“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.”
-Synopsis from StoryGraph
*light spoilers ahead*
Well Met by Jen DeLuca is book one in the Well Met series. As the synopsis alludes, much of this story takes place over the course of the summer during a Renaissance Faire.
Emily is only participating in the faire as a volunteer so that her fourteen year-old niece, Caitlin, can also participate as a member of the cast. She and Simon get off on the wrong foot and she pretty much instantly hates him. She spends her faire weekends as a tavern wench and actively avoiding Simon as much as possible. But Simon sort of flip-flops on her and, once he’s in his faire persona (a pirate) he flirts with her constantly.
Throughout the course of the book, I was unsure as to whether or not I really liked Simon’s character. The faire cast and volunteers (kids and adults alike) spent weeks preparing (learning about history, social customs, accents) it seemed as though if Simon were planning to establish a running storyline with another cast member, that it would have been established beforehand.
Instead, his faire persona’s love story with Emily’s faire persona is a complete surprise to everyone. Emily goes back and forth between thinking all of the attention from Simon is intentional and that he really is interested in her, and thinking that he’s just really committed to putting on a successful show.
As we get to know Simon more, I couldn’t help but think that he was struggling so much with the grief and the loss of his brother that he was possibly not ready to be in a relationship. Even Emily is still very much struggling with a recent breakup and general insecurities, to the point that she is quick to become defensive and jump to conclusions about almost everything.
She assumes the worst about everyone but especially about herself. She wants to help Simon heal and get through his grief, but neither of them seemed to be in a good place, and I didn’t see that as being a great foundation for a relationship. I think what it came down to for me is that I enjoyed the story aspect of this book more than the romance.
There are two more books in the series, Well Played and Well Matched that I plan to read later this year.