A Contemporary Love Story Meets Renaissance Faire Charm
Jen DeLuca’s Well Met is the first book in a series of contemporary romance stories that take place in a small town in Maryland called Willow Creek. Each summer, the residents of Willow Creek host a Renaissance faire with a team of dedicated volunteers, educators, and performers. In steps 24-year-old Emily, a former undergraduate English major who makes her way to the town after a tough breakup with her long-term boyfriend. All Emily thought she was doing was dropping her 14-year-old niece, Caitlin, off for faire sign-ups. The next thing she knows, she finds herself “voluntold” to be a Renaissance faire tavern wench so that Caitlin can participate. She is faced not only with 9 weeks of Saturday practices with language training, costume design, and set-up, but she has to do it alongside a disapproving, uptight, grumpy faire director named Simon, who is the local English teacher.
The book’s opening lines: “I didn’t choose the wench life. The wench life chose me.”
The sparks begin to fly, however, not between Emily and Simon but between “Emma” and “Captain Ian Blackthorne” (their Renaissance character names). Captain Blackthorne is everything that Simon is not: rugged, charming, daring, and not afraid of some leather pants. Emma/Emily is in shock to see this side of the faire director, but she still likes what she sees. After a fake handfasting ceremony between Emma and Captain Blackthorne for the sake of the patrons — which includes a staged kiss — there was no going back for either of them. The romance builds in a sweet and spicy series of events that make me seriously want a pirate/English teacher to call my own.
His bound hand tightened on mine a little before he pulled me closer, his other hand coming up to cup my cheek. He barely touched my skin, but I repressed a shiver anyway. One eyebrow arched in challenge as he bent toward me. Daring me to deny him, to break character and not let me kiss him.
In addition to the fun of the romance, I read this as a story of coming to terms with who you are. Of loving every side of yourself, not just the fun or quirky ones. Of allowing yourself to woo and want to be wooed. Of being there for yourself and your own future. Emily and Simon find themselves at tender moment in their lives when they first meet. Simon still grieves the loss of his brother to cancer years before and feels like he lives in his shadow. Emily doesn’t know where her future will lead after she helps her older sister, April, heal from a traumatic car accident. Emily’s wish on her 25th birthday is a beautiful portrait of the wishes we have for ourselves:
I bent over the small round cake, letting the flames dazzle my eyes as I contemplated a wish. I wanted a home. I wanted a place here I could build a life. And someday, I wanted someone who would love me. Not for what I could do for them, but for who I was to them. Seemed like a lot to wish for at once, but it was my birthday. Birthday wishes were allowed to be lofty. I blew out the candles and let those wishes fly away with the wisps of smoke. The ones that were meant to be would come back.
I never thought I’d be one to want to describe anything as “feel good” and not immediately regret the cheesiest of the statement, but I can’t help it in this case. Jen DeLuca’s Well Met is a feel good contemporary romantic comedy. It just made me feel good — great, even — while reading it. I laughed along with the characters as they made quips about muscular men in kilts. I swooned when Simon declares his intentions to woo Emily. My inner language and literature nerd got excited about the setting of the Renaissance fair and the author’s Shakespeare references throughout the book. My heart squeezed when the main characters talked about family (found family included) and feeling at home. I finished Well Met and am thoroughly invested in its characters.
On to the next book in the series, Well Played! Huzzah!
Celeste is a woman who is unwavering about certain things in life; three of those being books, cats, and cold brew coffee. If she can enjoy all three at the same time, it’s going to be a good day. Her favorite genres are fantasy or sci-fi romance, historical romance, and historical fiction but every few books she likes to mix it up with contemporary fiction, a good psychological thriller, or an inspiring memoir. She has a busy schedule working full-time for an online university but she makes sure to unwind each day with stories, either by reading to her elementary school-aged daughter or tucking herself in bed with her Kindle or the latest book she picked up at a local book store.