This is a retelling of Persuasion set in space with a dash of The Bachelor. People from Earth now fly around in spaceships, and those of the nobility have especially luxurious ones. Leonie, aboard The Scandinavian, is such a one, only her family is on the verge of becoming impoverished and she is going to have to take part in the extravagant match-making ceremony called the Valg, along with her sister and cousin, to help save the family fortune.
Leo is therefore shocked and horrified when her childhood friend and ex-fiance, Elliot, arrives for the proceedings. When he left her, angry and heartbroken, he was still considered "the help." Now he is the captain of a ship that manufactures whiskey and considered quite the eligible bachelor. She watches him flirt with all the other women in front of her, still wanting him and wishing she didn't, all the while trying to broker a deal for a new water filtration system that will save her family without her needing to marry, while also trying to investigate some mysterious goings-on aboard the ship that hint at treachery and, maybe, murder.
I enjoyed this book a lot for many reasons. First, as a science-fiction book, it's pretty light, so don't pick this up expecting hardcore space opera. The Bachelor in Space is a pretty apt description for this book. It isn't quite THE SELECTION (thank God), but nor is it Star Trek. I actually enjoyed the drama, and the artfully done will they?/won't they? between Elliot and Leo just about killed me.
Leo is a pretty great protagonist. I liked the fact that she was tall (5'11"!) and curvy. I thought it was cool that she was an inventor and a significant portion of the plot is about her filtration design. She also has a pretty healthy relationship towards other women. Even though she has a lot of jealousy towards her cousin and sister, it doesn't dissolve into a mess of girl-on-girl hate or shaming.
Regarding things that this book could have done better-- well, it was pretty fluffy, and I think it would have been nice to have more action beneath all the hearts, flowers, and trimmings. I also thought the LGBT+ rep was a bit clumsily done. There's an introduction of an ace character towards the end who basically serves as the foil for someone else's romantic relationship, and about 60% of the dialogue of the one lesbian character is her reminding all the characters that she's a lesbian and oh, by the way, are there any available girls around? It felt like her sexuality was a stand-in for her personality, which made me kind of sad, even though her character improved a little bit in the last quarter of the book.
Overall, though, I did like THE STARS WE STEAL a lot. It was a fun read and I enjoyed it.
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!
3.5 out of 5 stars