it delivered everything I wanted: Austenian romance plots and a ridiculously cool fleet of spaceships based on real world countries, all topped off with a soapy, teenage marriage competition!
The story follows Princess Leonie “Leo” Kolburg, the heiress to a dilapidated, German spaceship. In order to keep her family from falling into depravity, Leo enters the “Valg Season,” a dating competition designed for all eligible bachelors and bachelorettes of the elite to form alliances through marriage. However, her plan to rescue her family is completely thrown off course when her secret ex-fiancé appears as one of the hottest, eligible bachelors available this season. This bitter, newly wealthy Elliot comes with one purpose in mind—make Leo’s life miserable. He was the one who got away, a poor servant boy not worthy of her royal title according to her family, and so Leo struggles with feelings of regret and a resurfacing attraction for her first love.
I love Leo. She is a self-motivated, relatable, smart, confident, coffee-addicted woman with curves (and she’s not afraid to flaunt them). It was refreshing to see a protagonist who was not just a boy crazed girl, but a young woman who could function like a normal human being without her man. Her plan A to save her family is to get a patent for a water filtration system she designed, and that is a major plot point we get to see her fight for. Of course, there is plenty of drama Leo manages to get involved in with her younger sister and cousin vying for her ex-fiancé, who she still very much still has feelings for, but I didn’t find it eye-rolling. Leo acts mature about her relationship with Elliot and stays above petty cat fights (even if she’s dying inside). Also, her relationship with her younger sister Carina is precious. As an older sister myself, I love getting to see a healthy, supportive sister relationship.
This story is not without flaws however. I do wish that Elliot and the other bachelors received a little more character development. They are interesting, and I want to know them better. I honestly wish there was a prequel for this story. I want to know what Elliot and Leo’s secret relationship and engagement was like. Also, the ending felt very rushed. In the final third of the book, a certain character, who I won’t reveal for the sake of spoilers, is finally developed and revealed to be a precious human being, but is quickly tossed aside at the end. This character deserved better.
Nevertheless, The Stars We Steal is a romantic, soapy treat, and a perfect read for Valentine’s Day, or really anytime you need a romantic, sci-fi fix.