REVIEW: Star Crossed (Fly Me to the Moon, Book 4) by Emma Barry and Genevieve Turner
Houston, Texas, 1964
Geraldine Brixton is ready to make history as the first female American astronaut. After a childhood traveling the air show circuit, she works as a pilot, so she’s more than prepared for the flying. But space demands more than operating equipment, and the last obstacle in her way is also the most serious: math.
Beverly Fox has made a career crunching the numbers that launch men into space. Numbers aren’t her problem: limits are. From the narrow expectations of her parents to discrimination at work, Bev’s life has been cut down over and over. Only in her hidden activities after dark does she feel whole.
Wanting to do her part to get a woman into space, Bev offers to help Geri conquer math. But neither anticipates her intense attraction—or that it might be shared. Together they could soar to everything they’ve ever wanted, but will their secrets bring them crashing back to Earth?
Since “Hidden Figures,” both book and movie, are all over the place now, one of the main characters in “Star Crossed” is genius. I also liked the historical tie in with the fact that several women did apply to be astronauts in the early actual programs though unfortunately in real life, none were ever given a chance. This sure is the sixties when women in the workplace were mainly secretaries and who thinks they actually need a bathroom somewhere. Space suits that fit women? Nah, they’ll get around to them – eventually. Here smart-as-a-whip Bev and can-fly-anything Geri steadfastly face the detractors at work as they slowly ease towards the HEA available for lesbians then.
Geri faces discrimination – of a sort – from the men in the ASD program for being a woman while Bev has faced it her whole life for her race and for her brilliance at math. They’re outsiders in more ways than just sexual preference. They must do twice as well to be thought half as good.
Bev lurves her some math. I’ll bet she can read an equation like I’d read a sentence in a book and “see” it in her head. Geri notices how much Bev loves math by how Bev smiles while she lightly runs her fingertip over graphed equations. Bev also thinks a state of the art slide rule – whoohoo – is the perfect gift and gets all excited showing Geri all the neato features. I’m with Geri on math. Yes, I know it’s useful – okay, necessary – but it doesn’t come easily to me and if I can avoid it, I do. Bev’s excitement when Geri figures out where she went wrong on math equation almost makes her feel dizzy.
Competition for a space flight shot is fierce for everyone but especially for the women who have to prove themselves first. So when Bev tells Geri that she needs math, I’m surprised that Geri balks. Sure I don’t enjoy math either but if someone told me that math was what was needed for me to accomplish my dream? You bet I’d try and learn it. It’s also a little weird that no one at ASD had already figured out Geri’s lack of knowledge since everyone knows that ASD is secretly gunning to get rid of the women ASAP after a brief “trial run” to show the Virgo Three can’t cut it. After Geri finally shows a bit of weakness about her lack of knowledge of math, it touches Bev. Most astronauts have a bullet proof attitude and so this show of trust on Geri’s part means a lot to Bev.
Geri’s been impressed for weeks by Bev’s math talent and now Bev gets the chance to be awed in return by Geri’s calm recitation about the “controlled crash landing” Geri made when an engine flamed out. Turn about and all that. Bev also gets to share in Geri’s satisfaction that her cocky male astronaut passenger actually thanked her for saving his life with her coolness under pressure while landing on the road. Bev think’s Geri’s satisfied preen is adorable. The scene of Geri taking Bev up flying is sweet. Geri’s seen Bev at her best by showing her math skills but now Bev gets to see Geri in her element – fearless and in control of the sky.
It’s nice to see the other astronauts’ wives again and for Geri to learn of how those women – or some of them – have championed the Virgo Three, even getting into arguments with their husbands over the program and the need for female astronauts. They’ve told their wives about Geri’s skill as a pilot even if they haven’t said anything to her. Geri is also touched that Anne-Marie Campbell’s daughter looks up to her and it’s what got her to nudge her father into giving her flying lessons. Being a role model amazes Geri.
These two skitter around each other for weeks. But at that time and with the societal restrictions and expectations – at least on Bev’s side from her parents – I can easily see why they’d hesitate to come right out and state an interest. There’s “could it be ..?”, “maybe?”, “weeeell … does she feel?”, “perhaps…”
The Silver Slipper is the place Bev treats herself to once a week so for a brief time she can experience normal: to feel like everyone else, to let herself be real and truthful. The risk and price if she’s found out are high. For Geri, with her picture on the cover of magazines as a Virgo Three astronaut, it would be an even greater fall if anyone noticed her and blabbed. The way Geri catches on that Bev is as nervous about her proposition to Geri is so telling – Bev messes up her slide rule calculation! But they face additional scrutiny beyond sexual orientation – there’s also the issue of Geri being white and Bev being African American.
I was disappointed that the race thing isn’t really ever delved into that much. What blowback would they have faced for going out and being seen then living together? There are a few things said about how Bev has to watch what area of Houston she’s in after dark and that some of the bars catered more towards one race than another but beyond that, not much. And even though California is Inclusiveness Central now, was it then?
Geri actually gets to use some of the math Bev so painstakingly taught her and see why Bev made the fuss. And yes, it probably did help Geri stay in control of her cool, ultra secret aircraft and save her life. The Air Force people respect her and her skills unlike at ASD. Geri could get to like that. She also realizes that if she had flown as an astronaut, she might have been wrapped in swaddling like the first male astronauts so that ASD couldn’t be faced with the PR debacle that would have happened had the men been allowed to continue flying and risked death. Neil Armstrong mentioned this issue after his moon landing.
Exiting Geri out of the Virgo Three program is done realistically – I love the plane she ends up flying! – and as at least a lateral move on her part. Too bad about the secrecy but she’s got at least a few of the male astronauts green with envy about her new job. By accepting it, she also gets to take charge a little, to be the one in control instead of just being moved around at the ASD’s whim.
One last thing and it’s kind of weird but I like that Bev has expanded Geri’s view of the world and what she can hope for so that even if they hadn’t got their HEA – or the camouflaged version of it they’ll have to settle for for now – Geri could hopefully have found a group of accepting friends wherever she went. Geri and Bev know they’re not going to get a public wedding and marriage and the whole 1960s shebang but they can have places where they can relax and be themselves in a way they can’t anywhere else in their lives. They can exhale and just be. They know they have to lie about themselves to the outside world but neither wants to lie to each other or in a committed relationship. There they want trust and openness and they finally manage to get just that. B