If you're a frequent reader of Top Shelf Text you know that I'm partial to books about books. I had seen press for The Brontë Plot and even though I haven't read more than one of the infamous Brontë works, I knew instantly that it was a book that I'd want to read.
I loved the premise: Lucy is a dealer in rare books, working for a prolific interior designer. She loves his mentorship and the life that she's built, but she's been dishonest in building his book business, a trait she thinks comes from her con-man (and perpetually absent) father. In the beginning of the story, Lucy meets James, a handsome and wealthy customer who buys one of her rare books. Their flirtation grows into a serious relationship, until the day that James confronts Lucy with her fraudulent deeds. Their relationship has fallen apart when James's grandmother, Helen, invites Lucy on an unusual sort of "business" trip. She whisks Lucy off to London as her buyer and invites Lucy to witness her last great adventure, on which she hopes to make amends for her own guilty secrets. As the two women venture through London, Lucy works to make amends for her own mistakes.
The story is at times, frustrating -- particularly because Lucy seems to slip so easily into that corrupt frame of mind. For me, it felt like the wall that she put up for the other characters actually prevented me (the reader) from accessing her full character. It's for that reason alone that I can only give the book four stars. That being said, I think Reay created a real, flawed, human character here and I appreciated that the relationships were built slowly enough to be realistic. I also loved Helen's character -- the wise old woman who's unafraid to face the end of her time -- and I felt genuinely heartened after finishing the book. Reay's written two others, both based on Austen's works, and I look forward to reading those in 2016. I'd recommend this one for bookclubs especially, because I think it's a great book for discussions about living a full life and opening up yourself to others.
Bottom-Line Rating: 4/5
Title: The Brontë Plot
Author: Katherine Reay
Publisher: Thomas Nelson, 2015
Price: $12 on Amazon
Source: Public Library