Lucy Alling works for one of the top interior design firms in Chicago. With the owner’s support, she has begun to expand his business by adding antique books. She especially loves the Victorians – the Bronte sisters, Mrs. Gaskell (who wrote a biography of Charlotte Bronte), George Eliot, Herman Melville, Robert Louis Stevenson, and many others.
She received her love for reading from her father, and she especially loved his reading of the Beatrix Potter stories. But her father had long ago abandoned the family, and Lucy’s only contact is a book sent each year on her birthday. But from her mother, she knows that her father operates just the other side of the law.
Through the design store, she meets James Carmichael, a young attorney who shares Lucy’s love for reading. She helps him find book gifts for his family that contain special inscriptions. It is a relationship blossoming into love – until James discovers that Lucy has been writing the inscriptions herself and passing them off as the work of others – and bumping the price of the book up a bit. Their relationship blows up. And then James’s grandmother steps in, asking Lucy to accompany her to England on a buying trip – and to return something she stole decades before.
Published in 2015, The Bronte Plot by Katherine Reay is a romance constructed around classic books, and especially those of Charlotte and Emily Bronte. It’s not a contemporary retelling of either Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights, but it is certainly infused with a love and appreciation of those works.
Reay received her B.A. and M.S. degrees from Northwestern University. She is the author of Dear Mr. Knightley (2013); Lizzy & Jane (2014); A Portrait of Emily Price (2016); and the forthcoming The Austen Escape (November).
The publisher, Thomas Nelson, is a Christian publisher, but The Bronte Plot makes the themes of faith and forgiveness more subtle than one might expect from “Christian fiction.” It’s clearly there – Lucy will have to face the sins of her father, and, more importantly, her own sins, which extend beyond writing a few inscriptions in old books.
This was a good read on a very rainy day.
Top photograph: the Bronte Parsonage Museum in Haworth, England, courtesy Visit Yorkshire.