I admit I was put off by the very first page of this story when the heroine worries that the policeman waiting to see her might be wanting to question her on her soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend’s cocaine habit. Eeew. And things weren’t picking up when said heroine seemed like she stepped right out of a chick-lit novel – overly conscious of her appearance, name-brand-dropping, and in a current relationship with a guy she doesn’t seem to really like, but is happy to have sex with from time to time. So I was very surprised when she become almost likable, the middle picked up speed, and the plot became remarkably engrossing. I was, therefore, even more disappointed with the astonishingly lame ending and tepid romance that ultimately resulted. Uneven is about the best I can say for this novel.
Jill Sands works for an exclusive matchmaking service catering to the wealthy and privileged. (Hard to buy, but I was willing to go with it.) She’s good at her job, and is very concerned when the aforementioned policeman informs her that one of her clients-turned-friend is missing. Said client Lisa Tong is now the wife of Kennedy-esque senator and Democratic presidential hopeful Phil Donnelly. Does Jill have any information to aid in the investigation?
Jill does, but she is at first reluctant to confide in the police since, of course, she has to do some inept investigations on her own first. Not only does this make her rather unsympathetic, it also means that even though Tony Rosetti, the police officer in question, is supposed to be her love interest, she doesn’t see him again for the next third of the novel! Surprisingly, despite some preliminary stupid moves (why does she look for Lisa’s file under her married name when she as a client she was single?), Jill actually proves herself fairly adept at self-preservation, saving her own skin on not one, but at least two occasions as the intrigue becomes thicker and people start turning up dead. This is where the plot got good and Jill became likable. There are a pleasing number of potential bad guys with nefarious agendas and many blind alleys down which the investigation can go, and despite plenty of opportunity, Jill doesn’t have even one TSTL moment, and actually comes off as rather bright. When Lisa’s body is found it turns from a missing-person into a murder investigation.
Except it doesn’t. Actually, Officer Rosetti is about the only person other than Jill who suspects foul play. Come again? The wife of a nationally known political candidate goes missing and turns up dead and no one’s remotely curious? Supposedly, there’s money involved that’s being used to buy off the reporters and police, but spare me. Rosetti also seems to have no compunction about breaking the law in order to figure out what actually happened, and he’s happy to drag civilian Jill, whom he barely knows, right along with him. (And those aren’t even his most stupid moments.) Why trail a guy’s movements for half a day when all you want is just to ask him a few questions? If you wait too long, you know, he may end up dead…oh, oops. Guess as a police officer you should report the dead body? No? And the reason is because it will complicate things? Hello?
What seemed like a intriguingly intricate plot starts to unravel at the end, leading to an incredibly lame resolution where it seems like any guilty party gets off scott-free. What if you read a book laying out all the possible conspiracies behind the Kennedy assassination and then it concluded by deciding that Oswald probably acted alone, and even if he didn’t really, it’s not that big a deal? That’s what this felt like. Then there’s the romance, as it were, between two people who don’t seem to know what to do with a relationship when they have one. Both are divorced, and Jill’s reason is particularly inane. She was married to a really great guy but she was bored.
Well, ultimately, so was I with this book. I’m willing to be lenient sometimes with somewhat lackluster romances when there’s a good mystery at the heart (as with Lovelace’s After Midnight) or even with somewhat lackluster mysteries when the romance is good (ditto Guhrke’s Not So Innocent), but when neither the romance nor the mystery is even remotely worth recommending, well, what’s the point? If you like romance spiced with murder and intrigue read either of the other two novels above but skip The Matchmaker.
A note on the sensuality rating: although several characters are described as engaging in sex, almost all of it happens behind closed doors or off-screen. There’s some colorful language but not much actual detail.