Penelope “Poppy” Hammond flees her high society wedding with the aid of a charming curate calling himself Sebastian Cantrip and persuades him to drive her to the little village in Devon where her estranged father lives. Poppy’s mother, wealthy American stepfather and a large amount of the wedding guests, including Poppy’s jilted fiancee follow, up in arms about the scandal she’s caused. Poppy’s mind is not to be changed, however, she knows she and Gerald are a poor match and that life as a future Viscountess is going to bore her socks off.
Poppy’s father, the eccentric painter Plum March, allows her to stay with him in his cottage until she makes up her mind about what she wants for her future. After about a month of cooling her heels and pondering her future, Poppy ventures back into London to thank the kind Mr. Cantrip, and discovers that he has disappeared without a trace. She’s worried he is in danger, and determines to find him and aid him. Accompanied by her formidable ladies’ maid, Masterman, Poppy is able to secure a position as secretary to an old colonel travelling to Damascus, where she’s pretty sure Sebastian has gone. Once they get there, it is clear that Sebastian (whose name isn’t Cantrip at all) is absolutely involved in some dangerous activities, and before Poppy knows it, she’s fleeing ruthless, hunting an ancient treasure in the desert and feeling more alive than she ever dreamed.
Night of a Thousand Stars is set in the 1920s and is very loosely connected to Deanna Raybourn’s Lady Julia Grey books. Poppy is the daughter of Eglamour “Plum” March, one of Julia’s brothers (who appears as a supporting character in at least one of her novels. As a long time reader of those books, I found it a very amusing conceit that the Victorian mysteries actually appear here as Lady Julia’s journals, which Poppy read over the course of the novel. It was fun to discover a little bit about what happens to Julia and Brisbane after the end of their own series, and delightful to see what the new generations of Marches are getting up to.