DeLuca, Jen. Well Played. Well Met #2. Berkley, 2020. 324 pp. ISBN 978-1-9848-0540-9 $16
Stacey gets her man in this sequel to Well Met. In the tenth and eleventh years of the Willow Creek Renaissance Faire, serving wench Beatrice (her alter ego) has been casually hooking up with Dex McLean, the hot guitarist of Dueling Kilts, a pub band on the fair circuit. Dex has a girl in every port and she’s the lucky one in Willow Creek… or maybe not. Thinking they might be more than just a four week fling, Stacey sends a drunken DM inviting Dex to get to know her better after his band departs… and in the harsh light of morning is relieved to find a response to her message that is warm and sweet, instead of a brush off. DMs lead to emails lead to texts over the next year. The feeling of distance and anonymity results in insights and honesty, sharing of hopes and dreams, and an exchange of sweet messages through the off-season that reveals an unexpected depth to seemingly shallow pretty boy manwhore Dex.
As Stacey is on the verge of meeting Dex again, she makes an unexpected discovery to the real identity of the man she’s been messaging with and catches him in his lie. After some deliberation, and realization that she does have strong feelings, she decides to give the relationship a real chance, knowing it could all come to a halt at the end of the Willow Creek tour spot. But, he’s sweet, kind and her cat Benedick approves, so…
This mistaken identity tale is reminiscent of Cyrano de Bergerac, with the exchange of messages modernized in emails and texts. Stacey is going through a bit a quarter-life crisis, tethered to home due to concerns for her mother’s health. Like Emily, her college dreams got cut short, and her eye for style serves her well and helps her come into her own.
Recurring characters pop up: April becomes a friend, Emily and Simon have their wedding on the fairgrounds, Caitlyn is now part of a roving and performing madrigal group that Stacey was once a part of. Female friendship and family are prominent, and Stacey’s voice is distinct from Emily’s. Simon has loosened up a bit about the Faire, and new details (vendors, lyrics and bits from performances, new costumes) further develop and refresh the familiar setting.