The Matchmaker's Lonely Heart
The Matchmaker’s Lonely Heart has a charming hero and good historical research on its side, but a flibbertigibbet heroine makes it a difficult book to fully enjoy. In fact, she’s so childish that she becomes something of a distraction, with only her eleventh hour bravery making her tolerable.
Amelie Hampton walks in a cloud of hearts and flowers, as anyone who works as a Miss Lonelyhearts must. She works for her Aunt Sallie’s as an essayist and lonely-hearts columnist forThe Marriage Gazette, which was transformed from a scandalous rag to a romance-lover’s paradise by the formidable Sallie, who mainly publishes personals ads. When two letters arrive from correspondents who seem to be ideally suited, Amelie matchmakes them – and when she goes to spy on the progress of their date is shocked when Harold Radcliffe, a married member of her book club, shows up.
Detective Michael Baker is investigating the death of a woman who was fished out of the Thames wearing a locket reading “To my Darling Marie” – which identifies her as Marie Radcliffe, Harold’s wife. Speaking to a distraught Amelie about the situation, Michael becomes convinced that Harold bumped off Marie so he could be single, but Amelie can’t imagine her gentle friend committing a violent murder.
Both intensely committed to their parallax points of view, Baker realizes that he needs Amelie’s entrée to Radcliffe and society in general and thus is forced to work with her on the case. Michael has determined never to marry – the sorrow his widowed sister Clarissa is dealing with has firmed his mind to the subject. She married his best friend on the force, who died in the line of duty six months earlier, leaving her with a newborn daughter. But Amelie tempts Michael into saying goodbye to bachelorhood for once and for all, and working together brings them much closer together. But who’s guilty of murder – and could this really be true love?
The worst part about The Matchmaker’s Lonely Heart is definitely Amelie’s immaturity. Much of her defense of Harold is based around how sophisticated he seems on the surface, and she easily – and repeatedly – falls for his excuses. She reads as a teenager, obsessed with hearts and flowers, and putting her next to Michael is a bit annoying.
Michael, however, I loved – a smart, tough cop who knows what he’s doing and what’s what around a murder investigation. I loved his humble family and the way he cares about them and what a priority they are for him.
I didn’t really get how these two managed to go from grudging friends to lovers by the end of the book, though. I didn’t feel any chemistry between them until past the halfway mark, which is a dire thing for a romantic mystery.
And speaking of, the mystery here is super weak. The villain’s guilt is very obvious from the beginning and the book revolves around Amelie learning to accept this, which is annoying in the face of Michael’s calm presentation of facts.
Campbell Allen does, however, get extra points for making her historical setting flawlessly real and well-researched. I felt very much as if I were right there with the characters in Victorian-era London. The ending of the book also gathers itself together very well indeed. But that’s not enough to get me to recommend The Matchmaker’s Lonely Heart.