Well Met

by Jen DeLuca
September 3, 2019 · Berkley
Historical: EuropeanScience Fiction/FantasyYoung Adult

Well Met is a charming but slight romantic comedy about a person finding new self-esteem and purpose with a romance on the side. The romance is probably supposed to be more central but although I enjoyed it, it is the least interesting part of the story.

Emily put her college degree on hold and supported her boyfriend through his law school years with the agreement that he would support her in turn once he got his degree. As soon as he got his degree he dumped her. At about the same time, Emily’s big sister, April, was in a car accident. She needs extensive recuperation. Emily moves in with April to help her and April’s daughter, Caitlin.

Caitlin participates in the local Renaissance Faire every year, and she has to have an adult chaperone. Emily steps in and quickly learns to love the rehearsals and community – with the exception of Simon. Simon runs the Faire and Emily thinks that he is a humorless snob and that he hates her. Simon seems to think that Emily doesn’t take Faire seriously and he is very critical of her. Then Simon puts on his pirate outfit and persona and a sexy, funny, romantic Simon emerges. Emily the caregiving sister doesn’t like Simon but Emma the Tavern Wench (Emily’s Renaissance Faire persona), likes Pirate Simon A LOT.

The story is narrated by Emily and although the romance is pivotal, the story is really more about Emily learning to find her own purpose, community, and boundaries after a lifetime of putting her own needs last. I loved reading about the Renaissance Faire culture (I’ve attended a lot of fairs, but not worked at them, which is a very different experience than attending). I also enjoyed seeing Emily develop friendships and deepen her relationship with her sister.

The romance angle is fun because of the dual identities involved. Simon is mourning the death of his brother, who ran the Faire in the past. Simon feels duty-bound to take over the job and to keep everything the same as it was when his brother ran it. He’s constantly tense and sad. But in his pirate persona, he has a chance to be playful and irresponsible and silly and fabulously romantic. Watching Emily and Simon play with their Faire personas is a lot of fun. At the same time, it makes a lot of sense that it’s Emily, the outsider who has a lot of experience with living for others, who realizes how much running the Faire makes Simon feel stressed.

At the time of reading the book, I enjoyed the romance. It’s playful and fun with an undercurrent of powerful, mutual empathy and mutual emotional care. However, in retrospect, it’s the other aspects of the story that stick in my mind. I liked how April insists that Emily start to turn her attention to her own life as April gets stronger. I liked the friendship between Emily and her fellow tavern wench Stacey, and how Emily’s initial crush on a hot guy in a kilt turns into a warm but platonic friendship. I was pleased that Emily eventually got better at communicating and owning her strengths.

This was a light, quick read. It could have used expansion – in particular, I wanted to know more about April, and about April and Emily’s family background. More expansion could have made this a more powerful story. However, I also enjoyed the atmosphere of Faire, the pros and cons of small town life, and Emily’s character development. It’s a nice, breezy read for Faire season.

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