review: The Brontë Plot by Katherine Reay

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Thank you to NetGalley and Thomas Nelson for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Much appreciated, as always!

Official Synopsis
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’m an agnostic, so let’s get that out of the way. I didn’t realize this book was from a Christian publisher, but I did pick up on the hints throughout the novel – both subtle (the lack of sex, the overbearing notion of right/wrong) and not-so-subtle (referring to C.S. Lewis repeatedly, references to heaven, God, gifts from God, etc). After visiting GoodReads, my suspicious were confirmed. Not that this changes my review – the religious aspect would bore me regardless, but let’s face it, the fact that it’s ostensibly a Christian novel will either make readers roll their eyes or pick up a copy immediately. It *does* affect sales and perceptions, so it’s important to note.

With that said, this book is – generally, and with notable exceptions – delightful. I’m a huge fan of journey novels, and while I really didn’t get why Lucy was making such a huge fuss about her minor (and harmless, really) transgressions at work, I did enjoy her transition from someone who doesn’t know herself, to someone who takes charge in a brave and honest way.

Most of the characters were well sketched – Helen and Sid especially – and the romance between James and Lucy was lovely, if a bit too innocent and chaste for my tastes. I want a bit of passion with my Brontës, you feel me? But it’s all clear now why they didn’t heat up the sheets (HORRORS!!!!), even in Brontë country. Can you imagine Emily improving? The girl who wrote about Cathy and Heathcliff metaphorically banging their way around the Moors?

I can’t. Emily would be horrified at the idea of so much passion being reined in.

So that’s my exception, I suppose. The book is about Helen rediscovering the wild girl she once was, and Lucy coming to terms with her lies (again, extremely minor and hardly worth noticing) and discovering who SHE is without her stories, and it’s set in Brontëville, and all that repressed sexual tension is just boiling away, with no relief. It’s exhausting.

However, and it’s a big however, this book is… like I said, delightful. It’s an ode to literature and an ode to families and an ode to trying to get a little bit closer to your truth, whatever that might be.

Christian or not, I think we can all relate to that.


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