The Brontë Plot (NetGalley)
Lucy Alling is Sid McKenna’s Girl Friday at Sid McKenna Antiques and Design–most days she straightens, dusts, rearranges, and parcel-posts for one of Chicago’s premier interior designers. But Wednesday was Book Day, a day Lucy could lose herself in the rare and sometimes just plain quirky books she searched for the world over–like the Jane Eyre first inscribed “To my darling Betty, 1898” and underneath this additional dedication, “Now to you, dear Laura, 1939.” Stories with a story are Lucy’s specialty and, sometime in the not-so-distant future, she hoped to make every day Book Day with a rare book business of her own.
Add a little love interest to go along with a story about an antique bookseller and I’m in–especially if I’m wanting a little light weekend reading. Enter one James Carmichael: single, good-looking, nice-as-nice-can-be lawyer.
James confides in Lucy about his struggles making partner at the law firm and Lucy opens up about the shattered family of her childhood, including her ex-con dad whose sole contact with her over the years has been a book sent every birthday. Sparks fly and it begins to look like the love story is a wrap barely a quarter way through the novel.
With Lucy, though, it’s here a story, there a story, everywhere a story, and we begin to learn she has a habit she’d like to keep secret. Seems Lucy plays a little fast and loose with the truth sometimes. But only (of course!) when the end justifies the means. A dinner reservation, a few Brontë books, a vase or two, some fabric … and wouldn’t you know it would be James’s patrician grandmother who finds her out.
Surprisingly (or maybe not), that same grande dame immediately hires Lucy to accompany her on a buying trip to London?! Helen Carmichael needs a consultant to find silver services for each of her granddaughters, and she has a antique gold watch she needs to “return” to a family in London. It seems Helen has a few secrets of her own to resolve.
I have to say I chose this title from NetGalley when I read it involved a trip to England, the Brontës, old books, and Chicago–all among my favorite things in the world! But when the reader’s copy showed up in my Kindle queue, I saw the publisher: Thomas Nelson. Dun, dun, DUN and a bit of an inner groan.
Now Christian I might be, but a contemporary Christian novel is just about as appealing to me as contemporary Christian music. Go ahead and shoot me on either of those two accounts, but Christian fiction isn’t my cup of tea. (Granted, this probably has something to do with the fact that when I was recovering from a tonsillectomy at age sixteen, a family friend from out of state sent me a box, mind you, of books. And they were all from a religious publisher and featured teen girls who decided not to date and instead chose mission work or nursing because God had called them … I was bored to tears by the novels, but had nothing else to read, so read them I did. Probably in the same way a starving man would choose to eat lutefisk over starvation. So never again, unless it is a more reliable kind of “Christian” novel like Chronicles of Narnia or Swiftly Tilting Planet.)
But there was that trip to England and those Brontë sisters, after all–so on I read.
And happily so. To be sure the novel was squeaky clean and writer Katherine Reay made sure that her fallen characters had a moral reckoning and made amends, but in the end, I had a fun time.