PUBLICATION DATE: JULY 17, 2012
n the midst of the FBI’s internal investigation into her past actions, Raleigh Harmon is assigned an undercover case. She is to impersonate Raleigh David, the niece of wealthy race horse owner, Eleanor Anderson. Under the pretense of learning the intimate details of the horse racing industry in order to eventually take over her aunt’s operation, Raleigh is plunged into the world of high stakes thoroughbred racing. However, her real task is to investigate a mysterious trend at the track—horses that win suddenly become ill causing long-shots to become winners. As the racing season winds down, the clock is ticking for Raleigh. For not only does the fate of the horses and their owners rely on this case, but so does Raleigh’s career with the FBI.
To add to the turmoil and pressure in Raleigh’s life, her mentally ill mom is refusing to see her and as an undercover agent, she’s not able to visit the only remaining family in the area. Additionally her fiancé, Demott pays her a visit and their strained relationship continues to frustrate both of them. But even as her life slowly crumbles around her and the loneliness of being without family engulfs her, Raleigh searches for truth while holding to the one constant she knows to be true. In an emotional and intense novel, The Stars Shine Bright is a beautiful story full of wonderful spiritual themes and insightful encouragement for all readers.
About ¾ through this book I came to a sudden realization that this might be the end of the Raleigh Harmon series. I don’t know why, but I have this idea that there will always be another book in the series. I know that’s a silly thought, but I look so forward to the next book each year, I think I’d be lost if this series does eventually end. Thankfully, there are more books planned. YAY!
As with all the books in this series, The Stars Shine Bright contains an excellent mystery for Raleigh to unravel. In this case Raleigh working as an undercover agent places her in a dangerous situation while forcing her to deal with the unhealthy issue she has with lying. Not only is she a terrible liar to begin with, her little white lies have escalated and have now reached a point to where she seeks the truth. This dichotomy is one of the book’s many strengths. Raleigh’s stretching the truth has caused her personal life to collapse, yet she must lie to keep her cover and hopefully salvage her job. Additionally, as an FBI agent, she’s searching for truth, but through living a lie.
Raleigh is easily one of my favorite fictional characters. I love her internal sarcastic dialog and her all too familiar tendencies to make a poor choice then ask God to rescue her from that choice. And even though, she has been through a lot in this series, Raleigh still clings to her faith in God. I think most people can completely identify with some part of her character, whether it’s the white lies or her judgmental tendencies or even her desperate prayers to be rescued from the repercussions of her own actions. Because most readers have been there, it’s easy to feel Raleigh’s personal conflicts and spiritual battles.
Probably the only flaw in this book is the premise for the undercover operation. I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about the horse racing industry and found this part of the story very fascinating. However, I couldn’t completely accept that given the situation, the FBI would not launch their own investigation or that the investigation would be paid for by one of the horse owners. Maybe, but I would think it could cause a conflict of interest for someone directly involved to be funding the operation.
While the horse racing element in this story is quite intriguing (and I wasn’t able to untangle it on my own) my favorite part of this book is the spiritual themes. With grace and elegance Sibella once again beautifully incorporates God’s truth throughout this story. Whether it’s issues with science or the heart, Sibella expertly guides the reader through the ideas she’d like for them to pick up on without sacrificing the story. It’s one of her many writing talents I’ve come to appreciate.
As with the previous books in this series, the title ties in perfectly and while I’d love to share that now, it’s much better discovered during the course of reading. Let’s just say that the title fits not only to this story and Raleigh’s life, but the reader’s as well.
This has not been an easy review to write since what I’d really like to do is slip into excited school girl mode and talk about all the incredible, awesome parts of this book. But to do so would totally ruin it. Instead, I’ll just say this is a fantastic series. I love it and cannot praise it enough. Each book is easy to read and Raleigh is simply amazing to follow. Even though The Stars Shine Bright closes one chapter in Raleigh’s life, fortunately there is more to come. I can’t wait to see what happens next!