Review: Well Matched, by Jen DeLuca
I am displeased to announce that this was by far my least favourite of the Ren Faire romances, and that while I will be reading the planned fourth book in this series, I cannot say I am as excited about it as I am some other romances coming out in 2022 (Evie Dunmore, Tessa Dare, Beth O'Leary, Rosie Danan, and Martha Waters, I need you to hurry up and write faster).
Anyway. This was a fine story, it just didn't hit my buttons in the way the first and second books in this series did (and maybe that's because a lot of the because the central storyline is about dating again as a single mother when the most intensive bit of parenting is over - these stories need to exist and I'm glad that this one does, but it's not the one that I'm going to gravitate towards because it's not the fantasy world I, personally, wish to inhabit right now). And the usual bandage that covers up romance stories that I'm not super into, steamy good sex scenes, wasn't as present - there was very little sex for what was marketed to me as an open-door romance, and a lot of very descriptive scenes of home renovation. Which, you know, fine - but I could not care less about the process of redoing cabinetry, Jen. I am not a homeowner. When something goes wrong in my house I text my landlords to figure it out and then go back to reading my book.
I also think that one important reason why this didn't work for me as much as the other two is this felt much more like a standalone - the involvement in this novel of the two previous heroines, Emily and Stacey, felt very tangential to the entirety of the plot; April and Mitch were the central figures of a novel that somehow managed to isolate them entirely despite the fact that April's big emotional journey was her realisation that she needs to stop isolating herself from her community.
And the authorial craft present here is not as strong as the other two as well - the timeline feels weirdly static in places, but in the next chapter is bizarrely compressed and then stretched. It's just a very elastic chronology that meant Jen DeLuca found herself in the position of having to telegraph or 'montage' the big emotional climaxes, and so when Mitch and April do finally resolve their differences and end up together, it just doesn't feel like the emotional resolution of any kind of momentum or conflict. Maybe the takeaway from this is that I'm starting to just really be over deliberate miscommunication as a romance trope, because the entirety of the last 15 chapters of this novel could have been skipped if April had just gone "hey, Mitch, I really like you - but I'm also a bit nervous, so do you mind if we take this slow?". There. Conflict solved. But, I grant you, not a romance novel anybody would read.
Right so as I was saying - an enjoyable read, a speedy read, but not a sterling example of the contemporary romance genre, and I hope Jen gets back on track with the fourth book (which takes us back to Dex of the Dueling Kilts, from way back in Well Played, and puts him with Mitch's very ambitious cousin Louisa, which sounds like a pairing that might appeal to me more than this one did). Stay tuned for that review in fall of 2022.