Books

Book 557: The Brontë Plot – Katherine Reay

The Brontë Plot cover artThe downside with reading so many romance novels by the same author back-to-back is you quickly discover their strengths and weaknesses. As I read each of Reay’s works, they became less and less memorable even as I was reading them.

If I have to tie it down to the most basic its character development closely followed by pacing. I’m not one to need a “two months later” directional at every instance, but in Reay’s case it would’ve helped a lot. Toward the beginning of the novel the meet cute and the timing was so off I found myself having to re-read multiple sections to see if I’d missed the introduction or some major indicator of time having passed. (I hadn’t.)

I get that part of the romance genre tropes are the timelessness/timeliness of the works. I get that this is a style choice of the genre to make it universally plug and play for anyone who reads it, but it does not work in Reay’s favor like it does in a stronger author’s. When it feels like the work jumps around without any temporal indicators or even any acknowledgment that some period of time has passed it’s problematic. I’ll get to the poor character development at the end, but for now I want to focus on the good.

What Reay does great across all of her novels is show a crazy amount of love and respect for the classics. Yes, they’re almost all English or American classics, but she has a reverence towards them that I can appreciate and enjoy.

“You learn drama from the Brontës; sense from Austen; social justice from Dickens; beauty from Wordsworth, Keats, and Byron; patience and perseverance from Gaskell; and don’t even get me started on exercising your imagination with Carroll, Doyle, Wells, Wilde, Stoker—” (Loc. 10826, omnibus edition)

“That quote from Westminster Abbey fits in a way I hadn’t realized either. ‘With Courage to Endure.’ That’s what they gave to their characters, their full experience. And those young woman had so much courage. They live din isolation; they feared living without love; they had responsibility and caretaking for their sick and violent brother; they had to find work…Nothing was easy. They all had something to say about their lives, and they said it with strength, through those stories. But I’ve gotten so absorbed in the drama, I missed the choices behind them, the very real lives behind them.” (Loc. 13870, omnibus edition)

I don’t even think she’s pandering, which is even better. I’ve included a list of most (if not all) of the books she mentions in this work at the end of the post.

The love with which she writes and the familiarity with the classic works she writes about go a little ways towards distracting from the style choices and the poor character development. I also really appreciate her not toward the fandoms of classic literature, because that is what these books are about more-so than the original works. They are about the Janeites and the Brontë lovers more than they are about the works and that shows a certain amount of respect you rarely see outside of those circles. This line really got me, because I’m going to Haworth for the first time this summer and I’ve been on the moors before, I’ve been in Yorkshire, but these particular moors and this particular village are for a reason

“You don’t come here to see a moor. You come here to see Cathy’s moor and get a glimpse of gothic love at its finest and ponder the incongruence of three lonely girls writing some of the most provocative literature of their age.” (Loc. 13482, omnibus edition)

And this line also got me. I live in Boston and it’s crazy how true this is

“There was something earthy and elemental about living with and knocking into objects every day that were one hundred, two hundred, even three hundred years old.” (Loc. 14536, omnibus edition)

It’s not something you appreciate every day, but now and then there is a day where you get off the bus and realize you pass by the oldest large public library in the country or you live in a house that’s older than 1/5th of the US states. I can appreciate it, so it’s not all bad.

Now to the character development. I don’t know what the name of the male love interest is and I finished this book less than three days ago. I could look it up, but that says a lot about the book itself I know the protagonist’s name is Lucy, but that’s all I’ve got. I know what Lucy does for a living, interior design with a focus on books, but I only know that because I found it fascinating and who wouldn’t want to work for themselves buying and selling old books. This is a problem.

Sure, I get that the light fluffy romance reads for the summer aren’t supposed to stay with you forever, but when they disappear less than week later it’s a problem. I have vague ideas of the plot and only know one of the other minor characters (Sid, Lucy’s boss) but that is it. I can’t remember the grandmother’s name or any of Lucy’s family. So basically every character but the protagonist, and she’s even iffy, were so far beyond forgettable that I didn’t even bother to get-to-know them, not that I was able to.

Recommendation: Unless you’re obsessed with the Brontë’s and want a different view on Haworth or have to read every book about books you come across, pass. This book is so utterly forgettable that there’s a chance in the future I may pick it up again and be like “Oh Brontës – I should read this.”, start it and then get pissed because I realize I have read it and forgot EVERYTHING about it. Unfortunately, this seems to be the case with all of Reay’s books I’ve read so far: The Austen EscapeDear Mr. Knightley, and Lizzy & Jane.

Opening Line: “Wednesday was Book Day.”

Closing Line: “Lucy leaned forward. Within a heartbeat, without wavering or blinking, she replied, ‘I’m all in.'” (Whited out to avoid spoilers, highlight to read.)

Additional Quotes from The Brontë Plot
“His brain and body moved like a kaleidoscope, myriad directions at once, but all congruent and, in the end, masterfully creative.” (Loc 10354, omnibus edition)

“…real lives hold controversy, trails, mistakes, and regrets. What matters is what you do next.” (Loc. 12448, omnibus edition)

“Artists create things that point us to beauty, to truth, to God.” (Loc. 12521, omnibus edition)

“Emily Brontë was wrong if she ever meant that our ancestors fix us and determine our lives and choices. People can be redeemed.” (Loc. 14384, omnibus edition)

“While I don’t believe in love at first sight, because I think it takes more work than that, I do believe that one soul can speak to another and find an inexplicably deep connection over a short period of time, unimaginably short, and know that it will never forget that soul, that moment, or the light it emits forever. That I believe in. I didn’t tell you that…And I wanted you to know.” (Loc. 14960, omnibus edition)

Books listed in The Brontë Plot [Links to my responses]

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13 thoughts on “Book 557: The Brontë Plot – Katherine Reay”

    1. Exactly! I realized some of those people reading hundreds of books a year were reading the super formulaic novels like these and mystery novels. I doubt they retained much if anything.

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    1. OMG it’s crazy. Just tonight in the little village we’re staying in south of London we stumbled across the local library that’s in a building built in the 1470s and he church was REBUILT in the 1430s. I just walked around with my mouth wide open for a good 30 minutes taking it in.

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      1. Haha. I love it. That’s how I feel in Gent. I’ll casually walk by some old stone wall and see a plaque that says it’s original and from the 13th or 14th century. NBD.
        That sounds like an awesome library!

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  1. I find even my favorite romance authors are best enjoyed in small doses. I like that I can count on them to always use story elements I love, but the similarity makes it harder to feel like each one is something special.

    That’s an impressive cast of books this one mentions! I’d love if more books features books so heavily 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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