The Bronte Plot by Katherine Reay
Thomas Nelson Publishers
❤ Goodreads Synopsis ❤
Lucy Alling makes a living selling rare books, often taking suspicious measures to reach her goals. When her unorthodox methods are discovered, Lucy's secret ruins her relationship with her boss and her boyfriend James—leaving Lucy in a heap of hurt, and trouble. Something has to change; she has to change.
In a sudden turn of events, James's wealthy grandmother Helen hires Lucy as a consultant for a London literary and antiques excursion. Lucy reluctantly agrees and soon discovers Helen holds secrets of her own. In fact, Helen understands Lucy's predicament better than anyone else.
As the two travel across England, Lucy benefits from Helen's wisdom, as Helen confronts the ghosts of her own past. Everything comes to a head at Haworth, home of the Brontë sisters, where Lucy is reminded of the sisters' beloved heroines, who, with tenacity and resolution, endured—even in the midst of change.
Now Lucy must go back into her past in order to move forward. And while it may hold mistakes and regrets, she will prevail—if only she can step into the life that's been waiting for her all along.
❤ My Thoughts ❤
I've been faithfully reading Reay's books since her first publication, and that wasn't even all that long ago. And I'm never entirely sure if I love them or not. I think perhaps her work is more complex than mere love or dislike, or it could also be that she gets this close to perfection, but not quite. Or it might just be me, expecting something, anticipating something, that I'm just never going to find. It doesn't mean I don't like her work, find it entertaining, or read it quickly, because I do . . . on all three counts. It's just I always hope for something . . . different.
The best parts of The Bronte Plot involve Lucy and Helen's trip to England, which is pure delight. I love all the literary references (the ones I understand anyway) and love all the places the women visit that have a literary theme. Places I never knew about because I never anticipated I would ever have a chance to visit England. I hope to do that someday and so this novel actually gave me quite a few sight-seeing tips, places that need to be on the list for any lover of classic literature.
I love textures and colors and furniture so I also delighted in the antiquities aspect of the story. I could see and feel everything Lucy described and those descriptions warmed me. I adored the moments she spent in Haworth, where the Bronte sisters lived, where Lucy spent time redesigning the rooms of the inn where she was staying, helping the hostess rework the themes. It was a very selfless act on her part and I think I felt closest to her while she's in Haworth, struggling with her identity. I would have loved to be there, not with her per se, but experiencing what she experienced. Of course, I've always been a little bit of a loner so the idea of spending time alone on the moors appeals to me. A touch of romanticism, I expect.
Sid, Lucy's employer, is charming. I wish he'd been in more of the story in some ways, but also understand why he couldn't be. Still, I just loved him. Dillon, their driver in England, is adorable, and Bette, the hostess for their stay in Haworth, just warmed my heart. I love how Dillon calls her pure sunshine. Her gift is to make others feel welcome, to be a hostess, to love. I do believe that apart from Sid, Bette was my favorite character.
Now, for the reason I'm only going with 4 stars instead of 5. I fear the romance between Lucy and James, Helen's grandson, was a bit off-putting. Stories of self-discovery do not need to include a romance on top of everything else. The story would have been just as good, likely even better, had it been just about Lucy's soul-searching. As it was, the romance at the beginning felt rushed and harried. They meet, fall in love, and break up within the first 50 pages of the book, with far too much of their relationship developing off the page and being reference later as to having happened. It felt hurriedly squeezed in and just didn't work. And in that same vein, the ending fell too cookie-cutter perfect. Real life isn't like that. Mistakes have consequences and the consequences for Lucy were wrapped up with a tidy pink bow that just didn't feel real to me.
I also would have appreciated a bit more faith-based decision-making. Instead I seriously doubted whether anyone actually was a believer. They learned some moral lessons, yes, but nothing that pointed to an actual relationship with the Lord. The only real reference to faith of any kind if Helen's enjoyment of C.S. Lewis' theological works, which is good, but probably could have been expanded on for a little more depth.
Other than these few dislikes I mentioned, I found The Bronte Plot to be quite engaging . . . a nice distraction for a holiday weekend. Just make sure you're actually familiar with the Bronte sisters' works if you give this novel a try. I've only ever read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, but I've seen several film adaptations of their work so I wasn't lost. Otherwise, my confusion would have been monumental. ❤