By Jen DeLuca
A 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.
I wanted to love Well Played as much as I loved Well Met. I really did. And honestly, Well Played is a solid 4 star book. It just didn’t have that little extra oomph that pushed it to 5 stars like Well Met did. Part of that stems from this book being only from Stacey’s point of view. In Well Met, I felt like I was able to completely understand Simon despite it being from Emily’s POV. That didn’t feel true for Well Played. This review going to be difficult because even though you figure out who the hero is early in the book, I still don’t want to give it away. Without his POV, it’s hard to understand and relate to his reasonings and emotions. Which is okay but it means that he’s not the strongest character. I want more from the hero in Well Played. That being said, it leads to my favorite thing about the book and that is Well Played is completely Stacey’s story. And wow, did I relate to Stacey. We’re both around the same age, still living in the same town and with our parents basically, not using our college degree or major. I can go on and on. Basically, we’re both at the same stage in life, of wanting more and not sure at all how to find it. I’m not 100% Stacey, of course, but the feelings and desires she has are so absolutely familiar. Jen DeLuca put into words and a character on the page who so similar and has those same desires for something different that I’m feeling right now. While I don’t see myself going down the same road that Stacey does in Well Played and I definitely don’t have a cute pen-pal like she does, she may be my top heroine of 2020.
Like Well Met, Well Played has all the fun and humor of the Renaissance Faire setting although it does span past the faire. It was delightful and cheerful even with the moments of similarity I felt with Stacey. I enjoyed the literary references. There were stand out cute moments like Stacey having her social media friends guess how many Pumpkin Spice Lattes she would drink in the fall.And there were cute lines like:
He was looking at me the way that Simon looked at Emily. When I looked in his eyes, I didn’t feel restless. I didn’t feel melancholy. A lot had changed for me in a year.Well Played by Jen DeLuca, Chapter 16
I’m not Cyrano. I’m just me. I may not be The One as far as you’re concerned. But Anastasia, you were The One for me. You still are. You always will be.Well Played by Jen DeLuca, Chapter 20
I really like the whole email setup and the back and forth between Stacey and the hero as their virtual develop their relationship. It seemed accidentally fitting to the current COVID-19 world. Overall, a sweet book with an extremely personally relatable heroine and a delightful setting.
*Received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.