🎧 Just a Few Trips to the Renaissance Faire

Posted March 2, 2023 by Berls in Just a Few Books I Read, Review / 2 Comments

This feature is for short reviews, reviews of books in a series where it might feel repetitive, or (as Michelle suggested) books I was too lazy to write a “real” review for. Today’s books are all part of the series Well Met by Jen DeLuca. We read the first book for January’s COYER book club and I plowed through the remaining three (which I buddy read with Lillian, Brandee and, for the 2nd book, Lenore).

🎧  Just a Few Trips to the Renaissance FaireWell Met by Jen DeLuca
Narrator: Brittany Pressley
Series: Well Met #1
Published by Penguin Audio on September 3, 2019
Genres: Romance, Contemporary
Length: 9 hours 45 minutes
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library

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 was pretty excited to read this book, since the setting of a Renaissance Faire just hits my inner nerd in the sweet spot. I have to say it was everything I was hoping for and then some.

Well Met is exactly what it you’d expect in that it’s a contemporary romantic comedy – it’s not deep but it is a hell of a lot of fun and has some really great characters that I enjoyed watching fall in love.

Emily is a very likeable character – she’s moved to a small town to help take care of her sister and teenage niece after a car accident leaves her sister less mobile for several weeks. I enjoyed the self-sacrificing side of her, even if she was also running away from her own imploding life. She could have run away home where she’d be cared for, rather than to her sister who needed care. But that’s partly because that’s the sort of person Emily is — she’s a caregiver type and I really enjoyed and related to that part of her.

Simon is, in many ways, the exact opposite of Emily. Where she is easy to like, Simon has a very rough exterior. Where she is adaptable and eager to please, Simon is unbudgeable and often unaware of others’ opinions (let alone worrying about pleasing them). But his transformation when he is a pirate for Ren Faire exposes another side of him and helps us (and Emily) start to see that maybe that rough exterior is about more than being an ass, but actually carrying an awful lot of responsibility and grief.

The setting of a small town is already one of my favorites, with everyone knowing everyone and the camaraderie, but add to it a small town preparing for and hosting Ren Faire and it just got better. The way Emily becomes a part of the town through her participation in Ren Faire was fun to watch. Even better was watching her and Simon don new identities for Faire and with those identities lose some of their inhibitions, preconceptions, and misunderstandings to flirt, tease, and eventually fall in love.

🎧  Just a Few Trips to the Renaissance FaireWell Played by Jen DeLuca
Narrator: Brittany Pressley
Series: Well Met #2
Published by Penguin Audio on September 22, 2020
Genres: Romance, Contemporary
Length: 9 hours 59 minutes
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library

Another laugh-out-loud romantic comedy featuring kilted musicians, Renaissance Faire tavern wenches, and an unlikely love story.
Stacey is jolted when her friends Simon and Emily get engaged. She knew she was putting her life on hold when she stayed in Willow Creek to care for her sick mother, but it's been years now, and even though Stacey loves spending her summers pouring drinks and flirting with patrons at the local Renaissance Faire, she wants more out of life. Stacey vows to have her life figured out by the time her friends get hitched at Faire next summer. Maybe she'll even find The One.
When Stacey imagined "The One," it never occurred to her that her summertime Faire fling, Dex MacLean, might fit the bill. While Dex is easy on the eyes onstage with his band The Dueling Kilts, Stacey has never felt an emotional connection with him. So when she receives a tender email from the typically monosyllabic hunk, she's not sure what to make of it.
Faire returns to Willow Creek, and Stacey comes face-to-face with the man with whom she’s exchanged hundreds of online messages over the past nine months. To Stacey's shock, it isn't Dex—she's been falling in love with a man she barely knows.

After loving Well Met, I was really excited for the continuation and Stacey’s story in Well Played. It was thoroughly enjoyable and I’m really glad I was able to join in reading it with Brandee (4 stars), Lillian (4 stars) and Lenore (3.5 stars).

I already liked Stacey from Well Met, but I didn’t know her full story — all I had seen was this incredibly sweet, but a bit flighty young woman who loved Renaissance Faire and seemed to have a secret relationship going on. So I was curious to know more. Her story is deeper than I expected, but also had the potential to go a lot deeper. She’s sacrificed for her family, but also allowed it to freeze her in time, living in an apartment over her parent’s garage and giving up on her ambitions. I enjoyed watching her work her way out. My main complaints in her journey were that she could have gone further, she needed an awful lot of hand holding to get there, and it was a fairly predictable end. I’m not so bothered by the predictability… that’s part of what I love in my romance, that I can count on it to go certain ways.

From the very get-go, I was sucked into this story, though. So much of the romance is told through emails and text-messages, which I always really enjoy. Lillian and I talked about how it reminded us of You’ve Got Mail, which I just adored. Watching her fall in love through the thoughtful, funny, kind, sweet words of emails/texts all the while making predictions for when they would see each other again in person 1 year later was exciting. And once they do… oh I wish I could say without spoiling. But it was both exactly as I anticipated and yet better in many ways.

🎧  Just a Few Trips to the Renaissance FaireWell Matched by Jen DeLuca
Narrator: Brittany Pressley
Series: Well Met #3
Published by Penguin Audio on October 19, 2021
Genres: Romance, Contemporary
Length: 9 hours 30 minutes
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library

A pretend relationship gives two friends more than they bargained for in a Renaissance Faire rom com filled with flower crowns, kilts, corsets, and sword fights.
Single mother April Parker has lived in Willow Creek for twelve years with a wall around her heart. On the verge of being an empty nester, she's decided to move on from her quaint little town, and asks her friend Mitch for his help with some home improvement projects to get her house ready to sell.
Mitch Malone is known for being the life of every party, but mostly for the attire he wears to the local Renaissance Faire--a kilt (and not much else) that shows off his muscled form to perfection. While he agrees to help April, he needs a favor too: she'll pretend to be his girlfriend at an upcoming family dinner, so that he can avoid the lectures about settling down and having a more "serious" career than high school coach and gym teacher. April reluctantly agrees, but when dinner turns into a weekend trip, it becomes hard to tell what's real and what's been just for show. But when the weekend ends, so must their fake relationship.
As summer begins, Faire returns to Willow Creek, and April volunteers for the first time. When Mitch's family shows up unexpectedly, April pretends to be Mitch's girlfriend again...something that doesn't feel so fake anymore. Despite their obvious connection, April insists they've just been putting on an act. But when there's the chance for something real, she has to decide whether to change her plans--and open her heart--for the kilt-wearing hunk who might just be the love of her life.

This series has been a home run for me overall and this book is continuing the streak. It probably helped that I already knew and liked the characters coming into it, but I got to know and love them so much better by the end of the book. And it did so while employing one of my favorite tropes – the fake relationship!

What I liked:

  • I really liked both April and Mitch before the book started, but I didn’t know Mitch that well at all. He was kind of the flirtatious comic relief character, that you suspect is deeper, but you don’t know the details. I LOVED getting to see the details. I dare you to not fall in love with him.
  • I always enjoy a romance where the heroine is already a mother and at a different stage in her life. It makes her more relatable and April was very understandable. She’s been doing the single mom thing for 17-18 years, putting her dreams on hold for her daughter. Now she’s trying to prepare to be an empty nester by grabbing hold of those dreams, all while butting her head against the reality that maybe the dreams have changed a bit over those years.
  • A highlight of all these books for me is the Ren Faire. If you don’t see me at my local Ren Faire this year I’ll be shocked, it has me wanting to go so bad! This was the first book where the heroine (from whose point of view the book is told exclusively) isn’t “into” the RenFaire life. Her daughter, her sister, her brother-in-law and her “fake” boyfriend are deeply into it – basically running it – and she is an outsider. Until she isn’t. And I loved watching her timidly find her way into the life (even if she’s never going to be a lifer like the others).
I really only have two complaints:
  1. As with all the books thus far, I really wish we had dual POV! I just feel like we miss so much not knowing what’s going on from Mitch’s point of view.
  2. April has all these hangups about “gossip” and being the center of attention. The way she phrases it sometimes in her head makes me feel like it’s MORE than a introvert thing. It’s a, something bad has happened to make me incredibly uncomfortable thing. And it’s never addressed .So either it’s not that big a deal and was misportrayed OR it was explained well enough. I wanted more– especially because I feel like it would have played into her character growth better.
🎧  Just a Few Trips to the Renaissance FaireWell Traveled by Jen DeLuca
Narrator: Brittany Pressley
Series: Well Met #4
Published by Penguin Audio on December 6, 2022
Genres: Romance, Contemporary
Length: 9 hours 29 minutes
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library

The Renaissance Faire is on the move, and Lulu and Dex are along for the ride, in the next utterly charming rom-com from Jen DeLuca.
A high-powered attorney from a success-oriented family, Louisa "Lulu" Malone lives to work, and everything seems to be going right, until the day she realizes it’s all wrong. Lulu’s cousin Mitch introduced her to the world of Renaissance Faires, and when she spies one at a time just when she needs an escape, she leaps into the welcoming environment of turkey legs, taverns, and tarot readers. The only drawback? Dex MacLean: a guitarist with a killer smile, the Casanova of the Faire… and her traveling companion for the summer.
Dex has never had to work for much in his life, and why should he? Touring with his brothers as The Dueling Kilts is going great, and he always finds a woman at every Faire. But when Lulu proves indifferent to his many plaid charms and a shake-up threatens the fate of the band, Dex must confront something he never has before: his future.
Forced to spend days and nights together on the road, Lulu’s interest in the kilted bad boy grows as he shows her a side of himself no one else has seen. The stresses of her old lifestyle fade away as she learns to trust her intuition and follow her heart instead of her head. But when her time on the road is over, will Lulu go with her gut, or are she and Dex destined for separate paths?

I came into this book determined that I did not like Dex and there was no way Jen DeLuca was going to change my mind. And I was so certain that Mitch’s cousin, Louisa “Lulu”  — a high powered partner-track attorney was going to put him in his place. And that was going to be the only part I would enjoy. I was so incredible wrong on all points – thank goodness. And this is officially my favorite book of the series, earning a full 5 stars.

So first of all, Lulu. I knew I would like her from the moment I met her in the previous book. She’s loyal to Mitch in his family of one-uppers, plus she’s this uber successful lawyer. Playing hardball in a man’s world. What I didn’t expect was to fall in love with her because she’s just so relatable. She’s tired of playing hardball and she basically has a breakdown. at a RenFaire. And proceeds to run away from life by joining The Dueling Kilts (friends of her cousin Mitch’s) as the continue on their RenFaire travels back to Mitch’s home town. I found myself envying her as she unplugged from life — no email, no phone, no social media — just playing dress up (RenFaire) , living in an RV on campgrounds, and learning to trust her instincts, getting to know some pretty great people and oh yeah, falling in love.

So yeah, Lulu (while still very awesome) wasn’t the kick-ass ball-busting woman I was expecting Dex to be dealing with. She was exhausted and vulnerable. And Dex, while he did flirt with her, did not take advantage. Not even a little bit. He just started enjoying her company. Showing his hidden depths. Becoming – damn him! – loveable. To the point that I even felt sorry for him at a point. And was cheering when Lulu was sticking up for him because, yeah I saw it too. He is so much more than we thought or get to see. And there’s some growth happening there too. But mostly, I think it’s more that I see him more clearly (ahem, P&P fans will recognize that line lol <– couldn’t resist).

Anyway, they live very different lives – at least once it’s time for Lulu to get back to reality – and it wasn’t so obvious how/if this could work. I mean it’s a romance so you figure you’re going to get your HEA but you’re not quite sure how on this one. I enjoyed watching to see things unfold and cheer them on. I don’t know if this is the last book in the series or just the last for now, but if it is the end, what a great way to close. If it’s not, I’ll happily read more!

Narrator Note:

Since I listened to all three books, all narrated by Brittany Pressley, I figured I would write one narration review. In short, I love her!

I’ve enjoyed her narration a few times of the past year and she really has grown to be one of my favorite narrators. I always enjoy the character voices, the pacing, the translation of humor and personalities — it’s everything I’m looking for in a favorite narrator. And I love that I can listen at my preferred 2x speed. I hope to find more of her to love! 

About Berls

Michelle adopted me as part of her blog when I decided to close down my blog, Fantasy is More Fun. The blog was dying, but my love of reading and the blogosphere was still strong as ever - so I found my new home here at Because Reading!

I'm not just a book lover, but a one time author (that hopes to be more in the future), wife, mom to the cutest, happiest, best 2 year old and step-mom to the craziest, sweetest 22 year old on the planet. My family mean everything to me and they appear frequently in the Sunday Post with Berls. So grab a glass of wine and chat books, blogging, and family with me!



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