Several years ago, I read Katherine Reay's debut novel, Dear Mr. Knightley, and I was completely charmed—so much so that I named it my favorite book of 2013. While I still haven't read Reay's second book, Lizzy & Jane, solely due to time and an insane review schedule, I must admit that I did a little happy dance when I opened a package from The Fiction Guild and found The Brontë Plot inside!
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.
Written in Katherine Reay's unique style, The Brontë Plot is an intriguing story. Set in Chicago and England, the bulk of the story involves Lucy and Helen's shopping and redemption trip around England. I absolutely loved the concept of the book; however, a few things kept me from wholeheartedly enjoying it.
Lucy isn't exactly a likable main character, though she does go through much growth and change throughout the novel, and she ends up much more sympathetic than she was in the beginning. Still, I had trouble rooting for her or for her romance with James. The romance is definitely not the main thrust of the book, which is fine; I do wish that as I reader I had been able to watch more of Lucy and James' early romance, as that may have helped me to actually care if Lucy and James reunited.
Much of the novel teases Lucy's reunion with her father, and when it happened, I felt a little let down—though it definitely did explain a lot about Lucy. I'm sure the way things played out was more realistic than the "happily ever after" reunion I'd hoped for, but I still was disappointed.
By far, my favorite aspect of the novel was Helen's story. Not only was her back story fascinating, but her quest to right previous wrongs definitely struck a chord with me. I loved the way she interacted with Lucy and her family members, the way she owned her actions, and the way she gently guided those she loved.
I know that I'm making this book sound worse than it is. It is solidly a 4 star novel. It's just that I'd hoped for more, for something that moved me in the way Dear Mr. Knightley did. Perhaps that's not fair to Reay, and I definitely want to read whatever she writes next. I'll just be sure to keep my expectations a bit lower next time.
Buy the novel.
Read my review of Reay's Dear Mr. Knightley (5 stars).
Katherine Reay has enjoyed a life-long affair with the works of Jane Austen and her contemporaries. After earning degrees in history and marketing from Northwestern University, she worked as a marketer for Proctor & Gamble and Sears before returning to school to earn her MTS. Her works have been published in Focus on the Family and the Upper Room. Katherine currently lives with her husband and three children in Seattle.
Learn more about Katherine at http://katherinereay.com/.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through The Fiction Guild. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."