Enjoyable and Edifying – A Literary Field Trip Turned Journey of the Soul
The Brontë Plot
by Katherine Reay
Publication Date: November 3, 2015
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Starred Review: Publisher’s Weekly
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When Lucy’s secret is unearthed, her world begins to crumble. But it may be the best thing that has ever happened to her.
Lucy Alling makes a living selling rare books, often taking suspicious liberties 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 ghosts from 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 impossible circumstances.
Now Lucy must face 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.
At first glance, Lucy Alling appears to have it all: a job she loves, working with an in-demand interior designer at his shop, Sid McKenna Antiques and Designs, and success in her newest venture, Book Day, where she highlights rare books she procures to sell at the store. Lucy’s love and passion for books, especially Victorian literature like the Brontë sisters, is palpable. When she meets a customer named James and the two immediately make a connection, it appears that, in addition to career success, Lucy has found true love. The trouble is, she has a secret. And if Lucy’s secret gets out, she could lose everything.
While reading Katherine Reay’s description of Lucy’s shop environment, I was right at home. Because of her enthusiasm — even reverence — for books, I instantly felt a kinship with Lucy. Honestly, I’ve no bigger literary romantic soft spot than Jane Eyre. So when James buys Jane Eyre for his grandmother and he and Lucy share literary conversation, I’m sold on them as a romantic pairing. When I sensed that Lucy was up to something unethical, I couldn’t help but groan. This wasn’t going to be wine and roses — it was going to be a bumpy ride.
The Brontë Plot brings together two women: Lucy and Helen (James’ grandmother). When Helen hires Lucy as a consultant on her trip to London, the two discover that though they are at opposite ends of the spectrum in age and familial upbringing/status, they have much in common. Most significantly, each has made mistakes and has a past that she must make peace with.
As Lucy and Helen spend time together, they become more than travel companions. As each unpacks her past, fraught with questions, mistakes, insecurities, and regrets, Lucy benefits from Helen’s wisdom. Unlike the older woman, Lucy has many years ahead and an opportunity at hand to right her ship and change course.
As the pair visit historical landmarks and places of literary significance, Reay makes frequent reference to authors and their works, most notably the Brontë sisters and their ability to endure the circumstances that life handed them. Lucy wonders if she can press on like the Brontës, or whether, like some of their characters — Heathcliff and Katherine, for instance — her past has doomed her present and future. Is sin passed from one generation to the next? Has she inherited her father’s worst qualities? Worse yet, is she predestined to repeat his mistakes?
Fortunately, with The Brontë Plot, Katherine Reay uses the flawed characters of Lucy and Helen to remind us that God is a God of mercy and second chances. Inspired by Helen’s personal journey of atonement, Lucy finds the strength and hope she needs to make peace with herself, make good on her mistakes, and author a future unencumbered by her past. Her most important lesson: “All real lives hold controversy, trials, mistakes, and regrets. What matters is what you do next.”
— Dawn Teresa
4.5 of 5 Hearts. Enjoyable and Edifying – A Literary Field Trip Turned Journey of the Soul.
Come along with Lucy and Helen as they fly to London and traipse through literary landscapes, examining history and their own lives. Katherine Reay uses her own realistically imperfect characters, and draws on inspiration from some of her literary favorites, to shape The Brontë Plot into an engrossing and thoroughly satisfying journey of heart and soul.
*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Fiction Guild and Thomas Nelson for providing me with a copy of this title. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”