Sunday, October 20, 2019

Cute Romance, Could Have Been Cuter: Well Met

I was intrigued by the premise of Jen DeLuca's Well Met, a contemporary romance where enemies become something else as they don new identities for the Renaissance Faire.

Well Met by [DeLuca, Jen]What's not to like about men in leather pants? Nothing, that's what. The small town and the characters where well-fleshed out, and I enjoyed watching Emily take on the role of a tavern wench only to be surprised when the uptight pain-in-the-ass organizer of the faire becomes a charming pirate. Also, the writing was very witty and I did chuckle out loud more than once. The idea of romance blossoming during a time of masquerade was unique and enticing. I just felt like it could have been taken so much further. The periods of flirtiness, while solid, felt sporadically when taken as a whole, and I would have like to see more continuity with those scenes, and to feel a stronger sense of immersion in the faire. I get that we were trying to get the point across that Emily is confused as to what's real and what's not, but that would have only been enhanced I think by allowing her (and the reader) to become more absorbed by the faire, and by the relationship that blossoms there.

My other quibble (not a minor one) is that this is yet another romance book where its plot structure is very transparently lifted from Pride and Prejudice. Books like that abound to the point where they're basically their own subgenre. Normally, that comes along with being mentioned somehow on the back cover. Not the case here, which I can't say I appreciated. Though I enjoyed this book I don't generally enjoy P&P pastiches and like to be warned in advance.

My reason for not liking such tales is because their adherence to another book can often become contrived as original characters are shoved into specific directions to hit certain beats. That certainly felt like the case here a few times. It might have been better to take some more general cues from historical romances, especially in how Simon/Captain Ian is portrayed. There's a lot of things about his character that make him sympathetic, but rather than sympathy he mostly gets called an asshole, because, well, Darcy is supposed to be an asshole, and then does a 180 in the book, to the point where the character is described entirely differently so that readers can cheer when Elizabeth falls in love with him, rather than wanting to smack her on the head. Here, I wanted to smack Emily on the head for thinking he was an asshole when he was dealing with some major issues and could have used a little extra consideration and compassion. But of course that wouldn't fit the "Elizabeth" mindset of having prejudged him.

You see the problem - perfectly good characters, and a perfectly good romance story, is constrained by this arbitrary need to emulate a romance that wasn't that great to begin with. The potential for this one was limitless if only it had been given its wings.

K Rating: 4/5

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