Playing the Part by Jen Turano

playingthepart_turano_bethanyhouseFrom the cover:

Lucetta Plum is an actress on the rise in New York City, but must abandon her starring role when a fan’s interest turns threatening. Lucetta’s widowed friend, Abigail Hart, seizes the opportunity to meddle in Lucetta’s life and promptly whisks her away to safety at her eligible grandson’s estate.

At first glance, Bram Haverstein appears to be a gentleman of means–albeit an eccentric one–but a mysterious career and a secret fascination with a certain actress mean there’s much more to him than society knows.

While Lucetta has no interest in Abigail’s matchmaking machinations, she can’t ignore the strange things going on in Bram’s house and the secrets he hides. As the hijinks and hilarity that Bram, Lucetta, and their friends are swept into take a more dangerous turn, can they accept who they are behind the parts they play in time to save the day?

This was my first Jen Turano and, oh my word, it will not be my last!  Featuring some of my favorite things about historical christian romance, including the trifecta of faith/romance/humor, with unexpected twists on the hero and heroine.  Two people wary of being pursued for the wrong reasons, Lucetta Plum is a popular stage actress trying to avoid an overzealous fan and Bram Haverstein is the son of a wealthy family (with a few secrets hidden away on his gothic estate, Ravenswood) trying to avoid overzealous mamas.

I did not expect to like Lucetta, but she quickly won me over by being quite up front with two things: first, she has no interest in being fawned over and second, she is not the weepy, delicate creature that those fawning fans expect her to be.  Bram, in contrast, has a tendency to play the knight in shining armor, wanting to rush to the rescue.  This partly expresses itself in his employment of a group of riffraff, former petty thieves, and assorted lower class people.

He never considered, not once, that he’d ever find Miss Lucetta Plum to be a mysterious soul.  In fact, when he’d considered her – and he’d considered her quite often – it has always been with the certainty that, if he were successful in winning her over, she’d be a lady for him to take care of for the rest of her life, not a lady that he’d be able to converse with, laugh with, or heaven forbid, appreciate her opinion. (p.121)

Along with this rag-tag group of questionably reformed individuals, we are treated to another group of secondary characters led by Lucetta’s bodyguard and Bram’s grandmother, Abigail, who has a diabolical need to match-make and to outfit Lucetta (and the heroine’s from the two previous books) in Worth gowns.  Rounding out this cast of secondary characters is a plethora of rescued animals, and one skirt-chasing, irascible goat.

I was a bit hesitant to give Jen Turano’s books a try, but I was sucked in when the opening page made me think of one of the episodes of The Walton’s that had the most impact on me as a child.  The first line of the book instantly brought to mind the scene where Mary Ellen and Erin, sharing a room in a boarding house, are told that their father has come to visit them.

“Forgive me, Miss Plum, but there’s a gentleman outside demanding to speak with you.  He claims to be your father.” (p.7)

When they open the door, it is actually Erin’s boss paying a visit with lecherous intentions, unaware that she shares the room with her sister.

While some of Bram’s secrets are no secret to the reader, it was great fun waiting for them to be revealed – and picturing the efforts to keep them concealed.  Two sweet romances add amusing secondary story-lines and the “ghosts” of Bram’s castle help with the dramatic tension of the main story.

A light, fun read.  I would recommend it for those who enjoy historical and/or inspirational romance with a dash of danger, a dash of humor, and a lively cast of characters. 4/5 stars with potential for the author to become a favorite.

Playing the Part by Jen Turano | Bethany House Publishing, March 2016 | paperback, 341 pages, review copy

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Bethany House Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 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.”