The second I hear about this one, I knew I needed to read it: a contemporary romance set at a Renaissance Faire?! YES PLEASE. It took me longer than I had hoped to get my hands on it, since for some reason not everyone was as excited about it as myself, so it was slow in getting to my local library. But I finally got it and once I did, I basically devoured it.
“Like the stars, your love should be a constant source of light, and like the earth, a firm foundation from which to grow.”
Emily’s life has sort of fallen to pieces – breaking up with a long-term boyfriend, not really having any place to go/live, education plans that got cut off and never picked back up. It’s not the worst timing though, because it allowed her to “drop everything” and move to a small town in Maryland to help her older sister recover, and take care of her niece, after a serious car accident injury. As part of taking care of said niece, Emily gets roped into volunteering at the town’s annual Renaissance Faire fundraiser as a tavern wench. Though her time in town was supposed to be short, just to help her sister, she finds herself making friends and starting to imagine a future for herself there. And then there’s Simon, the Faire’s organizer, who seemed from the start like he hated her and her lighthearted attitude toward the Faire, but as Emily finds out more about his past and his connection to the Faire, she realizes there’s more to him. Plus, she thinks perhaps his flirting while in character at the Faire isn’t just for show…and is surprised that some of her feelings might be real too.
Oh my goodness, this was just the most fun, entertaining, quirky and incredibly sweet contemporary romance! I wasn’t wrong at all with my original thoughts, that a Ren Faire would be a fantastic setting for a romance (and why has no one thought of this before?!). But seriously, this was such a fun read. You can tell the author has experience working at Ren Faire’s because the behind the scenes insights and details were really well done – specific enough that they really brought that aspect of the story to life. And it was fascinating to read about all the planning and prep behind the Faire itself. It’s just not something I had ever thought about and it was really enjoyable to read.
And then the way that she used aspects of the Faire to advance Simon and Emily’s romantic interactions, like the handfasting and the roses (OMG the roses – SWOON), were adorable and unique. Plus, the way they blurred the lines between “acted” and “real” feelings was a creative way to add drama and confusion to the plot (a must for a contemporary romance). And then the end, the way they came back around and were used again to totally clarify all the feelings as “real” was heart-meltingly satisfying. Plus, this nerdy reader loved all the Shakespeare references and passages and quirky-flirty dialogue, along with the major presence that a bookstore played in the plot. And in the context of the story, it truly helped create a great chemistry between Simon and Emily that showed how well-matched they actually were. (This chemistry carried over into the steamy a few times. It wasn’t too often, so whether you prefer that or would like more, just go in prepared for limited bedroom scenes, but know that the ones you get are really well written.)
As for the more “serious” aspects of the story, like Emily’s messed up mental state and low sense of self-worth post break-up and Simon’s issues with grief and memory that have him so tightly tied to the Faire, they were handled well. They gave the story enough extra depth and internal “questioning” to be believable and understandable, but not so much that they occluded the generally cheerful ambiance of this contemporary romance. It’s the perfect amount to keep things grounded without taking away the overall uplifting feels and positive vibes and “make you feel fuzzy and happy inside” vibes that I both wanted and got from this novel.
Straight up, I loved this book. I just finished it and I feel so full of giggly, happy feelings – I legit am smiling full-on while writing this review. Everything about the book was so sweet and positive and it just feels like the perfect novel to read for a soul that needs some healing or a heavy heart that needs some lightening or, really, just as a person who could use some frivolity and gratification and swooning in their life. The perfect little contemporary romance, with exactly the nerdy quirk that every true reader enjoys. I’m so excited to see that the author has a second novel in this little town/Ren Faire setting coming out and you know I’ll be picking it up asap when it gets published.