Stars and Smoke by Marie Lu _ Book Review

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This smoldering enemies-to-lovers novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu puts a superstar global phenomenon and a hotshot young spy on a collision course with danger – and Cupid’s arrow – in an electric new series perfect for fans of Nicola Yoon and Ally Carter.

Meet Winter Young – International pop sensation, with a voice like velvet and looks that could kill. His star power has smashed records, selling out stadiums from LA to London. His rabid fans would move heaven and earth for even a glimpse of him – just imagine what they’d do to become his latest fling.

Meet Sydney Cossette – Part of an elite covert ops group, Sydney joined their ranks as their youngest spy with plans to become the best agent they’ve ever had. An ice queen with moves as dangerous as her comebacks, Sydney picks up languages just as quickly as she breaks hearts. She’s fiery, no-nonsense, and has zero time for romance – especially with a shameless flirt more used to serving sass than taking orders.

When a major crime boss gifts his daughter a private concert with Winter for her birthday, Sydney and Winter’s lives suddenly collide. Tasked with infiltrating the crime organization’s inner circle, Sydney is assigned as Winter’s bodyguard with Winter tapped to join her on the mission of a lifetime as a new spy recruit. Sydney may be the only person alive impervious to Winter’s charms, but as their mission brings them closer, she’s forced to admit that there’s more to Winter Young than just a handsome face . . .

Romance and danger abound in this “brilliant, breathtaking ride that will leave you clamoring for the sequel.” —Tahereh Mafi, #1 internationally bestselling author of Shatter Me .

[I received a digital arc for an honest review]

Marie Lu has been one of my favorite authors since I first discovered her back in 2013. While I’ve enjoyed all her releases, this is the first one that I loved as much as the Legend series. I went into Stars and Smoke knowing it was a pop star turned spy with a dash of bodyguard romance thrown in. That’s what I was given and more, which I expect from the talented Marie Lu.

Winter, a gorgeous pop star, is the perfect person to help a secret agency take down a crime boss for the government since the man’s daughter is Winter’s number one fan. Agent Sydney is quickly making her way up the ranks of the Panacea Group, and the next assignment would get her a promotion. Even though she is less than thrilled to be paired with Winter, she’s determined to complete the mission. When the mission goes sideways , they find themselves targets and their hearts getting attached is the least of their worries.

What kind of future could he have with a girl like Sydney, anyway? This mission was simply a chance collision of their two worlds.

I loved both the main characters. Pop star Winter is beautiful and talented, yet he hasn’t let stardom give him a big head. His family situation hurt my heart, but I loved that he had such a close relationship with his team. Also, I was here for the queerness he added to the story He’s bisexual, and it isn’t a throw away comment but elaborated and validated by his past relationship that he’s still close to. Then we have Sydney, who is constantly motivated by her past. She’s not a warm character but she does thaw around Winter as the feelings between them grow. Their relationship is a slow burn with a touch of steam, with plenty of bickering/bantering along the way.

He gave her a wry smile. “A little like the sun and the moon, aren’t we? Never in the sky at the same time.”
“Technically, the moon can sometimes be seen, during the day so that not entirely true.”
His smile turned withering. “I’m trying to be romantic, and you’re the worst.”

The story line itself had me engaged from beginning to end. It alternates between Winter and Sydney’s POVs and a few mission logs between Sydney’s handlers. It was full of twists and turns that I hadn’t seen coming. Stars and Smoke by Marie Lu is a fantastic story with diverse characters, bi rep, MCs with personal childhood traumas, a pop star and a spy, Necco wafers high-tech gadgets, danger, an unexpected connection and a mission completed. I can’t wait for the next book.

—Written by Amanda—

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