Author: Jen DeLuca
Narrator: Brittany Pressley
Audiobook Length: 9 hours 59 minutes
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.
[Well Met (#1) Review]
In Well Played, readers return to the Renaissance Faire in the small town of Willow Creek, Maryland. This story focuses on fellow tavern wench, Stacey, who works side by side with Emily, the main character of the first novel, Well Met, at the Faire. While the reader does get updates on Emily and Simon’s relationship, this story focuses on Stacey and her romantic journey. At 27 years old, Stacey is seeing those around her moving forward in careers, getting married, and having kids, so she starts to feel the pressure of approaching 30. Personally, I do not relate to this feeling at all, as 30 is nothing special, but I do know many people that could connect to Stacey’s feeling.
After drinking one night, Stacey decides to text her fling Dex MacLean, deciding that she wants to get to know each other more. She is thrilled when he responds and the two begin a virtual relationship through texting and email before they eventually plan to meet when Dex returns to town for the next Faire. Aside from the developing romance, Stacey is going through some life changes. After giving up her dream to care for her mother six years ago, Stacey is scared to move on for fear it will happen again. This part of the story actually intrigued me more than the romance, as I was curious to explore her journey. Some pieces, however, that needed a lot more exploration is her obsession with social media and her resistance to change until someone else does it first. For the former, she says the only point of a selfie is to post it on social media. I thought this would be a nice subplot to discuss, but it was glossed over. As for the latter, I understood some instances where she felt stagnant, such as trying to leave Willow Creek, but others, such as updating her Faire outfit seemed like she could have addressed at any moment.
While there were multiple potential moments for conflict, most of the tension was resolved instantaneously. When Stacey discovers that the person she has been messaging may not be the right person, she comes to terms with it very fast. When the two confront each other, it is initially resolved very quickly before they start to avoid each other and then confront each other again. It just seemed very odd not to have more conflict as this is the main starting point for their relationship; especially as the real “Dex” knows the truth the entire time while Stacey was in the dark until a little later when she started acknowledging some feelings she had about something not adding up. There were reasons behind the hidden identity, but, again, it was, unfortunately, a blink and you missed it moment, as it was resolved too quickly for my taste.
Overall, this novel had a lot of potentials, but it just did not quite live up to my expectations. The romance was cute, but it felt underdeveloped, as there was almost no conflict between the characters to work through, even though it was set up, as there should have been. Not only was there the deception, but there is a history between Stacey and the real Dex that is glossed over. For me, that central thread repeated throughout the story. Many obstacles just were not fully addressed/resolved. Despite my dislike of multiple elements in this novel, I still enjoy the series as a whole. As this novel nicely sets up the next novel, Well Matched, the reader gained a glimpse into April and Mitch in this installment and I am greatly looking forward to their story!