*I received a digital ARC of this novel from Thomas Nelson Fiction and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
Lucy is an antiques dealer and bookseller working for one of the most well-respected interior designers in Chicago and is loving every minute of it. Then she meets James, a perspective client who she quickly falls in love with, tying up the perfect little bow that is her life. But, Lucy’s father is a conman, and the apple doesn’t exactly fall far from the tree. When some of Lucy’s questionable business practices come back to haunt her, she risks losing everything. James hates her and she has managed to disappointed Sid, her boss, confidant, and mentor.
Out of the blue, James’ grandmother, Helen, invites Lucy to accompany her to London. Helen seeks to right some old wrongs and make good on a mistake she made more than 65 years ago. This could be a chance for Lucy too. In the world previously inhabited by the likes of Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters, Lucy’s personal heroes, Lucy has the opportunity to go backward to move forward, rectify her mistakes, and make good on the life that she’s always wanted.
It was really difficult to get a good feel for what I thought about this book. It started off strong, and then somewhat drifted along for the next 20% or so, and finally got to the meat at that point. Admittedly, I have a couple of books by Katherine Reay (that I have yet to read). I read Wuthering Heights 10 or so years ago and haven’t read anything else by any of the Bronte sisters. Because of that, I’m coming at this story from quite a different perspective than many readers who would be drawn to this book for one reason or another, and I don’t know if that’s a detriment or not.
The Bronte Plot is a wonderfully heart-warming story of self-redemption and a reminder that one is not the product of their surroundings or upbringing, but one of their expectations of life and of themselves. While the overall plot is well-written, clear, and inspirational, I did have some issues with the story.
As I said before, there was about 20% of the book where I just felt like it drifted. The beginning, where we’re meeting the characters and the setting for the first time, was wonderful. I was really able to get a feel for Sid, Lucy, and James, and fell in love with them instantaneously. After that, however, I felt rushed. Every page felt like it covered a week or more of time and I found my head spinning when I was trying to figure out how we got from point A to point B. I understand why it was written this way; the beginning of Lucy’s journey with James wasn’t the point or purpose of the novel. But, I feel like it would have been better written as a prologue. While important to understanding the rest of The Bronte Plot, it really didn’t fit well with the meat of the book.
There were also some parts of the novel that, as a chronic bibliophile, I thoroughly enjoyed. Even though I consider myself somewhat well-read, with a familiarity, if not a deep understanding, of many of the greats of literature, this book made me realize how much I’m missing (post to come on that later). Also, unlike most readers, England has never really been on my bucket list. Weird right? Most English novels I’ve read do such a good job describing their setting, I often feel like I’ve already been there. Plus, I’m not a fan of rain, so there’s that. This novel changed that for me. Now, I MUST go to England, if only in my dreams. There’s so many places of literary significance that I hadn’t heard about, and even more that I had heard about, but hadn’t properly digested their significance.
As if that weren’t enough to make me really like The Bronte Plot, Lucy’s reverence for literature was palpable throughout the entirety of the novel. From discussing the merits of the books she was exposed to in her childhood, to the books she bought, loved and sold as an antiques dealer, to the books she re-discovered through her sojourn in Northern England, Lucy’s thoughts and words describe literature and fiction in a way that many of us wish we could.
“…fiction conveyed change and truth–and was loved, and digested again and again, because it reflected the worst, the best, and all the moments in between of the human experience.
Honestly, isn’t that why we love reading so much? We can imagine ourselves in the characters’ shoes and relate to their experiences. In a way, they teach us how to see ourselves, and the human experience, in a different light. The Bronte Plot definitely did that for me. While maybe I don’t have quite the duplicitous nature that Lucy has, or quite the need for life-affirming redemption that Helen has, I, like everybody else, have made mistakes. If this book does one thing extraordinarily well, it’s make the readers truly look inside themselves. While you can’t revisit the past to rectify things you’ve done, and it’s never a good idea to dwell on regret, The Bronte Plot gives the reader hope; hope that anything can be overcome and you can be the person you want to be, if you are simply willing to work for it. Or, as Lucy would put it:
“I’m not guaranteed a happy ending just because I make it to the last page–
Happy endings are deserved, worked toward, and have to be written, lived, and well-cultivated.