His Perfect Match
by Elaine Overton, contemporary (2009)
Kimani, $5.99, ISBN 978-0-373-86143-9
Now, I know that in romance novels, the hero and the heroine can get a bit melodramatic about the whole love and heartbreak thing. They can spend years brooding over that fellow who went away when they are not moaning about their unhappy childhood. What's a romance novel without some overwrought angst, after all. But put in a dying child and immediately all that melodrama seems excessive, horribly out of place, and even wrong. That is the biggest problem I have while reading the otherwise very well-written and emotionally tumultuous His Perfect Match.
About ten years ago, Darius North knew that his wife-to-be Elizabeth Donovan was behaving strangely as the day of their wedding drew close, but he assumed that Liz was just having bridal jitters. The bridegroom realized just how much he had underestimated Liz's "bridal jitters" when she left him standing at the altar and ran away with his brother Darren. Two months later, Darren died while being his good-for-nothing self, leaving Liz a pregnant widow. We then cut to the present day, where Liz is now a single mother struggling to make ends meet and keeping strong for her son Marc. Marc needs a kidney transplant very badly. When the latest plan for a donor to step up doesn't come through, Liz in desperation decides to seek out Darius for help.
Darius is not happy to see Liz. Okay, I can understand that. But after Liz has explained why she needs his help and he continues to behave like a jilted baby, demanding that Liz puts out to him and such, Darius really comes off poorly. We have a dying kid here, for heaven's sake, so it's really not well done of him to ask the mother what she is willing to pay in exchange for his kidney. I find this self-absorbed behavior of his beyond the pale, considering that we have a kid's life at stake here, and as a result, I can never view him in a favorable light for the rest of the story.
Oh, there are plenty of good things about this story. I like that Liz is allowed to make a mistake in the past. She found Darius too boring and she found the bad boy Darren much more fascinating, which was why she ran off with Darren ten years ago. Now, Liz realizes that she was young and immature back then, and the very traits that she found fascinating in Darren turned out to be completely wrong ones for a husband. Indeed, I actually find her more sensible and even mature than Darius in this story. That may not be too surprising, considering the very different lives they both led in the last ten years. Liz was working hard, never taking anything for granted, while Darius apparently spent the last ten years moping and making sad baby faces over Liz. I wish Liz has found a man who has been around as much as she when it comes to emotional maturity. Darius just doesn't cut it for me.
Ms Overton tries to handle the romance in a mature and intelligent manner, but I feel that she has backed herself into a corner by having Darius demand a week of sex from Liz in return for saving her son. If we are talking about Liz needing a loan to save her ailing business, for example, Darius's antics would be petty but still acceptable. But since a boy's life is at stake, the whole petty melodrama of the hero paints him in a very negative manner, one which he never recovers from. His Perfect Match is still a well-written and in many ways compelling read, but ouch, the plot made sure that Darius never had a chance with me from the very beginning.
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