Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Review: Lighting the Stars by Gabriele Wills

I am once again at my family's cottage on an island in northern Michigan, the perfect place to immerse myself in Gabriele Wills' latest installment of her Muskoka Novels, Lighting the Stars. This is Book 4 and it focuses on the younger generation of Wyndhams, Thorntons, and friends as Canada enters WWII. This novel is every bit as epic and engrossing as the previous books and although it again plunges the extended members of the families into the chaos and the worry, the heartache and the fear, the desperation and the grief of war, it also showcases love and friendship, loyalty and forgiveness, action and adventure. In some ways it is a mirror of the previous books but with different characters who react in their own ways to similar situations. It is the same story of war told in its own unique way, just as every instance and every feeling is as old as time and brand new all at once.

Merilee Sutcliffe, a budding photographer, lives at Muskoka year round, surrounded by the love, belonging, and yes, the wealth, of the rest of her family during the summers. Her best friend Peggy, an accomplished pianist, is still working to overcome the lingering effects of polio. And the cousin of Merilee's heart, Elyse, who might once have made it as an actress in Hollywood, has instead decided that she is enlisting in the ATA so she can ferry planes in England. WWII upends each of their lives in expected and unexpected ways as they watch their family and friends go off to war, as the old Sanitarium between Merilee and Peggy's houses is turned into a German POW camp, as their hearts are captured, and as they themselves contribute to the war effort and face all of the anguish and desperate hope that war brings with it. Through it all, the love of Muskoka, the peace and the memories, sustain them.

Wills invites readers to reconnect with beloved characters from the previous books but deftly shifts the focus to the next generation. This generation is as well fleshed out as the previous one with characters the reader enjoys spending time with and new characters they are eager to meet. The older generation lived through the heartache of WWI and now it is the turn of their children to face the loss and horror of war themselves. The stories this time are different but no less engaging as Merilee, Elyse, and Peggy face the personal and emotional cost of war. There are echoes of the previous books but Wills does a good job making it possible to read this as a standalone although it is likely better read in order with the others to really sink into the story and these families. The Muskoka setting is once again beautifully evoked, as is the way that the newly established German POW camp both alters the peace of the area and brings a tangible reminder of the war right onto the home front's doorstep. England under siege is also well drawn, the bombing, the randomness, the quotidian. The social class issues from the previous books continue to subtly carry through this one as do the sometimes strained and complicated family relationships. The main characters are charmingly engaging and the reader experiences their feelings right along with them, hoping that they will come out of their experiences unscathed but knowing that is impossible. Following this latest chapter in the Muskoka chronicles is as enchanting as it was in the previous books. It is a joy to be completely immersed in this bold family saga once again.

You can see what I thought of the the first book, The Summer Before the Storm, or the second book, Elusive Dawn, as well.

Have I enticed you enough to want to read this yourself? You're in luck. There's a Rafflecopter giveaway and three lucky winners will get copies of the book. Even if you don't win, do get yourself the series though! a Rafflecopter giveaway

For more information about Gabriele Wills and the book, check our her author site, like her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, look at the book's Goodreads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Teddy Rose from Premier Virtual Tours and the author for sending me a copy of this book to review.


  1. I'm delighted that you enjoyed the novel, Kristen, and also to connect with you again! On your island in northern Michigan, you must feel kinship with Muskoka. Thank you for your thoughtful and generous comments!

  2. I am so glad you enjoyed 'Lighting the Stars' and the rest of the series. This is my favorite series of all time!


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