Series: Well Met #1
Published by Berkley on Sept. 3, 2019
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Format: Kindle or ebook
Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Bookshop | Barnes & Noble | Audible
Add to Goodreads
All's faire in love and war for two sworn enemies who indulge in a harmless flirtation in a laugh-out-loud rom-com from debut author, Jen DeLuca.
Emily knew there would be strings attached when she relocated to the small town of Willow Creek, Maryland, for the summer to help her sister recover from an accident, but who could anticipate getting roped into volunteering for the local Renaissance Faire alongside her teenaged niece? Or that the irritating and inscrutable schoolteacher in charge of the volunteers would be so annoying that she finds it impossible to stop thinking about him?
The faire is Simon's family legacy and from the start he makes clear he doesn't have time for Emily's lighthearted approach to life, her oddball Shakespeare conspiracy theories, or her endless suggestions for new acts to shake things up. Yet on the faire grounds he becomes a different person, flirting freely with Emily when she's in her revealing wench's costume. But is this attraction real, or just part of the characters they're portraying?
This summer was only ever supposed to be a pit stop on the way to somewhere else for Emily, but soon she can't seem to shake the fantasy of establishing something more with Simon, or a permanent home of her own in Willow Creek.
A charming, delightful romance
A charming, delightful romance set in and around a small Renaissance Faire, Well Met was a welcome, summery treat in the middle of January. I loved Emily, whose first-person narration gives the book its tone and perspective. On the heels of a breakup that left her questioning her own worth, Emily left her jobs in the city to take care of her sister and niece as April (a single mom) recovers from a devastating car accident. April’s small town hosts an annual RenFaire, and Caitlin, Emily’s teenage niece, wants to volunteer, but she can’t do so without an adult guardian. So Emily finds herself drafted into playing one of the two “tavern wenches” for the duration of the Faire. Too bad the Faire’s organizer, high-school English teacher Simon Graham, has taken such a dislike to her. Although his piratical alter-ego certainly seems to like her, flirting with “Emma,” her tavern-wench persona, at every opportunity. It promises to be an interesting summer.
Jen DeLuca deftly juggles summer fun, humor, and real emotion, and she gets the balance between her main characters’ antagonism and their undeniable attraction just right. Enemies-to-lovers isn’t usually one of my favorite tropes, but it works really well here, in part because Simon and Emily are never really enemies. Simon appears to disapprove of Emily, which makes her bristle and judge him right back. But there are moments of sympathy and understanding between them, even relatively early on, that offer strong hints that they are misjudging one another and could easily become friends if they took the time to get to know each other a little better.
Because we’re always in Emily’s head, never in Simon’s, we see the whole relationship from her perspective. That can be limiting in a romance, but DeLuca does an excellent job of letting the reader know there’s more going on in Simon’s emotional life than Emily initially recognizes. And their physical attraction is written perfectly, particularly the swoon-worthy kissing scenes (omg, that sonnet scene!) I also appreciate that Emily’s emotional arc isn’t centered solely around her relationship with Simon; it’s also about her own self-worth, her relationships in general and with her sister in particular, and discovering what she wants to do with her life. Her growth comes, and needs to come, on all those fronts.
If I have any complaints about Well Met, it’s that the setting is so generic. I don’t mean the RenFaire; it’s clear that DeLuca has some background there, and she really makes it come alive. Likewise, I suspect she has some theater background, because she absolutely nails the feeling of freedom that can come with playing someone different from your everyday self. But her fictional small Maryland town is so bland and generic, it could be almost anywhere. (Well, anywhere that has woods nearby; it’s clearly not southern Arizona.) I lived in Maryland for a lot of my childhood, much of that near a small town; I grew up playing in the woods. None of DeLuca’s vague descriptions said “Maryland” to me. Take the Faire woods, for instance. There’s very little description of them: no mention of what kind of trees there are or how tall, nor of the understory plants, and these woods are apparently devoid of both scents and sounds. And although DeLuca mentions the heat occasionally, and how dirty the Faire volunteers get, she mostly leaves out the summer humidity that can make the air feel like thick soup and leaves you feeling hot, sweaty, and ennervated. (Also, it never rains on Faire weekends, which is wildly unlikely.)
But that’s a minor quibble in a book that is otherwise a delightful, summery concoction of love, friendship, and finding your place. I loved it, and can’t wait to read the other books in the series.
Read for COYER book club. This book also qualifies for the following challenges: #23in2023; The Backlist Reader Challenge; and COYER Upside Down Ch. 1.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- COYER Upside-Down 2023: Chapter 1
- The Backlist Reader Challenge 2023
I enjoyed this as it was a different sort of thing in a contemporary but creative environment. I let go of the unrealistic bits which I can’t always do. I did appreciate the character’s emotional growth. Great review!
Anne+-+Books+of+My+Heart recently posted…🎧 The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix @garthnix @marisacalin @LLAudiobooks #LoveAudiobooks @SnyderBridge4
Nicole @ BookWyrm Knits
I really want to start this series! Though frankly, it sounds like the Ren Faire was the real setting, so the state the Faire was in didn’t need to be mentioned at all. Ah well, probably a minor thing compared with the fun parts of the book.
Nicole @ BookWyrm Knits recently posted…Linkity for Valentine’s Month
It was minor, and honestly, I probably wouldn’t have noticed if I wasn’t so familiar with Maryland woods in the summer! Other than that, I really loved the book.
You’re right about the town in Maryland being very generic. I’ve read the entire series and didn’t remember it was set in Maryland. Nice review!
Wendy recently posted…Book Review: Cheddar Late Than Dead by Linda Reilly
I loved this book. Emily and Simon made for such a cute couple, and the whole RenFaire aspect of it was so much fun. 😀 The other books in this series are good, too. I just finished reading the 4th one, Well Traveled, and I loved it as much as this one. 😀
Lark recently posted…The Cat Who Saved Books by Sosuke Natsukawa