Noel Hutchins was happy enough to leave his tiny hometown in Georgia for the big city. It was a chance to make a life for himself, even if he was sad to leave his father and the beloved family bookstore, the Stardust. But when Noel’s father dies suddenly, Noel must return home and deal with his father’s affairs while struggling with own grief. Noel discovers that his father’s business is in trouble and the idea of losing the Stardust is something he can’t imagine.
As Noel tries to save the Stardust, he meets Kyle St. James. Kyle is kind and hard working, but his life in a religious cult has left him running from the past and adapting to the outside world. There’s definitely a connection between Noel and Kyle, but they’ll have to deal with dangerous cult members, a crooked bank manager, and a helpful ghost in order to find a happily ever after.
A Pocketful of Stardust was something of a mixed bag. It’s at times charming and sweet and feels like it has a defined and rooted plot. At other times, the pacing meanders and the characters don’t always connect as well as they should. Let’s start with the positives. The plot, while not original, is a warming one. The idea of coming home and finding renewed purpose in the wake of tragedy is a theme I enjoy and I found it relatable. Noel’s grief regarding his father and his sense of being overwhelmed by everything concerning the Stardust feels realistic and believable. His character is pragmatic, but he reads as decently developed. Kyle seems almost immature at times. Some of that could be put down to his twisted upbringing, but he’s been away from the cult since he was 15. So some of his backward awkwardness doesn’t feel very believable. He doesn’t have any of Noel’s definition and he isn’t terribly personable. I just found his character hard to connect with.
A Pocketful of Stardust has a resident ghost, Henry, who serves as something of an intermediary between Noah and the past. Sorta. But honestly, it was hard to understand why Henry was all that necessary to the story. He didn’t detract from it, but he didn’t add much either. He seemed like he was just there as a set piece. There were also no rules to his existence. He wants to see his family again, which is understandable, but it’s never clear why he’s remained in this realm so long or why he can appear to some and not others. It was all a bit too nebulous. There are also some pacing issues here. The entire story does have a slower feel, but there are moments when it almost drags to a halt. I think part of this stems from too many plot threads that required wrangling, especially towards the end. Things either felt rushed or so drawn out that it became pedantic.
On the whole, A Pocketful of Stardust was a warm and fuzzy and if that’s what you’re looking for, you aren’t going to be disappointed. I was a bit disillusioned with one of the main characters and struggled to fully engage with the book. That said, there’s a lot to like here and I think most readers will enjoy the quiet little town of Aster and what it has to offer.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.