Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Book Review: The Bronte Plot by Katherine Reay

Sometimes you come upon an author that you just love.  Katherine Reay is one of those authors for me.  I fell in love with her writing when I read her very first novel almost two years ago.  I love to read classic literature, (the Bronte sisters, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, etc.) and I love that she writes about some of my favorite stories in new and interesting ways.  When I read her first novel, Dear Mr. Knightley, I expected a retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma, and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was not.  Ms. Reay writes stories that don’t mirror those they are named after in any way, but instead incorporates them into new plots and draws on the lessons learned in them.  Her first book was followed with a novel about two sisters, Lizzy and Jane, which is still my favorite to date.  But the excellence continues in her third book, The Bronte Plot, which will not disappoint  fans of Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte. 

Lucy Alling is the main character in this story about family ties and honesty.  She is employed by one of the most popular interior designers in Chicago.  Sid does the decorating, and Lucy runs the office and minds the gallery in his absence.  She loves the antiques and the history that surround her, but the best part for Lucy is the books.  Every Wednesday she spends the entire day with the rare and collectible books in the shop, taking special care of them.  It is through these books that she meets James, and falls in love with him.  But Lucy has a terrible secret, and when James discovers it, their relationship is shattered.  When James tells his family about Lucy’s deception, they are all angry at her, except his grandmother, Helen.  She invites Lucy to go on a trip with her to England.  Although she is confused, and James and his family are totally against the plan, she decides to go.  She learns some valuable lessons along the way to finding out if you truly must look back to move forward.

Ms. Reay writes wonderfully twisted plots.  Situations in her characters’ lives are never black and white, but fall into that indeterminable gray area.  While Lucy’s decisions would not be my own, I can see how she arrived at them, and I can also understand James’ anger over them.  I can definitely understand her desire to figure out if she can break the mold of her family’s less-than-upstanding past.  I admire her determination to make everything right, even if it costs her everything she holds dear.  Once more, Ms. Reay mirrors real life, as her story takes Lucy down a difficult path, that doesn’t necessarily end with a “happily ever after,” but with a better, more fulfilled life then she had before.  This isn’t really a love story, but there is a little romance woven in along the way. 

One of my favorite things about Katherine Reay’s writing is her characters’ love for literature.  While I do love to read, I can’t spout off obscure lines from Austen, Dickens and other classical writers at the drop of a hat. I enjoy reading about people who can though.  Now that I’ve followed Lucy’s adventures through literary sites in England, I’m anxious to go there myself someday.  I’ve also added a few “new” books to my “want to read” list.  This book is obviously well-researched and written with great attention to detail.  It's very evident in the beautiful scenery she describes and the completeness of her characters. 

If you haven’t read any of Katherine Reay’s books yet, I highly encourage you to do it now!  I think you’ll be like me and find a new favorite.  You’ll discover interesting stories, with characters and plots that will really make you think, and probably look at your life a little differently.  And you’ll get a new appreciation for the writers and fiction of the past.
Happy Reading!

I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for this review.  All opinions are my own and a favorable review was not required.  Look for your copy of The Bronte Plot on or around November 3, 2015.



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