Summary (from the publisher): Stacey is jolted when two of her two best friends 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.
My Rating: 5/5 Stars
Jen DeLuca’s Renaissance Faire inspired contemporary romance, Well Met, is one of my favorite reads of 2020, so I could not wait to get my hands on the sequel companion novel, Well Played. Never have I ever been to a Renaissance Faire, but that hasn’t stopped me from falling in love with these two books! You don’t necessarily need to read Well Played before reading Well Met, but I highly suggest that you do, #1 because Well Met is such a fantastic contemporary romance and features one of my favorite fictional boyfriends, Simon (he gives me MAJOR Ben Wyatt vibes). But more importantly, the sequel does contain spoilers for Well Met, i.e. the relationship progress or status of Emily & Simon. Reading Well Met gives you a more rich and fun understanding of the Ren Faire world, since Emily is new to it herself in the first book, while Well Played’s main protagonist, Stacey, is a seasoned tavern witch.
Well Played follows Emily’s best friend, Stacey. A longtime tavern witch and Ren Faire volunteer, Stacey looks forward to the faire every year, not just because it’s one of her few favorite parts of still living in the town she grew up in, but also to reunite with her summer fling, Dex. Dex is a member of renaissance band, the Dueling Kilts, managed by Dex’s cousin, Daniel. On a whim after the faire ends for the year, Emily emails Dex to share her thoughts on their ‘relationship,’ and receives a way more tender and emotional email back then she could have ever expected. As Stacey and Dex email throughout the year and form a relationship, it never crosses Stacey’s mind that the person behind the email might not be Dex after all…
Well Played was such a perfect sequel to Well Met! While like many other readers, I did enjoy Well Met more because I just fell so hard for Emily and Simon’s relationship and getting introduced to the unique setting. However, I still loved Stacey’s story! Yes, it was slightly predictable, but at the same time, Jen DeLuca had me so hooked I didn’t care. I’m someone who often doesn’t enjoy when a story is told through formats outside the narrative, such as through text messages or emails. However, I really loved reading through Stacey and ‘Dex’ ’s emails. They were really essential to get a grasp on their relationship and feelings for one another. I also liked the book went well past the reveal of Dex’s identity, and we got to experience Stacey’s relationship with her true admirer.
Outside the romance, much of Stacey’s storyline deals with her desire to get out of the small town she’s always grown up in, but feeling attached there because of her family. So many of Stacey’s friends have either moved on from the town or are setting themselves up for a new stage in life, making Stacey more angsty for a change herself. I thought her ending was so well deserved (pun unintended, but we’re leaving it in here) and felt true to the story. Jen DeLuca also really maintains the Ren Faire setting throughout the book, especially since Stacey has been part of the faire since its start. The faire is more of the background setting in this book, whereas in Well Met, we were exploring it alongside Emily.
As I mentioned before, you don’t necessarily need to read Well Met before Well Played, but it was so nice to check in on the main couple, Emily and Simon, from Well Met. I honestly would not mind another book or novella all about them, but I am super excited for the third book in the series, Well Matched, which will feature Mitch and April. I appreciated that Jen DeLuca starts setting up the two towards the end of Well Played, so that their relationship doesn’t feel out of left field in this third installment. I skimmed through the excerpt from Well Matched and I so already cannot wait for this third book!
Overall, if you enjoyed Well Met, Well Played is another must read!
Have you read Well Played or Well Met? Are you looking forward to April and Mitch’s story in Well Matched? Share in the comments