The Matchmaker’s Lonely Heart
reviewed by Pam Guynn
The Matchmaker’s Lonely Heart by Nancy Campbell Allen brings plenty of mystery, intrigue, and atmosphere to a tale that is part historical mystery, part police investigation, and part romance.
It’s the first book in the Proper Romance Victorian series. Set in and around London in 1885, the main characters are Amelie Hampton, Harold Radcliffe, and Detective Michael Baker. When a dead body of a young woman is found in the Thames River, these three meet and the sparks fly in more than one way.
Amelie is an independent but somewhat lonely woman working for her aunt at The Marriage Gazette. She answers lonely heart letters, writes the occasional essay, and does some matchmaking through the personal ads. Her character comes through strongly as naïve, hard-working, intelligent, impatient, and outspoken, but she has successfully matched more couples than the rest of the staff combined. She does show some growth during the course of the book, but also makes some ill-advised choices along the way. Harold is charming and good looking, but he’s somewhat harder to get to know. Michael is hard-working and calm. A cast of secondary characters provides support, conflict, and interest.
The author did a great job of transporting me to a different time and place. Quotes from different publications that were at the beginning of each chapter provided additional insight into the times and how women were perceived and treated. While this is not a time I would want to live in, it was fun to visit and spend time with Amelie and her friends, family, and acquaintances. While the plot was clever, suspenseful, and perfectly paced, it was the characters and situations that developed that kept me reading. However, I did wish that a red herring or two were thrown in the mix so that the villain wasn’t known so early in the book. Danger, suspense, and some twists crop up before you get to the heartwarming and satisfying ending.
I was immediately drawn into the characters’ lives and enjoyed the unraveling of the mystery and the development of the romance. Themes include death, relationships, poverty, treatment of orphans, corruption, assaults, romance, family, institutionalization of those with certain disabilities, and much more.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, which was suspenseful, engaging, and atmospheric. In both of the books I have read by this author, I had a connection with the writing style that I found relatable, vivid, and irresistible. I can’t wait to find out which of the secondary characters will show up in future books in the series. I recommend this to those that like historical mysteries with some romance.
Shadow Mountain Publishing and Nancy Campbell Allen provided a complimentary digital ARC of this novel via NetGalley. This is my honest review. Opinions are mine alone and are not biased in any way. Publication date is currently expected to be September 7, 2021.