Author: Diana Biller
Narrator: Carlotta Brentan
Audiobook Length: 12 hours 38 minutes
In Diana Biller’s The Brightest Star in Paris, love is waiting; you only have to let it in.
Amelie St. James, prima ballerina of the Paris Opera Ballet and the people’s saint, has spent seven years pretending. In the devastating aftermath of the Siege of Paris, she made a decision to protect her sister: she became the bland, sweet, pious “St. Amie” the ballet needed to restore its scandalous reputation. But when her first love reappears, and the ghosts of her past come back to haunt her, all her hard-fought safety is threatened.
Dr. Benedict Moore has never forgotten the girl who helped him embrace life again after he almost lost his. Now, he’s back in Paris after twelve years for a conference. His goals are to recruit promising new scientists, and, maybe, to see Amelie again. When he discovers she’s in trouble, he’s desperate to help her—after all, he owes her.
When she finally agrees to let him help, they disguise their time together with a fake courtship. But reigniting old feelings is dangerous, especially when their lives are an ocean apart. Will they be able to make it out with their hearts intact?
The Brightest Star in Paris is listed as a standalone on Goodreads, but it actually has some crossover characters from a previous novel, The Widow of Rose House. Since I was unaware of this until after finishing the book, I can confirm, at least for me, that you do not need to read the first to understand everything in the second. The story mainly takes place in Paris with other locations mentioned, such as New York, a decade after the Franco-Prussian War. The Palais Garnier is one of the settings in the story and I loved the descriptions of the ballet there that made me feel like I was back there again. While this location is very famous for the Phantom of the Opera, it is also an amazing place to watch ballet and other shows and one I really want to visit again.
Prima ballerina, Amelie St. James, and neuroscientist, Dr. Benedict Moore, reunite after separating 12 years prior at the Palais Garnier. Amelie was a performer and Benedict was in town for a conference to recruit other scientists to join him at the new United States Institute for Brain Research. When they first met, Benedict was dealing with trauma from the American Civil War and Amelie was a great support. Now that they have reunited and Amelie is dealing with traumas of her own, it is Benedict’s turn to support her. There are both literal and figurative ghosts in this story, which I was initially not expecting as I went into this story expecting figurative ones only. Amelie gets a lot of press attention from her position as a ballerina and her reputation as a model individual, so there is added pressure from her public persona. As Benedict has some experience with ghosts because of his brother, he offers to help Amelie in any way he can.
This story is very historically rich with Amelie and Benedict’s journeys at the forefront and their second-chance romance as the backdrop. Amelie feels trapped in her position as a ballerina as she no longer finds the same joy in dancing and her hip causes her discomfort. After her mother passed away suffering during the Siege of Paris, Amelie became the guardian and sole provider of her younger sister. She feels a lot of pressure as she is very unhappy, but she does not see a way out. She was a frustrating character when it came to Benedict as she would push him away a lot instead of discussing things more with him. It was understandable how she wished to help herself, but it still was a frustrating situation to read.
Overall, this story was a very interesting read. It made me curious to read the other novel and it seems that there are more hinted at for the future involving Benedict’s family. The Moore family was a lot of fun and I enjoyed the entertainment they brought to the darker portions of the story. As they come up around the halfway point there is a shift between the darker to the light-hearted, although there is still some darkness lingering. Amelie’s healing journey and her budding relationship were all well done. I loved many things about this story and I look forward to reading more from the author in the future.