OF SUNLIGHT AND STARDUST
RILEY HART & CHRISTINA LEE
RELEASE DATE: 09.21.18
Cover Design: JAY AHEER/ Simply Defined Art
Cover Image: Strangeland Photography
After the death of his wife, Tanner Rowe takes a step toward making her dream come true and buys the house with the dilapidated barn she’d been inexplicably drawn to in the picturesque Upper Peninsula. But after a year, he still can’t get past his grief long enough to make the repairs he’d promised.
Recently out of prison, Cole Lachlan has little to his name. Homeless, broke, and without many options as a felon, Cole heads to Red Bluff with hopes of a second chance. There, he meets Tanner, whose loneliness mirrors his own and soon, Cole is trading room and board for rebuilding the burned-out barn on Tanner’s property that hasn’t been touched in seventy years.
Turns out, the barn holds a lot more secrets than either of them could have imagined. After unearthing a hidden journal from 1948, Cole and Tanner spend their evenings poring through the pages and reading about a young man pining after his best friend. As they delve deeper into this forbidden affair from the past, the more Cole and Tanner’s own relationship shifts—from acquaintance to friend…to undeniable attraction.
But as they begin to deal with the newness of falling in love amid Cole’s past and Tanner’s loss, they also become more determined to unravel the mystery of the young lovers who’ve captured their hearts, the rumors about the fire, and what really happened that fateful night.
Those thoughts made him an asshole, he was pretty sure, but they were true.
He was lonely, Christ, he was lonely. He’d almost asked Cole to share lunch with him earlier, but his phone had rung instead. He didn’t know why he kept himself from talking much with Cole. He was an interesting man, and obviously well read. He had a pride about him that Tanner respected. It intrigued him. They had common ground, so why was he resisting? Their arrangement was temporary and a working relationship. It wasn’t as if any harm could come from it. It would give him someone to talk to until Cole was on his way.
That’s the man I know, Emma’s voice whispered in his head. He was beginning to worry he was going crazy. He heard her more often than was probably healthy. Not just memories either, but moments like this one, where it was almost as if she was talking to him. Logically, he realized it was just that he knew Emma, knew what she would say and how she would feel, but it was also concerning.
Tanner continued working until he reached a good stopping point, then went downstairs.
He was craving spaghetti and meatballs, which usually wasn’t one of his favorite meals. Since he had ground beef in the fridge, he washed his hands and started dinner. He sautéed the meatballs while he got the sauce going. An hour later he had the meal ready, complete with a salad. He went to pluck a plate from the cabinet to fix some up for Cole, then paused.
What’s it going to hurt, Tan?
He closed his eyes, pursed his lips because a part of him wanted to answer Emma. It would make him feel closer to her. But he didn’t. Goddamn it. He put the plate away and made his way outside.
Cole was standing by the truck, with his shirt off. Beads of sweat rolled down his sun-kissed skin, over the tattoos on his arms. Did they mean anything? He found himself wondering. He didn’t have any himself. Wasn’t sure what he would get if he ever decided to get one.
Tanner’s eyes darted away when Cole turned around to look at him. He figured that was silly and glanced back to see Cole’s brows pulled together.
“If you’re hungry, dinner’s done.”
He saw Cole’s eyes lower to his hands since he usually carried the plate out.
“It’s hot as hell. Figured you could eat in the kitchen with me, if you’d like.”
Again, he averted his gaze, this time looking toward the barn. Did Cole not want to share a meal with him? Would he prefer to eat alone in a half-burned barn?
“You don’t have to if you don’t want, of course. I just thought—”
“No, no,” Cole interrupted. He had a slightly raspy voice that was unique to him. “It’s not that. It’d be nice to eat inside, enjoy the cool house. But I don’t want to take advantage of your hospitality.”
“You’re not,” Tanner replied. Really, what in the hell had he done for Cole? He wasn’t very hospitable at all. He was paying him for work.
“Okay,” Cole replied. “Let me get my things. And I should shower first. I’m awfully sweaty.”
Sometimes I read a book that hits me so hard emotionally that I have to take a step back for a few days afterward to regroup before I can find the words to express what I thought about it. Of Sunlight and Stardust is one of those books—I will tell you right up front that it’s going to get you in the feels when you read it, and it’s going to be a story that you’ll need a tissue box handy for while you’re reading. Even now after letting my mind settle, when I think back to certain scenes I still start to tear up and probably always will.
The main characters of Tanner and Cole are by far some of my favorite individual characters I’ve ever read, and they definitely have a place as one of my favorite couples. Both broken in their own way, both trying to rebuild their lives, and both lonely and needing someone. I was particularly drawn to Cole, and I was impressed with his need to be independent and make his own way even as I was saying to myself, “please, just let someone help”. But he desperately wants to make it on his own, to show everyone he will work for what he gets and is not there for a handout. I loved how Tanner and Cole’s relationship developed slowly, first as boss/employee, then as friends, and eventually as lovers. There is no rush to move things along, and things evolve naturally between them—something that gives Tanner time to work out his unexpected feelings when he’s never felt that way about a man before.
Intertwined with Tanner and Cole’s story is another—one that was the most responsible for smacking me in the feels, and the reason behind my need for the tissue box. I thought the weaving of the two stories together resulted in a unique tale, and one that was incredibly emotional and powerful. I want to tell you so much about it, but to do so would turn my entire review into a spoiler. What you need to know? You MUST get this book—if you are a fan of M/M romance I can guarantee you will love this story. Be prepared for a LOT of emotion, especially with the interwoven storyline, and don’t be surprised if you have to go searching for your heart later because the authors will have torn it right out of your chest. T+C means so much more than you think, and by the end you may even feel some chills once you realize it all.
5 stars could never be enough for Of Sunlight and Stardust, and this story has seized one of the highest spots on my Top Recommendations list. Just know I’m sitting here biting my tongue (or physically restraining my fingers on the keyboard, however you want to look at it) to keep from blurting out more…because there’s so much I could say, but you really need to read it for yourself, then you’ll see what I mean. Thank you Riley Hart and Christina Lee for this stunning story.
This book is meant for readers 18+ for adult language and sexual content.
Riley Hart is the girl who wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s a hopeless romantic, a lover of sexy stories, passionate men, and writing about all the trouble they can get into together.
She loves reading, flawed characters, and hanging out with her husband and children, who she adores. She and her family live in Southern California, soaking up the sunshine while also missing seasons. Not a day goes by that she isn’t thankful she gets to wake up and do what she loves.
Life is good. Riley also writes young adult and new adult under the name Nyrae Dawn.
Once upon a time, I lived in New York City and was a wardrobe stylist. I spent my days shopping for photo shoots, getting into cabs, eating amazing food, and drinking coffee at my favorite hangouts.
Now I live in the Midwest with my husband and son—my two favorite guys. I've been a clinical social worker and a special education teacher. But it wasn't until I wrote a weekly column for the local newspaper that I realized I could turn the fairytales inside my head into the reality of writing fiction.
I write Adult, New Adult, and M/M Contemporary Romance. I'm addicted to lip gloss and salted caramel everything. I believes in true love and kissing, so writing romance novels has become a dream job.