Well Met by Jen DeLuca

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Well Met by Jen DeLucaWell Met by Jen DeLuca
Published by Berkley on September 3, 2019
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
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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.

I went to ALA annual this year, and I made sure to stop by the Penguin Random House adult booth, so I could tell them how thrilled I am with what Berkley has been doing lately. I know it’s not just Berkley that’s bringing contemporary romance, particularly romantic comedies, back to popularity, but I do feel like they’re leading the charge, with the adorable covers and the widest range of titles. What’s been great so far is how good they’ve been too, though I do think Well Met just might be my favorite one so far.

Well Met takes place primarily at a Renaissance Fair in a small town. The setting was part of the book’s appeal for sure, and I think DeLuca used it very effectively. Renaissance Fairs are a very specific setting, and, if you’ve been to one, you can picture everything perfectly in your mind without needing too much description. DeLuca does enough building to make it feel real but doesn’t get too caught up in the detail, allowing the focus to remain on the emotional arcs in the book.

Well Met is one of those books that snuck up on me a little bit. I liked it from the beginning, but I didn’t love it until I got further into it. Emily’s voice starts out a wee bit distant, precisely because that’s how she’s feeling. She’s in the town of Willow Creek for the summer to help her sister recover from a car accident; Emily’s boyfriend had dumped her anyway, and she didn’t care about her jobs, so she had the ability to do it. This summer’s meant to be her time to figure out what to do next, but mostly it’s an escape from worrying about real life.

Emily ends up signing up to volunteer for the Faire because her niece really wants to take part, and an adult volunteer is required to join up with a teen. Initially, Emily’s not super into it, but she wants to make her niece happy. Over time, Emily gets sucked in, and she wants to help improve the Faire, which leads to her butting heads with Simon, the crotchety, rule-following head of Faire. If you smell a ship in the air, you have apt senses.

Emily and Simon have such a great connection. If you’re here for hate to love, be warned that it’s definitely on the lighter side of hate to love. The description definitely oversells it with “two sworn enemies,” because wow they’re super not. They’re two people going through some things who come into a bit of conflict. There’s a very Pride & Prejudice feeling to the romance, because it’s very much that they each make a set of assumptions based on an inaccurate interpretation.

Even though Emily takes an immediate dislike to Simon for how seriously he takes everything and his attitude towards her, I thought it was adorable how hard it was for her to maintain that loathing. It’s so clear that Emily’s naturally a trusting, loving person who thinks the best of others, because the moment Simon did anything remotely nice, she would think better of him. Their dynamic is a bit all over the place actually, with the way she feels about him shifting constantly, but in this book that actually works, because it’s a conflict between her natural personality and her insecurities as a result of the way her toxic ex treated her.

Well Met runs pretty low drama, which obviously is great for me. All the drama of the book feels very true to life, even if people are in costume for most of it. This is a book that’s all about character arcs, especially Emily and Simon’s (you know I love a romance where the hero also has an emotional arc that actually gets handled).

On top of that, I really loved the way that Emily fell in love with the town and its inhabitants. It truly felt like she wanted to stay not because of Simon but because she felt at home here. I love found family vibes, and there’s a bit of that happening here, like with Chris at the bookstore. Also, the whole town ships it, and it’s fucking cute.

The other aspect of Well Met that really worked for me was that it shows an alternative life path. Emily didn’t finish her English degree because she agreed to wait until her boyfriend got his law degree, and now that he’s dumped her she’s not sure whether to go back and finish. She feels less than because she didn’t graduate from college, but she’s also not sure if that’s the right choice at this point in her life. One of the emotional arcs in the book is Emily overcoming that feeling of being less because she didn’t finish out her education, and I thought that was great in a time where college is absurdly expensive but sort of assumed the default path.

You and Well Met will definitely be well met. Make sure you pick up a copy of this one. It’s just as adorable as its cover.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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