Blogmas Book Review: Well Matched by Jen DeLuca

Summary:
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.

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Review:
Well Matched is finally the book where we get April and Mitch falling in love! I had a lot of fun reading this one but I wanted more of it. The story follows April, who is mostly focused on helping her daughter get ready to graduate high school. April’s plan has always been to move out of Willow Creek once Caitlin went off to college. So, she’s doing some things around her house, like painting, to get ready to sell it and move closer to her job in the city. But things get a little complicated when Mitch asks April to be his fake girlfriend and go with him to his grandparent’s anniversary family get-together. As this is a romance novel, obviously hijinks ensue, and the two fall in love. I’m happy to say that we get not only the fake dating trope but also the “there’s only one-bed” trope (which was absolute perfection).
I had a hard time connecting with April for the first half of this book. She’s incredibly defensive, which I might not have noticed if the story wasn’t told from her perspective. She’s been a single mom for almost 18 years, and she’s still living like she’s just arrived in Willow Creek. She’s private and doesn’t allow herself to really connect or develop relationships with anyone. Her sister, Emily (the main character of Well Met), has gotten April a little bit more involved and April has sort of become friends with Emily’s friends. But even after living here for all this time, she’s kept herself pretty distanced. I had a hard time with this until I realized that it wasn’t that April hadn’t changed in the last 15+ years she’d lived in Willow Creek, it was just that she hadn’t *realized* that she’d changed. And once that was pointed out, I liked April a lot more.
Mitch is a total cinnamon roll. I loved every bit that we got to see with him in previous books and this book only made me love him more. His family is incredibly judge mental of his career choice and they dismiss him. So, they’ve never really gotten to know the extent of what he does for the kids he teaches or what he does for the Faire. I thought this was a really interesting aspect of the story and allowed for great development between April and Mitch when April learns of this dynamic in his family.
I really liked April and Mitch as a couple, but I felt a little bit like we didn’t really get to see them fall in love. We did see that, as they worked on painting her house, staining her deck, putting in new carpet. But so many of those scenes felt so similar to one another that when they finally said they loved each other I couldn’t help but think “wait, when did that happen?” I think a part of this was because of April’s desire to deny that anything real was going on between them and her thinking that their relationship needed to be a secret. Everything being kept so quiet and sneaky meant that we didn’t really get to see them doing a lot of the usual things that we might see couples do (like dating, in front of other people). We did get some absolutely excellent scenes of the two of them at the Faire.
Overall, I really had a fun time with this book. It was a fun romance following two characters that had depth and a romantic connection I was easily invested in. I really love this series and I can’t wait to see what other romantic tensions at the Ren Faire DeLuca can come up with. I can’t wait to get to know Lulu more in the next book in the series.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: Well Played by Jen DeLuca

GoodReads Summary:
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 Played (Well Met, #2)Review:
I went into this book with pretty low expectations because when it was first released (not too long ago) all I saw were negative reviews. This was upsetting because I adored the first book in this series, but I knew I was going to read it anyway. I’m actually glad I went into the book this way because I think it made me enjoy it even more. I really liked Well Played.
The story follows Stacey who has lived in Willow Creek for her whole life, except for a short period of time for college. She always planned to leave and live somewhere else. She had goals and dreams. She even had a plan and a job lined up, but then her mother got sick. Stacey returned home to help care for her mother. Even though her mother is doing much better, Stacey is still scared that something will happen if she leaves again. But that doesn’t stop her from wanting more than Willow Creek. She is happiest during Faire season. For the past few summers, she’s had a fling with Dex, one of the members of The Dueling Kilts (a band that comes to the Faire every summer). After Simon and Emily get engaged, Stacey can’t help but feel lonely, like she wants more. The theme of this book is really just Stacey wanting more from her life, more than Willow Creek, more in her love life, just more. So, we follow her as she tries to find that more.
I didn’t love the catfishing aspect of the story, but I think it was better that the reader knew Stacey wasn’t really emailing and texting with Dex. I think it would have been more upsetting if the reader had been surprised alongside Stacey. I also think it was super obvious who it was that Stacey was really talking to and, again, I liked this. I think it was a good way to get the reader invested because we knew who it was that she was really falling for. It gave the reader a chance to get invested in their relationship, even though there were secrets. I usually don’t like the secret keeping trope, but I didn’t mind it so much in this book.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I am so excited to read the third book (Mitch!!) when it comes out. I enjoyed the ups and downs of Stacey’s romance. I liked how her friendship with Emily, Simon, and Mitch were included. I liked that we got to see the family dynamics with her parents. I also absolutely loved the sex scenes. They were super good. I basically liked everything about this book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: Well Met by Jen DeLuca

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GoodReads Summary:
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.
Well Met (Well Met, #1)Review:
I loved everything about this book. I spend a wonderful fall evening curled up with my pup in bed reading this. Though, this one would be a great summer read too.
Jen DeLuca made me fall in love with all of these characters so easily as well as the small town they all live in.
I adored the small-town setting of Willow Creek, Maryland. It was so fun to read about the people who live in and love this small town. Everyone knowing everyone else’s business just a symptom of what it’s like to live in such a town.
Emily is an outsider in Willow Creek. She’s come to take care of her sister and niece after they were in a car accident. I loved that. The family aspect of the story warmed my little heart. These sisters have an age gap of twelve years, so they’ve not been the closest of sisters. But in Emily’s time in Willow Creek, this starts to change. I just adored that.
Then there’s Simon, grumpy faced and stressed about the Faire. Emily immediately does not like him. Enter a sort of hate to love story. It’s not really enemies to lovers because they don’t know one another at all. I liked Simon. He’s still figuring out how to live in his hometown now that his brother has died, wondering if he will forever be Sean’s little brother. Running the Faire every year to keep his memory alive. The Faire is also the six weeks out of the year where he gets to have fun. He plays a pirate, and boy did I swoon for him.
There’s so much more to this story than I’m finding myself able to put into words. It was funny and heartwarming, but also had lessons of forging your own path in the world. I loved this book and I already cannot wait for Stacey’s story in the next book. I’m also really hoping we get a third that will be April’s story. So, this is one I definitely recommend.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.