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.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.00(d)|
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***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected copy proof***
Copyright © 2019 Jen DeLuca
I didn’t choose the wench life. The wench life chose me.
When I pulled into the parking lot of Willow Creek High School on that late spring morning, I had very little on my agenda. No doctor’s appointments for my big sister, no school obligations to shuttle my niece to. The only thing I needed to do was get my niece to the signups for the Renaissance faire. We were five minutes late, so it was going great so far.
Caitlin huffed from the back seat as I threw my little white Jeep in park. “Em, we’re late!” She managed to stretch both my name and that last word out into at least three syllables. “What if they don’t let me sign up? All my friends are doing this, and if I can’t, I’ll—”
“They’ll let you sign up.” But of course she was out before I’d even unbuckled my seat belt. I wasn’t going to call her back. I didn’t have that kind of authority over her. At barely ten years older, I was more a big sister than an aunt. When I’d first come to stay with my older sister and her daughter, April had tried to get Cait to call me “Aunt Emily”, but that was only a short hop away from Auntie Em and Kansas jokes so we’d abandoned it quickly. My relationship with the kid had settled into more of a friendship with overtures of Adult In Charge.
This morning, Adult In Charge was kicking in. No way was I leaving a fourteen-year-old by herself in a strange situation, even if it was her high school. I grabbed my coffee mug from the cupholder and started after her. She couldn’t have gone far.
My cell phone rang from inside my purse when I was halfway across the parking lot. I fished it out and kept walking.
“Did you find it okay?”
“Yeah, we’re good. Hopefully this won’t take too long.”
“Oh, God, you don’t have to stay.” April sounded slightly horrified by the prospect. “You just need to drop her off and come back home.”
I held my breath and tried to analyze her tone through the crappy cell phone connection. The past few days had been rough as she’d started weaning off the pain medication. “Everything okay?” I tried to sound as casual as possible. “Do you need me to come home?”
“No…” Her voice trailed off, and I stopped walking and listened harder.
“No, no, Emily. I’m fine. I’m right where you left me, on the couch with coffee and the remote. I don’t want you to feel like you have to…”
“It’s fine. Really. Isn’t this why I’m here, to help you out?”
Another pause. Another sigh. “Yeah. Okay…” I practically heard her shrug. “I feel bad. I should be doing this stuff.”
“Well, you can’t.” I tried to sound as cheerful as I could. “Not for another couple months at least, remember? Doctor’s orders. Besides, this ‘stuff’ is what I’m here for, right?”
“Yeah.” A tremble in her voice now, which I blamed on the Percocet. I’d be glad when she was off that shit for good. It made her weepy.
“Drink your coffee, find something awful on television, okay? I’ll make lunch for us when we get home.”
I hung up, shoved my phone back in my purse, and once again cursed out the driver who had run the red light that night. A vision of April’s SUV popped into my head, that lump of silver twisted metal at the junkyard, and I pushed it aside. Caitlin had been asleep in the back seat, and somehow she’d walked away with nothing more than some bruises and a sprained ankle.
My sister hadn’t been so lucky. Mom had stayed with her while she was in the ICU, and by the time April was home from the hospital a week later I’d moved in, so Mom could go home to Dad in Indiana. My older sister needed a caregiver for a while, and my niece needed an Adult In Charge who was mobile, so I was here to stay.
As for me… I needed a change. A couple weeks before the accident I’d lost not only my boyfriend and my apartment, but all my plans for the future. Willow Creek, Maryland was as good a place as any to lick my wounds while I took care of April and hers. Smack in the middle of wine country, this area was all rolling green hills dotted with small towns like this one, with its charming downtown storefronts and friendly people. Though I hadn’t seen any willows yet and as far as I could tell there weren’t any creeks, so the name remained a mystery.
I picked up the pace and pushed through the double doors, finally catching up with Caitlin outside the high school auditorium. She didn’t look back at me, running down the aisle instead to join a handful of kids roughly her age clustered in front of the stage, getting forms from a guy with a clipboard. The auditorium was filled with clumps of kids embracing like long-lost relatives who hadn’t seen each other in years, even though they’d probably sat next to each other in class the day before. There were adults around too, sprinkled here and there, but I couldn’t tell if they were chaperones or participants. Then one of the adults turned around and his black T-shirt said “HUZZAH!” across the front in huge white letters, and I had my answer.
I took a long sip of coffee and sank into a chair in the back row. My job as taxi service was done. I checked the time on my phone. One hour until I needed to be back to pick her up, which wasn’t enough time to go home. Willow Creek was a small town, but April lived on one end of it and the high school was on the outskirts at the other. I pulled up my list-making app. I’d picked up refills of April’s meds yesterday, and this Renaissance faire tryout was the only other thing on my list. Was there anything else I needed to get done while I was this close to downtown?
“Are you here to volunteer?”
One of the adults I’d spotted before—cute, blonde, shortish and roundish— had splintered off and now hovered at the end of the row where I was sitting. Before I could answer she took a form off her clipboard and pushed it into my hands.
“Here. You can go ahead and fill this out.”
“What? Me?” I stared at the form as though it was printed in Cyrillic. “Oh. No. I’m just here to drop off my niece.” I nodded toward the group of kids at the front.
“Which one’s your…” She looked down the aisle. “Oh, Caitlin, right? You must be Emily.”
My eyes widened. “Yeah. Good call. I keep forgetting how small this town is.” I’d come here from Boston, and had grown up outside of Indianapolis. Small towns weren’t my thing.
She laughed and waved it off. “You’ll get used to it, trust me. I’m Stacey, by the way. And I’m afraid you kind of have to volunteer.” She indicated the form still in my hand. “It’s a requirement if a younger student wants to be part of the Faire cast. Anyone under sixteen needs a parent or guardian in the cast with them. I think April was planning to volunteer with her, but …” Her sentence trailed off, and she punctuated it with an awkward shrug.
“Yeah.” I looked down at the form. “You can’t call it volunteering, then, can you? Sounds more like strong-arming.” But I looked over at Cait, already chatting with her friends, holding her own form like it was a golden ticket. I read through the form. Six weeks of Saturday rehearsals starting in June, then six more weekends from mid-July through the end of August. I was already playing chauffeur for Caitlin all spring and summer anyway…
Before I could say anything else, the double doors behind me opened with a bang. I whirled in my seat to see a man striding through like he was walking into an old-west saloon. He was … delicious. No other way to describe him. Tall, blond, muscled, with a great head of hair and a tight t-shirt. Gaston crossed with Captain America, with a generic yet mesmerizing handsomeness.
“Mitch!” Stacey greeted him like an old friend. Which he undoubtedly was. These people probably all went to this high school together back in the day. “Mitch, come over here and tell Emily that she wants to do Faire.”
He scoffed as though the question were the stupidest one he’d ever heard. “Of course she wants to do Faire! Why else would she be here?”
I pointed down the aisle to Cait. “I’m really just the taxi.”
Mitch peered at my niece, then turned back to me. “Oh, you’re Emily. The aunt, right? Your sister’s the one who was in the crash? How’s she doing?”
I blinked. Goddamned small towns. “Good. She’s…um… good.” My sister hated gossip in all forms, so I made sure not to contribute any information that could get around.
“Good. Yeah, glad to hear it.” He looked solemn for a moment or two, then brushed it aside, jovial smile back on his face. “Anyway. You should hang around, join the insanity. I mean, it’s lots of work, but it’s fun. You’ll love it.” With that, he was gone, sauntering his way down the aisle, fist-bumping kids as he went.
I watched him walk away for a second, because damn could he fill out a pair of jeans, both front and back. Then what he said registered with me. “I’ll love it?” I turned back to Stacey the volunteer. “He doesn’t know me. How does he know what I’ll love?”
“If it helps…” She leaned forward conspiratorially, and I couldn’t help but respond with a lean of my own. “… he carries a pretty big sword during Faire. And wears a kilt.”
“Sold.” I dug in my purse for a pen. What was giving up my weekends for the entire summer when it meant I could look at an ass like that?
What the hell, right? It would be time with Caitlin. That’s what I was there for. Be the cool aunt. Do the fun stuff. Distract her from the car accident that had left her with nightmares, weekly therapy sessions, and had left her mom with a shattered right leg. When I’d arrived in Willow Creek, gloom had hung low over their household, like smoke in a crowded room. I’d come to throw open a window, let in the light again.
Besides, helping out my sister and her kid was the best way to stop dwelling on my own shit. Focusing on someone else’s problems was always easier than my own.
Stacey grinned as I started filling out the form. “Give it to Simon up at the front when you’re finished. It’s going to be great. Huzzah!” This last was said as a cheer, and with that she was gone, probably looking for other parental-type figures to snag into this whole gig.
Oh God. Was I going to have to yell “huzzah” too? How much did I love my niece?
The form was pretty basic, and soon I followed the stream of volunteers (mostly kids, where were all the adults?) to the front of the auditorium, where they handed the papers to the dark-haired man with the clipboard collecting them. Simon, I presumed. Thank God, another adult. More adultier than me, even. I’d rolled out of bed and thrown on leggings and a t-shirt, while he was immaculate in jeans and a perfectly-ironed Oxford shirt, sleeves rolled halfway up his forearms, with a dark blue vest buttoned over it.
Despite his super-mature vibe, he didn’t look that much older than me. Late twenties at the most. Slighter build than Mitch, and probably not quite six feet tall. Well-groomed and clean-shaven with closely-cut dark brown hair. He looked like he smelled clean, like laundry detergent and sharp soap. Mitch, for all his hotness, looked like he smelled like Axe body spray.
When it was my turn, I handed the form in and turned away, checking to see where Cait had wandered off to. I couldn’t wait to tell her I was doing this whole thing with her. That kid was gonna owe me one.
“This isn’t right.”
I turned back around. “Excuse me?”
Simon, the form collector, brandished mine at me. “Your form. You didn’t fill it out correctly.”
“Um…” I walked back over to him and took the paper from his hand. “I think I know how to fill out a form.”
“Right there.” He tapped his pen in a rat-a-tat-tat on the page. “You didn’t say what role you’re trying out for.”
“Role?” I squinted at it. “Oh, right.” I handed the paper back to him. “I don’t care. Whatever you need.”
He didn’t take it. “You have to specify a role.”
“Really?” I looked behind me, searching for the desperate volunteer who had coerced me into this gig in the first place. But she was lost in a sea of auditionees. Of course.
“Yes, really.” He pursed his lips, and his brows drew together over his eyes. Dark brown brows, muddy brown eyes. He’d be relatively attractive if he weren’t looking at me like he’d caught me cheating on my chemistry final. “It’s pretty simple,” he continued. “Nobility, actors, dancers …you can audition for any of those. You could also try out for the combat stuff, if you have any experience. We do a human chess match and joust.”
“I…I don’t have any experience. Or, um, talent.” The longer this conversation went on the more my heart sank. Now I was supposed to have skills? Wasn’t this a volunteer thing? Why was this guy making it so freaking hard?
He looked at me for a moment, a quick perusal up and down. Not so much checking me out as sizing me up. “Are you over twenty-one?”
Jesus. I knew I was on the short side, but … I drew myself up, as though looking a little taller would make me look older too. “Twenty-five, thank you very much.” Well, twenty-five in July, but he didn’t need to know that. It wasn’t like he’d be celebrating my birthday with me.
“Hmmm. You have to be twenty-one to be a tavern wench, you could put that down if you want to help out in the tavern.”
Now we were talking. Nothing wrong with hanging out in a bar for a few weekends in the summer. I’d worked in bars before; hell I worked in two of them until just recently. This would be the same thing, but in a cuter costume.
“Fine.” I plucked my pen back out of my purse and scribbled the word “WENCH” down on the form, then thrust the paper back into his hands. “Here.”
“Thank you,” he said automatically, as though he hadn’t admonished me like a child thirty seconds ago.
Gah. What a dick.
As I headed back up the aisle toward the back of the auditorium, it didn’t take me long to spot Caitlin, a couple rows back talking to her friends. A smirk took over my face, and I scooted down the row in front of her, maneuvering around the folded-up seats.
“Hey.” I gave her a mock punch on the shoulder to get her attention. “You know you need an adult to volunteer with you, right?”
“I do?” Her eyes widened, and she looked down toward Simon with alarm, as though he was about to throw her out of the auditorium. Well, he’d have to go through me first.
“Yep. So guess who agreed to be a tavern wench this summer. How much do you love me?” I held my breath. Most teens wouldn’t want to be caught dead with a parental figure within a five-mile radius, much less want to spend the summer hanging out with them. But Caitlin was a good kid, and we’d developed a rapport since I’d stepped in as her Adult In Charge. Maybe she’d be cool with it.
Her look of alarm turned to surprised joy. “Really?” The word was a squeak coming out of her mouth. “So we both get to do the Faire?”
“Looks like it,” I replied. “You owe me one, kiddo.”
Her response was more squeal than words, but the way she threw her arms around my neck in an awkward hug over the row of seats told me everything. Maybe that was the advantage to being a cool aunt as opposed to a mom. This new family dynamic took some getting used to, but I was already starting to like it.
“We talked you into it, huh?” Mitch was waiting for me at the end of the row when I scooted back down to the aisle.
I shrugged. “It’s not like I have much of a choice.” I looked over my shoulder at Caitlin, giggling with her friends over something on their phones. “Doing this means a lot to her, so here I am.”
“You’re a good person, Emily.” He squinted. “It was Emily, right?”
I nodded. “Emily Parker.” I moved to offer a handshake, but he came back with a fist-bump instead, and what kind of idiot would I be to not accept that?
“Good to meet you, Park. But trust me. You’re gonna have a great time at Faire.”
I blinked at the immediate nickname, but decided to roll with it. “Well, I have been promised that there are kilts involved, so…?” I did my best to let my eyes linger on him without being some kind of creep about it. But Mitch didn’t seem like the type of guy to mind a little ogling. In fact, he seemed to encourage it.
“Oh, yeah.” A grin crawled up his face, and his eyes lingered right back. A flush crept up the back of my neck. If I’d known this was going to be a mutual-ogling kind of day, I would have done more this morning than wash my face and put on some lip gloss. “Believe me,” he said. “You’ll have a great summer. I’ll make sure of it.”
I laughed. “I’ll hold you to that.” An easy promise to make, since I was already enjoying myself. I headed back up the aisle and plopped into my vacated seat in the last row. Down at the front, Simon collected more forms, probably criticizing applicants’ handwriting while he did so. He glanced up at one point like he could feel my eyes on him, and his brows drew together in a frown. God, he was really holding a grudge about that form, wasn’t he?
At the other side of the auditorium, Mitch high-fived a student and offered a fist-bump to Caitlin, who looked at him like he hung the moon. I knew which of these two guys I was looking forward to getting to know better this summer, and it wasn’t the Ren Faire Killjoy.
I’d always been a little in awe of my older sister. Married young and divorced young from a man who’d had little interest in being a father, April had raised Caitlin on her own with an independence that bordered on intimidating. We’d never been particularly close—a twelve-year age difference will do that when April was off to college right around the time that I was starting to become interesting—but I’d always thought of her as someone to emulate.
Which was why it was so hard to see her in her current condition.
When we got home from auditions, I opened the front door to find a crutch in the middle of the living room floor. I followed the line of the crutch, which pointed directly at my big sister on the couch, looking like a dog who’d been caught going through the trash.
“You tried to get up while we were gone, didn’t you?” I crossed my arms and stared her down. It was hard to look threatening when you were barely five foot three, but I managed pretty well.
“Yeah.” April sighed. “That didn’t go well.”
Caitlin didn’t notice our little standoff. “Hey, Mom!” She dropped a kiss in the vicinity of April’s cheek before running off to her room. She could text more efficiently in there, probably.
I picked up the fallen crutch and propped it against the arm of the couch next to the other one. “BLTs okay for lunch?”
“Sure. Everything go okay?” April craned her neck to the side and tossed the question over her shoulder as I went into the kitchen to get the bacon started. “Did Caitlin get signed up for the cast?” Shifting noises on the couch, punctuated by some swearing under her breath. Yeah, she was definitely cutting back on the pain medication. The next few days would be bumpy.
“Everything went fine. They said they can’t take everyone, but they’re sending out an email next week to everyone who made the cast.”
“Next week? Oof. I don’t know if I can live with her long enough for her to find out if she’s in.”
“She’ll get in.” I punched down the bread in the toaster and started slicing tomatoes. “If they don’t let her in, they don’t get me. Thanks for that, by the way. You totally set me up.”
“What? No, I didn’t. I told you not to go in there. All you were supposed to do was drop her off.”
“Yeah, well.” I got down three plates and started assembling sandwiches. “Caitlin can’t be in the cast without a parent volunteering. They said you were going to volunteer, you know, before…” There was no good way to end that sentence.
“What?” April was repeating herself now, and it had nothing to do with meds. “I … oh.” Yep. There it was. She remembered now. “Shit.” I glanced through the pass-through to see her sag against the back of the couch. “I did set you up. I completely forgot.”
“Don’t worry about it. I have it on good authority that it’ll be fun.” I put the plates on the pass-through and tossed a bag of chips up there beside them. I thought about Mitch and his promised kilt. That would certainly be fun. Then I thought about Simon and his disapproving face. Less fun. I brought lunch out to the living room, and we ate on TV trays so April wouldn’t have to get up. I left the third plate on the counter; Caitlin would be along for it eventually.
“Fun,” April repeated as she reached for her sandwich. She didn’t sound convinced. She took a bite and shrugged. “I guess. I mean, what else have you got going on, right?”
I crunched a chip and half-squinted at her. She couldn’t be serious. I had a list-making app completely dedicated to their schedules. Surely she remembered what a non-stop life she and her kid had before one guy ran a red light one night and changed everything.
She met my gaze and squinted back with an exaggerated face. She wasn’t serious, after all. I wasn’t used to a sister who joked around with me. But she was trying, so I played along, throwing a chip at her. “You’re right. In fact, I picked up a box of chocolates so we could lie around all weekend and watch television.”
“Good plan.” She leaned forward and snagged the bag of chips. She shook her head at me. “You’re too defensive. That Jake guy did a number on you, huh? You know, when Mom told me about him I said he was no good. You broke up what, a couple months ago?”
“Yeah.” I sighed. Of course Mom had told her. April and I had always gotten along fine, but the age difference, plus all the moving away from home and starting our own lives, had kept us from being as close as sisters usually were. Hence Mom acting as a kind of conduit between us, filling us in on each other’s lives. It was a weird system, but it worked for us. “Yeah, it was week or so before your accident. So you know, good timing.”
“Well, it saved you from being homeless.”
“I wasn’t homeless.” But I frowned into my sandwich because she was right. When Jake had left for his fancy lawyer job he’d not only dumped me like unwanted baggage (which I guess I was), but he’d canceled our lease on the way out of town. I’d been panicked, scrambling to find another apartment I could afford with my two part-time jobs, when Mom had called from the hospital about April’s accident. It’d been a no-brainer to throw my stuff into storage, drive the four-hundred-something miles from Boston to Maryland, and transfer my panic away from myself and onto them.
But I didn’t want to talk about Jake. That wound was still too fresh. Time to change the subject. “Stacey says hi, by the way.”
“Stacey?” Had I gotten the name wrong? “Blonde hair, about my height, big smile? She acted like she knew you. She knew Caitlin, anyway, and she knew who I was.”
“Ugh.” April rolled her eyes and took a sip of her Diet Coke. “That’s the one thing about living in a small town. Everyone knows your business. Even people you don’t know that well.”
“So… you don’t know Stacey?”
“No, I do. She works at our dentist’s office, and we say hi every time Cait or I have an appointment. Nice, but …” She shrugged.
I got it. “…But not someone who should know that much about you.”
I thought about that, considered my next question. “I don’t suppose you know a guy named Mitch, do you?” Now there was someone I wouldn’t mind knowing a little better.
“Mitch…” April tapped a chip on her bottom lip. “No… Oh. Wait. Kind of a big guy? Muscles? Superman jaw?”
“Looks like he can bench press a Volkswagen.” I nodded. “That’s the one.”
“Yeah, I’ve seen him around. Nice guy. I think he teaches gym? Hey, Cait?” April leaned back on the couch and called toward the hallway. I turned to see my niece had come out in search of lunch.
“Ooh, sandwich. Thanks, Emily.” Caitlin grabbed her plate and perched on a stool. While she chewed she raised her eyebrows at her mother. “What’s up?”
“That guy Mitch… doesn’t he teach gym at your school?”
“Mr. Malone?” She swallowed her bite of sandwich. “Yeah. And coaches something. Baseball maybe?” Caitlin wasn’t into sports. None of us were, so she came by it honestly. “He was hitting on Emily today.” She reached over and dug a handful of chips out of the bag.
“No, he wasn’t.” Was he? Maybe a little. The back of my neck prickled with heat.
“Don’t get excited,” April warned. “From what I hear, he hits on everyone.”
“Damn. So I’m not special?” I tried to look upset, but being teased about a guy by my big sister was something that had never happened before, and it made me grin. I shrugged and handed Caitlin the chip bag. “That’s okay. I’m not planning on marrying the guy. Maybe just objectifying him while he wears a kilt.”
The more I thought about it, the more this summer was starting to sound like fun. And I needed to have some fun. Put Jake in the rear view. I still remembered the look on his face when he told me he was moving into the city without me. His face had looked like…well, his expression had reminded me of Simon’s. The form police guy from this morning. I’d gotten serious Jake flashbacks from him, and I didn’t like the way that made me feel. Embarrassed and small.
Right now, guys like Mitch were much better for my sanity. Guys like Mitch offered the possibility of a quick, fun hookup at some point during the summer, with no complex emotions or perceived inadequacies to get in the way. I could use someone like that in my life right about now.
After cleaning up the kitchen, I pulled up my calendar app again. My afternoon and the rest of the weekend were pretty much an open book. Much like my entire future. I didn’t like it. I liked plans.
With Jake I’d had a plan. We’d met my sophomore year in college at a fraternity party, two like-minded intellectuals that were too good for beer pong. We’d talked all night, and I thought I’d found my soul mate. He was smart, focused, driven. I’d liked that streak of ambition in him that matched mine. For years I’d stuck with both him and our plan. Get him through law school. Once he’d set himself up in a career we’d be an unstoppable team. It was going to be us vs. the world. Jake and Emily. That was the plan.
But Jake was gone. What I hadn’t realized that, while my ambition had been for us both, his was only for himself. When he got that high-powered job he’d been shooting for, he left old things behind. Like our place, which he left for a high-rise apartment downtown. And me, the would-be fiancée he no longer needed. “It doesn’t look good,” he’d said. “I can’t have a wife who works in a bar. You don’t even have a bachelor’s degree.” It was like he’d forgotten all about our plan. And maybe he had. Or maybe he’d gotten what he’d wanted out of it and didn’t need me anymore.
So here I was in Maryland. I’d arrived without a plan, but my sister needed me. That was enough for now. The thing was, I needed her too. I needed to feel like I could help. Make a difference in someone’s life. Fixing things was what I did.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Well Met by Jen DeLuca was a delightful debut novel. All is fair in love and war with this angsty enemies to lovers story. Jen had me at Renaissance Faire. I remember we had one in high school and it was exciting to be apart of the reenactments, so much so that I've been wanting to attend one ever since. Simon is a bit of an introvert and closed off for obvious reasons. He shoulders the burden of running the faire the way his brother used to. Emily is the new girl and she doesn't always go along with what Simon wants and that frustrates him to no end. Emily is attracted to Simon right away but Simon acts standoffish and like a complete jerk. It was in those moments that I wanted to be inside Simon's head. As their slow burn relationship progresses, Simon opens up to Emily. It's sexy and sweet, and just the kind of romance you want! However, I needed more scenes of them together. Regardless, you will definitely fall for both Emily & Simon, Emma the Wench & Captain Blackthorne the Pirate–Shakespeare has nothing on them. I really enjoyed this book. It was heartfelt and truly wonderful yet it had the potential to be more. Even so, I'm really looking forward to reading more of what Jen writes! That being said, can we please have Mitch's book next! Kay, thanks
3.5 This was a cute, quick read, but ultimately wasn't for me. To begin with it was just a bit too choppy. I am not entirely sure how to explain what I mean, but it was like I was reading along and then random tidbits would be dropped in places where they didn’t quite fit. It felt like Deluca needed a place to get points in (for example Emily being in Willow Creek because of her sister’s accident) but wasn’t sure how so she just randomly dropped them into parts of the story. It was a bit blunt, and just didn’t transition well for me. For the most part each chapter felt like more of the same for me as well. A new chapter, a new weekend at rehearsals or Renaissance Faire, a new weekend hating Simon but also simultaneously being into Simon… It was repetitive. Very repetitive, yet somehow it also went from 0-60 without any details in between. Hate to love. Outsider to Town-y. Broken to healed. There was very little transition, things just happened. That being said I liked the characters, though I still think they could have been developed a bit better. Simon's back and forth attitude makes sense once you learn more of his backstory. I went back and forth on Emily but I think I landed on liking her for the most part. She assumes way too much, and maybe needs to focuses a little more on herself instead of helping others, but she has a great bit of snark to her that I appreciate, and the ability to manage things well once she trusts herself to do it. The love story was cute. I will give it that, and I didn't hate this book. I did want to see where it went and what happened with Simon and Emily's relationship. I am not the biggest romance fan, so maybe that was part of why I didn't enjoy this book as much, but if you do I would say to give it a try regardless. Maybe you'll get more joy from it than I did.
Emily moved in with her sister and niece in order to help her sister recover from a bad car accident. Part of that help is squiring around her teenage niece Caitlin to audition for a part in Willow Creek’s hometown Renaissance Faire. What she didn’t know was that her under age niece needs an adult to sign up with her. Guess what? Emily will be playing Bar Wench for the summer. When she meets high school English teacher, and man in charge of the Faire, Simon, they immediately butt heads. He’s a know it all with a stick up his butt and Emily has just had it with “that” kind of man! Well Met is a rom-com where two people go from enemies who don’t think they have anything in common to confidants and lovers. I laughed out loud and sniffled away a couple of tears. My favorite kind of romance! Emily just got dumped and admittedly has a chip on her shoulder for men who think they know everything. Simon’s definitely got an attitude that pushes all of her buttons. I’m a sucker for this trope and loved the Renaissance Faire set up. I can remember going to one of these Faire’s with my mom and aunt when I was a kid and remember how the actor’s really got into playing their parts. This book gave you a behind the scenes look into putting on one of these events and really brought back some fun memories! Simon’s character had an interesting mix of vulnerability and bravado. I loved the way the author contrasted Simon with the pirate Captain he played in the Faire. It allowed him to act on some of his fantasies through the Captain’s antics. This sped the plot along while also creating conflicting emotions that made this a lot more interesting than it might have been. Emily’s confusion at what were real feelings and what weren’t added tension as well as a little comic relief. This novel also had a great supporting cast. Mitch the brawny, kilt wearing hunk, her friend Stacey who helped strap her into her bar wench costume, and her sister April who’s injuries gave Emily a sense of purpose. All of these characters helped add comic relief, but also depth to Emily’s character making her more 3-D and not so two dimensional. I can’t really think of anything I disliked about this novel. Yes, there was a miscommunication that went on a little too long, but i understood how that helped establish why these two characters needed each other. Maybe it was my own memories of a Renaissance Faire that made me like this so much? Who knows! I just know that I read it at the right time, it hit my sweet spot, and I really enjoyed the journey. You can’t ask for more than that! ♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️ I received a copy of this ARC through NetGalley and the publisher for my honest review and it was honest.
Well Met by Jen Deluca is her debut novel in a Renaissance Faire contemporary romance. We meet our heroine, Emily, as she is coming off a bad relationship and plans to spend the summer in Willow Creek, Maryland taking care of her sister, April, who was in a bad car accident. Emily also helps to be the chauffer to her niece, Caitlyn; especially since her niece wants to be part of the annual Renaissance Faire. Emily get pulled into joining the faire, since an adult of a minor is needed to be part of it. Emily will play the part of a tavern wench, and meets the leader of the faire, Simon, and immediately the two do not get along. In a short time, Emily makes friends with the volunteers, and looks forward to seeing Mitch, one of the swordsman in his kilt. She goes out of her way to avoid, Simon, who will take on the part of Captain Blackthrone, and in time the captain begins to play his role flirting with Emma (Emily) and soon the two of them begin to feel their attraction to each other heat up. Emily worries if this is real, or just Simon playing his part. Emily also befriends Chris, who owns a book store and is the Queen at the faire; she starts working there helping her with ideas to add a café section to the store. As Emily’s sister starts slowly recuperating, she starts worrying what she will do with her life, as she has nothing to go back to. With her relationship becoming hotter with Simon, is there a future for them? Simon lost his brother a few years back, and picked up the responsibility of the Faire from him; a reason for him to always be strict and bad tempered. He lets another side loose when acting like the pirate, and opening himself to feelings for Emily; but when the faire is over, Simon will go back to the way he was. Will Simon be able to change for Emily? Will Emily stay in Willow Creek, become the manager of the book store, and change Simon? Well Met was a fun, sweet, cute and steamy story, with an amazing heroine. I really loved the secondary characters, who opened their arms to Emily. I thought at first Simon was too reserved and unyielding, but once he became the pirate captain, I did enjoy them together. Jen Deluca did a wonderful job writing this wonderful romantic comedy that that had a lot of humor and charm, especially being her debut novel. I suggest you read Well Met, as it was a fun enjoyable read.
(Full review is posted to Goodreads and will be posted on my blog and social media on 8/31, and on Amazon and Barnes and Noble on the release date) This book is addictive, and while that definitely had to do with the great plot and characterss, I also have to give credit to the writing and setting. Jen DeLuca’s writing style is so easy to be absorbed by, and the immersive setting of the Renaissance Faire hooks you the second you start. Although that could just be me, because I absolutely love the idea of Ren Faires. It’s because of this book that I’lll actually be going to my first one soon! Okay, but back to the writing. It’s very well done, with such a relatable tone that allows the book to feel both lighthearted and fun while also heartbreaking when necessary. I know I already said this book is addictive, but I just need to say it again. I could not put it down. There was always something interesting happening, between the romance plotline, the family dynamics, and the Ren Faire itself. Partially why this book is so good is the characters in it. Emily is a great protagonist. She’s strong, smart, and organized, with painfully relatable insecurities that she is trying to work through. I really loved her character development, and how she grows over the course of the book. As for our love interest, I really don’t want to say too much because it’s best to learn more about him over the course of the book. I know that’s one of my personal favorite parts of enemies-to-lovers romance. There were also some great side characters, I especially loved Emily’s dynamic with her sister and her niece. WELL MET is everything I wanted it to be and more. With an adorable and steamy romance, the perfect setting, and amazing characters, you do not want to miss this. (Thank you to Netgalley and Berkley for an ARC of this book!)
In this delightful contemporary romance, Emily finds herself volunteering for the local Renaissance Faire so her teenage niece can fulfill a summer dream. It's a good chance for her to meet new people because she's new to town and she enjoys the other people in the cast - except for Simon, one of the leaders of the cast who seems to disagree with everything Emily says. But when the Faire begins, Emily finds herself flirting (and more) with Simon and she starts to wonder if this is all part of the act or something more. I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
10 Stars! WELL MET is whimsical, hilarious and brilliantly written! I absolutely LOVED it! Ms. DeLuca cracks me up with her witty dialogue and endears us with an imperfect hero and heroine. Feeling unworthy of favor and happiness yet deserving of both! I love everything about this story! I love Emily’s character! She’s been hurt and heartbroken, but she has a wicked sense of humor that tickled me every single time she opened her mouth! Her character is vulnerable and easy to relate to. I want to be her! Now Simon… poor, poor Simon. This guy… I love him so much!!! He puts on a brave face but deep down he was suffering, but only Emily was able to see his true pain and she wanted so badly to heal and love him. Even though he was a total jerk the moment they first met! You gotta love a good enemies-to-lovers trope. The secondary characters are just as brilliant! Emily’s sister and niece are sweet and so funny! And one of the most memorable characters in the story is a tall, blonde and handsome kilt-wearing gym teacher with a mighty big…. sword I.Love.This.Book. There is so much heart and loss, and hope and heartache, and promise. And love. SO much love! If you love witty dialogue, snarky heroines, wounded heroes, kilted men (and sexy pirates) all centered around an Elizabethan Renaissance Faire, then you definitely need to beg, borrow and buy WELL MET! ***I voluntarily read and reviewed a copy of the book provided by the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affects or influences my thoughts and feelings about the story***
3.5 - 4 stars This was a really cute and sweet read. It had a nice enemies to lovers vibe, but also stressed the importance of putting yourself first and knowing your worth. It started a bit slowly for me, but I loved the Renaissance Faire backdrop and small town location. I had no idea how much work and preparation went into putting on this kind of event. Though very interesting, sometimes I found myself overwhelmed by all the details and descriptions of the Faire itself. I would have loved to have more time spent with the colorful cast of characters interacting in the space with each other. I liked Emily and Simon, but I'm not sure I really felt the connection that got them from point A to B. Things were very sweet between them once it all came together (the wooing!), but I think a little more time in the enemies zone would have built up more tension and anticipation for me. I really enjoyed them as Emma and Captain Blackthorne though, and those interactions really made me smile and swoon. I appreciated how family dynamics, sibling relationships, and familial/societal obligations were explored in this book. The difference between doing something you think you should do versus something you choose to do. The ending and epilogue were adorable and left me with a goofy grin on my face. Well Met had some emotional surprises I wasn't expecting, but I really enjoyed this debut novel by Jen DeLuca. I'm hoping we see stories for Stacey and April (maybe with Kilty ;)) in the future. *I voluntarily read an advance review copy of this book*
Emily Parker's life is in turmoil since her boyfriend dumped her after she put him through law school. So with no where to live Emily decided to move to Willow Creek, Maryland from Boston, MA to help take care of her sister April and niece Caitlyn while April is recovering from a bad car accident. While Emily doesn't mind being the cook and chauffeur, she didn't expect to get dragged into volunteering to be in the Willow Creek Renaissance Faire that runs the entire summer, but since Catilyn really wants to do it she agrees. At auditions Emily meets Stacey Lindholm and together they volunteer to be the bar wenches. She also meets Mitch Malone, the good looking gym teacher, Christine Donovan, a local book store owner and Simon Graham, the grouchy and stiff English teacher who is organizing the faire. Emily and Simon do not hit it off at first but Emily slowly sees sides to Simon that intrigue her. Whenever he is in his pirate costume he is a sexy, flirty person that Emily enjoys being around. As these two spend more time together their attraction to each other is fun to watch. Both of these two have issues from their pasts that is making it harder to move forward in their lives. Just when it looks like Emily and Simon are going to get their happy ending, the past comes back to haunt them. Some really tough decisions need to be made by both of these two if they ever want to get their happy ever after! I really enjoyed this story. Emily is such a strong woman but at the same time she has such low self esteem when it comes to relationships. Simon is the perfect catch on paper but he has some demons in his past that he needs to overcome before he can ever find his happy ending. Together they balanced each other well and I just adored their happy ending that they did finally get. I also really loved the supporting cast...especially Mitch....he brought some fun humor to the story. Overall this was a great story with wonderful characters and I would highly recommend it!
This was one of my most anticipated reads of the year and it's a gem of a debut. I haven’t stopped swooning with love for it. Emily is in a major transition period of her life. She was summarily dumped by the man she thought she was going to marry after years of putting her own life on hold to support his schooling and future career. She heads to her sister’s small town to take over as caregiver while her sister recovers from a car accident. Part of her responsibilities include volunteering for the summer Ren Faire so her teen niece can participate. Emily is grateful for the chance to reconnect with her family while she figures out her next steps, even if she didn’t anticipate becoming a tavern wench in the process. There’s a lot to love about Emily. It was refreshing to read about a character who dropped out of college and hear how she feels about the decision now and whether she really wants to go back to school. I also loved how she felt about the town and its people, the way she’d been looking for a place to call her own and stumbled right into it. This really resonated with me. Her character arc was so strong as she took ownership of her life and figured out how to move forward after having put her own needs on hold for so long. Then there’s her antagonistic relationship with Simon, who’s in charge of the faire. Simon is basically my dream man. He’s a high school English teacher by school year, Ren Faire pirate by summer. More than that, he’s a cinnamon roll disguised as an uptight grump. (If you don't picture Simon as Captain Hook/Colin O’Donoghue while you're reading, you're doing it wrong.) Of course, Simon has Reasons for being such a grump. Simon’s arc is a moving exploration of grief and how grief can evolve as the years progress. He has to figure out who he is apart from his loss and how to integrate it into his future. Then there’s Emily and Simon together. I got weak in the knees for their banter. It’s such a simmering slow burn between them and when they finally give into their attraction: fireworks! I loved every part of their relationship. There were so many swoon-worthy moments: piles of roses delivered at the faire! He makes her breakfast! He sets out to woo her! Gah, be still my heart. But they also have to figure out how they are together in real life, versus how they are as their Ren Faire characters. There’s some great exploration about identity, expectations, and the masks we wear. Simon, particularly, feels free to let loose at the Faire in ways he never does in his normal day to day. Who is he really: the pirate Captain Blackthorne or Simon the English teacher? He needs to figure out how to accept both sides of himself and figure out what he really wants. The side characters are just as amazing as the main couple: sister April, niece Caitlin, Chris, Stacey, the bookstore-owning Queen. I loved all the people who featured into this story. And I especially loved Read It And Weep, where Emily starts working. I would like to go there immediately. This book made me so happy! There’s so much humor and heart. It also made me want to go to a ren faire asap. Whenever it happens, I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for a Simon of my own. CW: past death of a sibling due to non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, grief, car accident Disclosure: I received an ARC from Berkley in exchange for an honest review.
Emily was in a rough place in her life and completely ready to drop everything and move to a small town in Maryland to help her older sister when she had a car accident that put her out of commission for a few months. Driving to appointments, chauffeuring her teenage niece Caite around, no problem. Emily (like so many of us) is way more comfortable fixing someone else's life than her own. Then she gets roped into volunteering with Caite at the town's annual Renaissance Faire and meets English teacher Simon. Simon sees the Faire as his brother's legacy and believes he's the only one who can run things the way they need to go. So Emily's relaxed approach to life and wenching don't go over well with him- which reminds her too much of her jerk ex-fiancé. They seem to clash every time they meet: until the Faire is on. Because Simon's sexy pirate and Emily's tavern wench hit things off a lot better than their mundane counterparts. Can Faire and real life mix into a happily ever after or is this a well met summer fling that will end when summer is over? Debut author Jen DeLuca gives readers a romance that is both familiar and fresh. Emily and Simon can't seem to get along, always say the wrong things, and poor first impressions make it look like it's going to be a long summer for them both. Using the Renaissance Faire as the way for the two to get to know each other in new ways is a great twist and tons of fun. DeLuca's own Faire experiences come through loud and clear and whisks readers into a weekend world where suddenly far more is possible than in mundane life. Emily, who has always felt like an outsider, slowly becomes a part of the Faire world and through the Faire she becomes a part of small Willow Creek town life. She's friendly and caring, always willing to do what she can to help others, always putting others first. At the same time she feels like the odd one out, who others let do things for them but forget as soon as she isn't needed. Her jerk ex-fiancé used her and left her wondering if she deserves to come first in anyone's life- from family to friends to herself. It's wonderful watching Em begin to regain the confidence she must have once had and grow into herself over the course of the book. Simon is a little harder to get to know because Well Met is told through Emily's point of view, so we only see him through her eyes. But she's not too proud to admit when she starts to see beneath Simon's surface and who he could be if he gives himself the chance. Simon has lived in his older brother's shadow all his life and now Sean is gone and Simon has to figure out what happens next for him. Like Em, the reader can't help but be attracted to Simon's pirate alter-ego during the Faire, and you can't help but be thrilled when she gives the growing chemistry between them a chance. Deluca thrills is this wonderful romantic debut, full of sparkling, snarky dialogue; delightful, laugh out loud humor; delicious chemistry; and two main characters you're cheering for each step of the way as they find themselves behind the shadows of uncertainty and the expectations of others. Well Met is a definite must read for fans of romantic comedy like Christina Lauren and Janet Evanovich and is a book that's probably going to become one of my staple, feel good rereads. DeLuca has set a high bar for her future books- I can't wait to see what she brings us next! I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an hone
There are sooooooo many things I want to say about Well Met....to begin, I’m just going to say....GRAB THIS BOOK NOW!!!! I absolutely loved Emily’s character; we all have been in her shoes in some way or another.....she rose above everything and became such an inspiration!!!! Simon....oh Simon....he is welcome to woo me anytime!!!! The supporting characters had so much depth to them....they certainly added to my joy of reading!! I was texting my girlfriend and told her how I loved “Emma” and “Ian”’s connection I am blown away at how this could be Ms. DeLuca’s first novel!!! I just want to read more of her words!!! Annnnndddddd......I want to attend the Renn Faire now!!!! I’m going to end with a few of my fav quotes: “Above you are the stars and below you is the earth” “When I woo you, you’ll know it” “But then you came along, Emily, and you weren’t a should. You were a want.” Swwwwwwoooooonnnnnnnnn
Rating: 4.5 Stars Emily's life sort of imploded, after she lost her boyfriend, her home, and her job. Therefore, when her sister was injured in a car accident, she didn't hesitate to pickup and relocate to Willow Creek in order to care for April. Emily may not have realized it, but moving to Willow Creek was one of the best decisions she had ever made. Huzzah! I adored this book! I laughed and smiled and simply had a wonderful time reading Well Met. I am not sure what I loved best about it, but here's a rundown of things that delighted me. • I loved being at the Renaissance Faire! I used to see commercials on TV when I was a kid, and always wanted to go. Now, I sort of feel like I did, because DeLuca did such a wonderful job depicting it for me, and immersing me in the Ren Faire life. • Small towns never fail to win my heart, and Willow Creek was one special place. There's something about the way everyone knows each other, and how they share so much history. DeLuca was honest, and exposed some of the negatives, but those positive things held so much more weight, and seeing the town rally around their own was a thing of beauty. • What happened to Emily was horrible. My heart broke for her, but I was overjoyed to see her making connections and planting some roots in Willow Creek. I know people felt like she was second guessing herself a lot, but can you blame her with what happened with her last boyfriend? I had a lot empathy for her, and could relate to those feelings of inadequacy. • The relationship between Emily and her niece, Cait, was quite wonderful. I liked seeing it growing stronger and stronger with each chapter. I was also happy to see her being able to connect with her older sister. They were separated by quite a few years, but it warmed my heart seeing their friendship blossom and grow during April's recovery. • I have a soft spot for grumpy heroes, and Simon definitely qualified as one, though, once I learned why he was so grumpy, I wanted to wrapped my arms around him and give him a hug. He had had a few tough years, and I so wanted him and Emily to work out, because he deserved that level of happiness. • I have mentioned how amusing and funny this book was, but it was also quite emotional at times. Both Emily and Simon were dealing with some open wounds, and they were having a hard time moving forward. It was fantastic that they were able to help the other see the situation from a different perspective, because that insight made all the difference. I have nothing but love for this book. It made me laugh, swoon, and smile. My face hurt, while I was reading it, as it does right now, as I pen this review, because it made me so happy. Well Met was an utter delight, and I will eagerly await more from Jen DeLuca.