She Fell Secretly in Love with Her Character

laredo
Stars in Your Eyes takes place in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico

He admires her bravery.

“What is this? A movie company on location?”

She trusts him on sight and admires his quick thinking.

He bent as if to kiss her, whispered:–“Name’s Drex. Danger.”

Before Kay Chesney and Drex Hamilton leave the seedy, border-town bar and cross the International Bridge into Mexico, they are forced into marriage by an even seedier Justice of the Peace. Kay learns that Drex is her brother’s best friend and will forfeit a large inheritance, if the marriage is discovered. The stage is set for a romantic comedy in which the characters willfully misunderstand each other and work at cross-purposes–except they don’t.

drex-hamilton
A man who would get things done

When next they meet, Kay and Drex are attracted and appreciative. (I hadn’t noticed this before, but the original cover illustration of Drex looks an awful lot like Emilie’s grandson Selden. I wonder if his father was the model.)

She had forgotten he was so tall; hadn’t realized he was so darkly handsome…His hair was black, as was his slight mustache. His features were clear cut. his skin was a rich bronze… his eyes… a clear, dark blue… Well-knit compact body. Lean hips and waist. A man who would get things done.

… “If I’m a judge of the female of the species, and I am, your sister will be the toast of the town’s caballeros.” He grinned boyishly. “You’ll have to agree that I’m off to a flying start with the lady, Consul.”

As always, humor holds things together.

“I was deciding it was a crime that your lashes are wasted on a man. Think what devastation a girl could do with them. Do you curl the tips with an iron?”

If she lived to be a hundred never would she forget his laugh. For her that horrible night it had held gaiety and tenderness and invincibility.

stars-in-your-eyes-wpr
“For a gal who laid a thug out cold you’re showing signs of panic.”

But what makes Kay fall in love with Drex–what made Emilie Loring fall “desperately, secretly in love” with him, too–is their even partnership.  “He shares 50-50 with Kay in her great adventure.”

After all, if he didn’t take the mix-up seriously, why should she? “If keeping afloat means pulling together, I’m right beside you, Skipper.”

Her friendly eyes reflected the laughter in his.

That’s important for a girl who takes off to Mexico in defiance of well-meaning friends and family.

Kay herself had decided that she would build her life on independence and that she wouldn’t yell to a man for help each time she came up against trouble.

She has a college education and a year of Defense training. She can also tear down and reassemble any sort of car motor as easily as she can take dictation.  Besides,

Suppose she did get into a jam, hadn’t she brains enough to get herself out of it?

As the U.S. Consul in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, Kay’s brother must counter German propaganda to convince Mexico that the United States is a friendly  neighbor. Stars in Your Eyes was published on October 22, 1941, forty-six days before the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

moon
“A bombing moon”

“Aren’t we all tense, Hugh, when we realize the shattering realities in the world with which we have to reckon? ”

“The heavens seem so near here in Mexico. Tragic that we can’t see a gorgeous moon like that without the chilling thought ‘a bombing moon.'”

Stars have the happier symbolism in this story.

stars-in-your-eyes
Thank heaven for the stars. They looked friendly.

He didn’t speak again until they were back on the glistening paved highway, under a field of stars which seemed so near that one had but to reach out to pluck a bouquet of them.

“Do you believe that the stars are hung up there that you and I and millions like us may chart our lives by their wheeling and swinging in space?”

“Not quite that, though I think they have an influence.”

plumed-serpent
The Plumed Serpent’s heart of peace became the evening star.

Kay learns the story of the Plumed Serpent (Quetzalcoatl) of Mexico, in which stars symbolize peace and the vigilance required to protect it. The Plumed Serpent was “a wise king, a lover of peace, honored by his people. He knew about the stars and how they moved in heaven.” Shamed and dishonored by Smoking Mirror, “who loved war and violence,” the Plumed Serpent threw himself into the flames, and his heart rose to become the evening star.

The book’s title comes from Drex:

“Stars in your eyes, sister.”

“What does that mean? You’ve said it before.”

“When at Casa Fresco you looked up at me, I thought, ‘An unconquerable soul. One with such stars of valor in her eyes will refuse to accept defeat. She has a winner’s heart.'”

suit-of-armorPeace. Valor. Invincibility. Stars in Your Eyes–an uplifting thought in uncertain times.

I had a lot of fun re-reading Stars in Your Eyes this time. I lingered over Emilie’s descriptions of the hacienda and its gardens, and, having gone to school in Texas, I smiled at her description of the state: “miles and miles of oil wells looking as if an epidemic of Eiffel Towers had broken out.”  I skipped quickly over the bull fighting scene–Kay and I are in agreement on that–and squared that with extra readings of the humorous and romantic scenes.

I also concluded that Emilie must have worn satin pajamas, since all of her women wear them–especially while standing on their balconies, observing fragrant gardens and swimming pools below. I imagined Kay slipping into the back of the suit of armor to hide and wondered if Emilie had experimented with the real suit of armor her sons owned. (Note to self: set aside a black swimsuit, flashlight, and pearls for midnight sleuthing.)

She started to unclasp the pearls. No. The feel of them about her throat gave her courage. She pulled on a black swim suit. Tossed away the skirt. No room for that within the armor… She tucked a tiny electric torch deep into the V of the bodice…

“For the love of Pete! Are you nake–haven’t you got anything on?”

“Yes and no,” she whispered back and in spite of, perhaps because of, emotional tension had all she could do to swallow a hysterical giggle.

No wonder Stars in Your Eyes is an oft-cited favorite. Keep it handy. Next up is a worthy rival: a trip to North Carolina and Rainbow at Dusk.

 

 

 


3 thoughts on “She Fell Secretly in Love with Her Character

  1. I just read Stars in Your Eyes this fall. Your post brought it all back vividly! It is a very colorful book; color characters, color villains, colorful settings. Emilie out did herself with all the descriptions. I can certainly see how she could fall for Drex, he is a very dashing fellow!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Emilie sure loved color! I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this re-read. I’d always liked this one, but it moved higher in my estimation after noticing how much she put in it–settings, plot twists, humor, romance, a little relationship modeling 🙂 .

      Like

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