While not officially lady of the manor at Crosby Hall, Natalie Whittaker has been acting as such since her father’s death. The real master of the house, her half-brother Hector, has been residing in London with Natalie’s stepmother. Now with his recent marriage and the impending birth of his first child, Hector has claimed Crosby Hall, establishing his wife as the new mistress, and replacing all the servants, with the exception of their old Nurse, Mrs. Bigalow. Natalie chafes at the control Hector tries to exert over her. After a fight over Natalie’s rose bushes which had been moved on Hector’s orders, she sets off across the fields toward the village. There Natalie meets Sarah Chase playing in front of the inn and joins her in her imaginary games. When Sarah’s governess, Mrs. Thorpe, catches them and scolds Sarah, Natalie follows them inside the inn to plead the child’s case with her parents.
Widower Lord Malcolm Chase is unhappy with Mrs. Thorpe’s treatment of his daughter and notices the attraction between Natalie and Sarah. He immediately offers Natalie a job as governess to Sarah which she accepts as a means of leaving Crosby Hall and hurries home to pack for her new home–next door. Lord Chase and Sarah had only been staying at the inn until their home was readied by his staff. Hector forbids Natalie to take the job as it would be unseemly for her to live in a bachelor’s home and would reflect badly on Hector. Nurse Bigalow suggests a compromise arrangement and Natalie is able to honor her commitment to Lord Chase without moving into his home.
As Natalie teaches Sarah each day, she and Malcolm become fast friends with more than a little romantic interest on both parts. Malcolm offers a marriage of convenience, but Natalie will only marry for love. Natalie’s love for Sarah keeps her there, even when she tries to break away from Malcolm himself. Hector issues threats which cause everyone’s circumstances to change, and Derek, Natalie’s brother, introduces a surprise that causes upheaval at Crosby Hall.
Regency author Diane Farr writes wonderful dialogue, full of emotion and laced with humor, to bring her characters to life. Under the Wishing Star moves quickly without diluting the storyline. Secondary characters, while important to the plot, stay in the background, with Natalie and Malcolm front and center. Look for brother Derek’s story in Ms. Farr’s Under a Lucky Star in April 2004.