Book Review

ARC Book Review: Stars and Smoke (Stars and Smoke #1) by Marie Lu

Rating: ★★★★
Audience: YA Contemporary Romantic Suspense
Length: 336 pages
Author: Marie Lu
Publisher: Roaring Books Press
Release Date: March 28th, 2023
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads


Meet Winter Young—rookie backup dancer turned global pop phenomenon. His star power has smashed records, selling out stadiums from LA to London. Now he’s bringing his swoon worthy assets to a whole new arena…

Infamous criminal tycoon Eli Morrison has just one weakness—his daughter, Penelope. And Penelope has just one wish for her nineteenth birthday—a private concert with Winter Young. When covert ops organization The Panacea Group approaches Winter with this once-in-a-lifetime chance to infiltrate Morrison’s inner circle, Winter must use his fame, cunning, and charisma to pull it off—only he won’t be on his own.

Posing as Winter’s bodyguard is the fiery Sydney Cossette, Panacea’s youngest spy. Sydney may be the only person alive impervious to Winter’s charms, but as the mission brings them closer, she’s forced to admit there’s more to this A-lister than slick dance moves and a handsome face. Panacea’s unlikeliest partners just might become its biggest heroes—and maybe even more—if they can survive each other first.

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for an eARC.


This wasn’t quite what I was expecting. The Hating Game tagline felt like a misnomer (so if someone can point out where that was, please let me know). But the Mission Impossible vibes were there at least! I like this trend of a more romantic comedy + suspense. It’s a mood I am here for.

There wasn’t as much romance as I was hoping for. Though the second half did a better job of adding to those elements. I would have loved to have seen them be able to connect more and not just about the job they were on. I liked both Sydney and Winter as standalone characters. There were some flashbacks that helped flesh out their personalities and I think there’s going to be some great development in book two for both of them.

The antagonist was painfully obvious so don’t expect to be surprised by necessarily that piece. Action wise, I definitely enjoyed those scenes. High intensity, not quite sure what was going to happen. Waiting for the next page kind of on edge.

I do have plans to read the next book and I’m curious to see what the next adventure will bring!

Overall audience notes:

  • YA Contemporary Romantic Suspense
  • Language: very little
  • Romance: make-outs
  • Violence: med-high
  • Trigger/Content Warnings: near death experiences, gun violence, kidnapping, poisoning, loss of a parent

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