Kathleen Gilles Seidel is amazing. Why she is not better known and more widely read is a complete mystery. Her books are masterpieces of characterization and storytelling, filled with clever observations and the flavor of real life. Till the Stars Fall is my favorite book by her yet. It showcases all of her considerable talent and makes for a truly engrossing read.
The principle players in this story are three, not two. Danny and Krissa French are siblings close in age but not in feeling. The children of a Minnesotan miner, they edge into the Ivy League through hard work and determination. Once there, Danny encounters Quinn Hunter, son of the Establishment. Seemingly the two have little in common, but soon Quinn and Danny find they have a mutual interest in music. They both want to sing. Dodd Hall, the folk rock sensation of the Seventies, is born and soon flourishes.
Krissa is essential to Dodd Hall's success as well. Both Quinn and Danny rely heavily on her - first to help them break into the music business, and then, once they've arrived, to keep them sane and communicating. The problem is, somewhere in Dodd Hall's meteoric rise to the top, Krissa begins to find her role stifling, and she opts out. Out of Dodd Hall, out of her relationship with Quinn, out of her established life. She returns to Minnesota and starts over.
Sixteen years later, as Krissa is waiting to hear the results of her brother's political hunger strike, she gets a call from Quinn who is likewise concerned about Danny. Only now all of the things that interfered with their relationship in the Dodd Hall days no longer have any relevance. Both of them, still emotionally tied to each other, wonder, "Can we make it work this time?"
This is a second chance at love story, and is extremely well done, perhaps because it's so inclusive. All three characters must push past their regrets. Danny and Quinn have very unresolved feelings for each other. Once they were closer than brothers, like two sides of the same coin. But Dodd Hall broke up badly, and they no longer communicate at all. Still the feelings, the memories, and the music are still there. Quinn and Krissa in some ways have it easier because both of them are more mature and less reactive than Danny. But Danny does manage to complicate their relationship as well: Krissa has always wondered whether, given the choice, Quinn would choose Danny over her.
Danny, Quinn, and Krissa are fully fleshed and interesting characters. Danny is the least likable. He's manipulative, blunt, and insensitive, but charismatic and compelling, nonetheless. Krissa is strong and clings to her identity and independence with everything she has. Quinn writes a series of songs, the Cinnamon songs, out of love for her, the Cinnamon Haired Girl. It is easy to see what he so admires in her. In her own quiet way, Krissa runs the show and keeps all of them on track.
As for Quinn, he's simply wonderful - the stuff of fantasy - handsome, magnetic, courtly, intelligent, sensual. He writes love poems and short stories. He plays the guitar and the piano. He's a most appealing hero. Those readers who enjoy Joan Wolf's heroes will find Quinn irresistible. He's cut from the same cloth.
The story itself is very absorbing, and the Seventies music angle is original. Seidel switches back and forth between the past and the present, paralleling scenes, revealing the smaller details of Dodd Hall's breakup a little at a time. Interspersed with the narrative are little interviews with band members, reviews of albums and concerts, and other articles about Dodd Hall. These are cleverly done and reveal a bit more about Danny, Krissa, and Quinn than pure narrative might.
Honestly, I don't have a single quibble with this book. Occasionally, Seidel's characters come off as a little cool, a little too composed and self-aware. Not here. All three characters are fully human, and this book is quite a bit more sensual than most of Seidel's other books. Quinn is most definitely not cold or remote. Sexual tension is quite high at times between Krissa and him. Once scene in particular, in which Quinn sings her a song he has written for her, fairly sizzles with sexual undercurrents.
This book has so many high points - beautiful, lyrical writing, fascinating characters, an interesting time and setting, a touching renewed romance - that it would be a shame to miss it. Kathleen Gilles Seidel is simply a gift to readers everywhere. I highly recommend her body of work in general and Till the Stars Fall specifically. If you haven't yet read her, please do. You're in for a treat.
-- Rachel Potter
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