Matrimonial Merriment
Grade : A-

The proposal may not have gone quite as intended, but there’s absolutely no way the wedding is going to be anything other than perfect. At last, and after a year-and-a-bit together full of ups and downs, Quaid Valor and Aslan Doyle are tying the knot - although with just three months to go before the big day, there are still plenty of problems for our favourite Toronto detectives to contend with. Matrimonial Merriment is book seven in the Valor and Doyle Mysteries series – although there’s no mystery to be solved here (unless it’s how Quaid gets to the altar without his head exploding!), and it’s most definitely NOT the place to start with this series!

I doubt anyone who’s been following the series will have expected Quaid to be calm, cool and collected when it comes to planning his wedding. The dictionary definition of an uptight control freak has a photo of his face next to it, and there are no prizes for guessing his perfectionism is out in full force and he’s determined to make sure every little thing is planned to within an inch of its life. Having already fired three wedding planners, Quaid has decided to oversee things himself, but organising his dream wedding in just three short months is a big ask – and that he and Aslan are getting married just two days before Christmas only adds to the intense pressure.

Luckily for Quaid, his fiancé is only too well aware of exactly how stressed out he’s become, but so far, Aslan’s offers of help have almost all been rejected. Other than things they need to do together – choose rings and outfits – Quaid has taken everything – flowers, food, music, photographer, invitations, etc. - upon himself, and it’s all taking a toll. Aslan knows why Quaid is so focused on perfection and also recognises that his reluctance to explain exactly what he wants is down to feelings of self-consciousness and a fear of being thought overly-sentimental – but Aslan is ready to do everything he can to make Quaid’s dreams of a fairy-tale wedding come true. He’s the perfect mix of supportive and rational, providing a calming voice and gently talking Quaid off the ledge when needed.

Confession time – much as I love these books and these characters, I struggled with this one in the early stages because I just don’t get the whole obsession with perfection that surrounds weddings, and I really found it difficult to relate to Quaid as he went into full groomzilla mode. I get that perfectionism is part of his make-up so it’s in character for him to be that way – it just made no sense to me to get so worked up about a wedding. The good news, however, is that I loved everything else about the book. Quaid and Aslan have come such a long way and are so solid as a couple; I loved watching Aslan taking such good care of Quaid, but also delivering some tough(ish) love when it’s needed, and Quaid allowing himself to lean on him. When Quaid’s health starts to suffer as a result of all the stress he’s put himself under, Aslan decides enough is enough and ropes in Torin and Ruiz to take over the wedding planning. Quaid still frets, naturally, but he keeps his promise to Aslan to take it easier and to trust him to get everything done. And of course, Aslan, Torin and Ruiz do Quaid proud – and I will admit to shedding the odd tear as Quaid, at long last, does get everything he could possibly have wished for on his big day.

As I said at the outset, this book focuses on the wedding and the lead-up, so there’s no mystery for our dynamic duo to solve, although there’s an interesting sub-plot running in the background about an unsolved missing persons case which enables the author to introduce a new character (who will feature in the upcoming spin-off series) and to provide a bit of character development for our favourite grumpy IT wizard. Costa Ruiz’s friendship with Quaid has grown brilliantly over the course of the series, and there’s a real sense that they’ve developed a strong bond and would do anything for each other. Their good-natured snarkiness towards one another always makes me smile, and there’s a nice secondary plotline for Ruiz, as he attempts to rebuild his relationship with his cousin, Tallus, who has just taken a job in the records department of the Toronto PD. Aslan’s partner and best friend Torin Fox continues to be a hoot – the cake tasting scene is priceless! - and with Ruiz and Torin due to stand up with Quaid and Aslan, the two of them are thrown together more and I really enjoyed their interactions. A number of other secondary characters get their moment in the spotlight, too, in ways that are completely organic to the story – there’s an important (and long overdue) conversation between Quaid and his father that is simply perfect, I was pleased to see Aslan’s brother-in-law making an effort to mend their relationship, and I loved the bond developing between Aslan’s nephew, Graham, and Quaid’s dad. Nicky James does a fantastic job of balancing a number of deep and meaningful conversations with plenty of laugh-out-loud humour as Quaid and Aslan – and Torin – all prepare to embark on the next stage of life’s journey.

Although Matrimonial Merriment is the final book in this series, the author has said it isn’t the last we’ll see of Valor and Doyle and that they’ll appear in the new series she’s writing, which will launch soon with an introductory novella. But for now, she’s given Quaid and Aslan a wonderfully emotional, entertaining and heartfelt send off, a perfect ending to what has been one of the most consistently enjoyable series of the past few years. I’ve loved spending time with these guys and can’t wait to jump into whatever Nicky James has in store for her readers next.

Reviewed by Caz Owens
Grade : A-

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : December 8, 2023

Publication Date: 12/2023

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  1. “What follows next is the Forced Seduction scene. Sigh! I had heard these were popular in romance novels written in…

Caz Owens

I’m a musician, teacher and mother of two gorgeous young women who are without doubt, my finest achievement :)I’ve gravitated away from my first love – historical romance – over the last few years and now read mostly m/m romances in a variety of sub-genres. I’ve found many fantastic new authors to enjoy courtesy of audiobooks - I probably listen to as many books as I read these days – mostly through glomming favourite narrators and following them into different genres.And when I find books I LOVE, I want to shout about them from the (metaphorical) rooftops to help other readers and listeners to discover them, too.
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