ARC provided by Berkley Romance (thank you!)
Publication: September 22nd 2020 by Berkley
1.) Well Met ★★★★
Full disclosure: I do consider this author my friend, so there could be subconscious biases here, but this rating, this review, and these thoughts are honest and my own!
“It all started with a necklace.”
When I tell you that Ren Fest romances are maybe a kink of mine, I am being completely truthful. I grew up going to a renaissance faire in Michigan every summer for my whole life. It was always such a magical experience walking through the gate and feeling like I entered a completely new world, filled with magic and music and fae and I truly looked forward to it every summer! Now I’m much older, and I live in a very warm place, and you know… we have this whole pandemic going on, so Well Played was just the perfect romance escape for me.
The second book stars Stacey, who was the other tavern wench with Emily in book one! This book starts out at the end of the faire, and we quickly learn about Stacey’s friends with benefits situation she has going on with Dex, one of the brother in The Dueling Kilts band!
But with faire season coming to and end, and Dex and his band going to the next one, Stacey is thrust back into her life where she is a receptionist living in a studio apartment over her parents’ garage. After college, she had big dreams to move away from her childhood small town, and going to New York to pursue her passion for all things fashion, but her mother started having health complications and she felt like she was much more needed at home with her family.
Emily has a lot of exciting things going on after everything that happened in Well Met, and Stacey is helping her and her sister, April, plan many things! She is also taking part in both of their separate book clubs which are vastly different, and it just really warmed my heart, because we love a good bookstore setting too, am I right?
Stacey is very much feeling the pressure of society’s expectations because she is approaching her later twenties, and she is still very much single, and very much aware because of social media that her friends (who did move away form Willow Creek) are starting their lives and even their own families. So one night, after missing her summer fling a little too much, and maybe drinking a little too much wine as well, she writes to Dex via the band’s facebook DMs. And after waking up slightly mortified, she realizes that she received a very nice message back.
“A watched pot never boils, and a watched phone never… lights up with a text. Something like that.”
After this, we get to see Stacey live this year of her life corresponding with maybe the love of her life, while also prepping so much for the next summer’s Ren Fest! But as the dates go by, and the anticipations builds and builds, she starts questioning a lot of things. (Somewhat spoiler alert and warning: do not be like me, get too curious for your own good, and look at the cover of this book to see the dude’s hair color!)
That’s pretty much all I can say without giving anything else away! I will say that I didn’t like how Stacey had to do almost everything, even though she is valid, I just wish the love interest would have proven himself (and his sincerity with his mistakes) a lot more in every situation. Truly, Stacey was a bit too good for him, in my humble opinion. Also, I feel like at times Stacey would feel a bit dated, or not like she was twenty-seven. No one that age is #PSLs in 2020, I’m so sorry baby.
But if you’re looking for a cute romance, with some amazing settings, and some really swoon-worthy banter, then I really suggest picking this one up! Also, Stacey is plus-sized and talks about her body image and her journey with her confidence a lot and I really loved that as well. Also, this has a really great subplot about family expectations and how hard it can be to leave your family, especially when you feel like they need you! Yet, how it is also really important to chase your own dreams and live the life you want to live, regardless of how unconventional it may seem to others!
Overall, this was just such a fun read! And I truly believe Jen’s settings are a tier above. Also, the next book, Well Matched, is Mitch and April’s book and when I tell you the thought of them together makes me banshee scream with love, whew.
Trigger and Content Warnings: talk of loss of a loved one in the past (to cancer), talk of difficulty conceiving children in the past, talk of heart attacks in the past, a lot of talk and thoughts of body image, anxiety depiction, and catfishing.