DeLuca, Jen. Well Traveled. Well Met #4. Berkley, 2022. 336 pp. ISBN 9780593200469 $17.00
Attorney Louisa, Mitch’s cousin who had a cameo in Well Matched, is at the heart of this fourth book in the warm, sweet renaissance faire themed series by DeLuca. While on a business trip in North Carolina and stalled by lack of case discovery from her sources, she slips out to the local renaissance fair for a break, hoping to recover some of the magic from her time with her grandparents at the Willow Creek faire. She runs into Stacey and tries to focus on hard cider, men in kilts, and a lovely Saturday afternoon, but her cell phone never ceases it’s incoming messages and calls. Frustrated with a waste of five years chasing partner without promotion, her demanding boss, and her family’s expectation, she quits her job and skips her cell phone into a laundry tub prop, and kind Stacey takes Lulu into the motorhome she and Daniel McLean have been traveling in with the band he manages… the Dueling Kilts.
As Lulu tries to find her place in the faire, helping with merch and deep frying turkey legs, her cousin Mitch kindly advises her to stay off the grid, enjoy this time to rediscover herself and her wants and needs. He even promises to fend off the family. Pragmatic Lulu eventually setting herself up as the receptionist for a trio of spiritual advisors hawking their tarot reading, rune interpreting and palmistry skills, and slowly succumbs to the possibility of another lens to view life through.
Of course, there is a love interest: Dex, whose reputation for a different girl in every city precedes him. Fans of the series will remember him as Stacey’s ex, easy on the eyes, magnetic, charming, but a little tone deaf and superficial. He wastes no time turns his tiger’s eye gaze on Lulu but she scoffs at him. Unable to flirt with her, he starts to talk to her, and they forge a real connection, but while she definitely thinks he’s hot, she’s oblivious to the fact he’d rather spend a night in with her, chatting, then hooking up with a very flexible member of an acrobatics troupe, a fact her discloses while they have an argument in a thunderstorm that leads to consummating their relationship in the camper.
Seemingly at odds career-wise, with Lulu intending to return to a law practice of some kind in spite of her new-found interest in tarot, and Dex feeling like he has no skills beyond making up verses to Drunken Sailor and shredding on Whiskey in the Jar, even though he’s a darn good planner and problem-solver, they seem doomed until he finds a way to make a grand gesture and admit he’s in love with her. Given how distasteful Dex is throughout the series and even at the beginning of this book, I did find his change of heart difficult to believe; slower pacing and more demonstrations of his changing would have worked a little better for me as a reader willing to suspend my disbelief that people can pivot so quickly. Other things I appreciated: Lulu is no spring chicken at 37; she tells Stacey that her body isn’t too big, the clothes are just too small when she catches her being critical of her plus-size; a secondary character is gay and no one bats an eye (I’d LOVE to read that tale!); Caitlyn makes an appearance (when is she getting her own book?).
I loved Lulu’s journey in this book; her personality, her openness and challenging of her long-held habits and beliefs. I loved how every faire had its own personality and cast, and I loved the distinct personalities and subtle nod to maiden/mother/crone (or is it MacBeth’s witches?) who bond with Lulu while she attracts clients and books spa sessions. As in other volumes, the writing is artful and often funny; allusions abound, and the setting makes me want to lace up my bodice and hit King Richard’s Faire.
Glimpses of Simon and Emily’s wedded bliss, Mitch and April’s domesticity, and Stacey and Daniel’s steadfast partnership pay fan service to loyal readers, and the return to Willow Creek to see April on the field as a pawn in the chess match is priceless.
I received a free advance reader’s review copy of #WellTraveled from #NetGalley.