“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought.
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.
I’ve enjoyed author Katherine Reay’s previous two novels, Dear Mr. Knightley and Lizzy & Jane, and I had high hopes for The Brontë Plot as well. Unfortunately, while there are some interesting elements, the overall story just doesn’t hold up.
Lucy is a flawed character, someone with obvious talent and enthusiasm, but who makes questionable choices when it comes to achieving her ends. Her actions eventually catch up to her and cause a rupture with the people she cares most about, but her trip with Helen seems to represent a second chance — even though Lucy goes right on fabricating stories to suit her needs even while trying to start fresh.
Lucy’s relationships with James and with her boss Sid are engaging, and it’s hard not to care while she deals with the fall-out once James discovers her dishonesty. Still, it’s difficult to feel a whole lot of sympathy for a main character who takes such foolish actions, and I felt that the resolution of the various conflicts and disappointments was a bit too easy.
The pacing of the book seems to sag once Lucy sets off for England with Helen, where far too much time is spent on the details of their tourism, their hotel accommodations, and their meals. I was never particularly engaged by the family secrets that Lucy and Helen seek to come to peace with, and the literary theme, walking in the footsteps of the Brontës and their contemporaries, with constant references to Jane Eyre, Heathcliff and Catherine, and more, felt forced and not an organic part of the story.
The author creates interesting, multi-faceted characters in this book, but the plot itself didn’t really go anywhere, in my opinion. While I’ll continue to follow this author and hope to read more by her in the future, I’d say The Brontë Plot is mostly skippable.
Title: The Brontë Plot
Author: Katherine Reay
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Publication date: November 3, 2015
Length: 336 pages
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of Thomas Nelson via NetGalley