All Chelsea wants to do this summer is hang out with her best friend, hone her talents as an ice cream connoisseur, and finally get over Ezra, the boy who broke her heart. But when Chelsea shows up for her summer job at Essex Historical Colonial Village (yes, really), it turns out Ezra’s working there too. Which makes moving on and forgetting Ezra a lot more complicated…even when Chelsea starts falling for someone new. Maybe Chelsea should have known better than to think that a historical reenactment village could help her escape her past. But with Ezra all too present, and her new crush seeming all too off-limits, all Chelsea knows is that she’s got a lot to figure out about love. Because those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat
After binge reading the entire “Legend” series and the giant pile of sad that was “Maximum Ride Forever” I figured it was time for what I call a “buffer book”, AKA a light, somewhat happy, and usually contemporary book to contrast all the emotional pain and feels from the stuff I usually read. And after reading the summary online this one sounded like a cute premise, and oh my god, it was so much fun to read!
First off I have to say that the cover and summary for this book really don’t do it justice at all. The cover is very cute and all, but how is anyone supposed to look at that and know it takes place in a colonial historical village? I don’t know, I guess I’m just nitpicking. But the summary doesn’t even get into the best part!
Like the synopsis says, the book follows a girl named Chelsea who works with her parents as a reenactor in a historical village that’s set around 1774. What it doesn’t mention is that across from the Colonial village, there is a Civil War reenactment attraction, and every summer the teenage reenactors from the Colonial and Civil War attractions secretly go to war with each other. And it is just as beautifully entertaining as it sounds. Like they all have secret meetings to plan strategies and plant anachronistic items in each other’s attractions and go on undercover missions and everyone takes it completely seriously and it is for the most part amazingly hilarious and fun to read about.
SPOILERS FOR “PAST PERFECT” BEYOND THIS POINT
And then it also provides the set-up for the main romantic paring, which I absolutely loved. There’s this great scene at the beginning where the colonial reenactors are having their first war meeting and they appoint Chelsea as their lieutenant but then the Civil War reenactors burst out and literally abduct the Colonial leaders and take them to their attraction. So Chelsea is being guarded by this Civil War guy named Dan, and they have this hilarious banter with each other, and then he gives her his jacket, but she gets rescued by the colonials before she can give it back so he sends her a note to meet so she can return it. But then they start having these secret meetings and start getting close and telling each other about themselves and I loved every part of it. They keep saying that they shouldn’t be doing something relationship-wise, and then doing that exact thing, and there’s the whole Romeo and Juliet but without the bad decisions and death thing and it’s all just so cute. Like who would have thought I’d be reading about the forbidden love between a Colonial interpreter and Civil War reenactor whose respective historical attractions are at war with each other, it’s something right out of a fanfiction AU.
One of the best moments had to be when Dan shows up Chelsea’s house so they can go on a date or something and he asks what she wants to do, and she says she has a trampoline in the backyard, and you think she’s just joking but then you turn the page and they’re actually jumping on the trampoline and they start talking about their lives and it’s all so darn cute! To make a long story short, I just really loved this paring.
All of the stuff about working in the Colonial village was great too, especially with Chelsea’s commentary on the visitors and logistics of working there. There’s this one scene where this little girl comes up to her while she’s in costume at work and asks if she’s Felicity, like the American Girl Doll, and I just absolutely lost it, like I can just imagine that happening. And everything about the graveyard and the headstone with the name of Chelsea’s reenactment character was really interesting. It was just really cool overall to see a behind the scenes version of this kind of attraction.
So let’s talk about the characters. Something I’ve noticed about a lot of contemporary-set romantic comedy type books is that they kind of follow a standard formula for main and side characters. Like you see a lot of the same stuff in various books of the genre. And yet, I honestly don’t mind, it’s kind of part of the charm that makes these kinds of books fun to me. And in this book we have a lot of these standard types, but done well in a really cool setting.
Chelsea’s best friend, Fiona, for instance serves as an example of what I call the “standard contemporary best friend”, a character whose main purpose is to be more popular/attractive/ socially capable than the protagonist, a fact which said protagonist frequently reminds the reader, and to refuse to let the protagonist talk to/about their ex. But again, I honestly don’t mind the clichés, they’re kind of part of what makes this kind of book relaxing to read after darker stuff.
And then we have Chelsea herself. In the first few chapters before they started working at Essex I was a little worried that she was going to be one of those protagonists who hates absolutely everything, but she was actually really cool and relatable. I loved that she really did care about the history of Essex, and did genuinely like working there Plus it was really fun to read from her POV, especially since she was hilariously snarky through most of the book and really insightful during the more serious parts.
Chelsea’s parents were great too. They were just so intense about history and really entertaining and passionate about everything at Essex.
We also had the standard contemporary popular mean girls in the form of the milliner girls, but it was also kind of interesting that they weren’t considered popular outside of Essex. It kind of put an interesting twist on things.
Ezra, however, kind of irritated me. He was very much the standard ex-boyfriend character, but the drama between him and Chelsea was probably the least entertaining part of the book (even though I did appreciate her slowly realizing the true nature of their relationship over time). Plus he really didn’t seem like a good boyfriend, and I know that’s kind of the point of his character, but I felt really bad for Chelsea taking so long to get completely over him. It was so frustrating when after all she had dealt with about him, he asks her to get back together. I was just like “No, you are the reason for everything that’s gone wrong. You do not get to ask her out again.”, and I was so happy that she told him it wouldn’t work out and ended up with Dan. Like I said, the Ezra romance drama wasn’t the best part of the book, but it had a really good resolution.
So now I’m going to talk about the ending. For a while towards the end we have to get through that part in a lot of contemporaries where the main couple has a misunderstanding and the major secret is revealed and the protagonist is cut off from everyone and there’s just secondhand embarrassment everywhere, but thankfully that part isn’t too long in this book. Overall, like the rest of the book, the ending is really cute. Chelsea steps down from the war, reconciles with Dan and her friends, and fixes everything, and it’s all nice and happy and not a big load of feels like everything else I’ve been reading lately. And also there’s that great bit where the Colonials and Civil Warriors plan to unite their forces against the Renaissance Faire, and again, I was completely losing it.
So overall “Past Perfect” was a really fun light read. It did have some clichés, but they all worked well with the unique setting and a seriously adorable main pairing. It was just overall really fun to read!
Well, that’s about it! Thanks for reading!