Well Played by Jen DeLuca

Well Played by Jen DeLuca

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Another cute Ren Faire love story from Jen DeLuca! As evidenced by the fact that the next installment comes out in, oh, three weeks or so, I’m a little behind. But better late than never, I suppose! Just like last time, I really enjoyed DeLuca’s writing, as well as that charming Faire setting within Willow Creek. What a cute one.

Stacey is feeling stuck. While all her friends move on with their lives, getting married, having children, having the jobs they’ve always wanted, Stacey sticks to Willow Creek and to Faire. Not that she has a choice: ever since her mom’s first heart attack five years ago, she’s had to be there for her family, the dutiful daughter, just in case something happens.

Ready for a change and drunk on tequila and destiny, she texts her summer hookup, Dex MacLean, over Facebook. To her more sober surprise, she gets an answer – and it launches a year of emails and texts messages that have her falling deeper and deeper for a man she thought was shallow. But when Ren Faire season comes back around, it becomes clear that these messages aren’t from who she thought they were from…Stacey has been catfished.

I didn’t love Stacey. I thought her true and authentic self was lovely, and the moments she spends with her friends or just reading with her cat made me feel like I got her. It’s the fake smiling and the persona that made me dislike her, just a little. Stacey has managed to maintain a facade as a separate personality she thinks people want her to be, and it’s inauthentic and boring. The more time she spends getting closer to herself and who she really is, the better a character she becomes. And this story really isn’t just a romance: it’s a coming of age, where Stacey learns to love herself and smile for real all over again.

Something about a relationship that blooms through text and email brings me back to my teenage days. That’s certainly how my own romance began, but further, I think there’s a disconnect highlighted in this book by falling in love through a screen. This romance blossoms when our two main characters finally end up in the same room. Like, the sparks are electric. I certainly can’t say that DeLuca lacks that. But the fact that Stacey didn’t even know who was on the other end of her exchanges creates some big problems, and some big modern issues. It’s very well brought into our current age, but in a way that isn’t obnoxious or judgey, just cautionary.

I love a good Ren Faire read in the fall. I remember when I first read Well Met (see full review here) I was actually skeptical of the plot. I knew little to nothing about Renaissance Faires and wasn’t sure I wanted to know. However, after that first book, not only did I know more, but I was absolutely charmed. And here we are two years later, and my friends and I are talking about hopping in the car and attending one ourselves. It’s kind of a weird fall thing, but I definitely think it adds to the spirit. This series is like a fun way to explore the whole concept, if you’re interested but don’t know too much about it.

You’re going to love the end to this book. It’s sweet as pie and exactly what you’re hoping for. I hope you pick it up and come to love the characters as much as I do.

A copy of Well Played was provided to me by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It was released on September 22, 2020 (oops!). I do recommend the book, but what I really can’t wait for is Well Matched, coming October 19, 2021! Well Matched will be telling April and Mitch’s story. Stay tuned for that review…hopefully not a year late. 😉

Have a wonderful rest of your week friends, and I’ll see you on the flipside!

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