by Elaine Overton, contemporary (2008)
Kimani, $5.99, ISBN 978-0-373-86089-0
Seducing The Matchmaker is a hard book for me to review. You see, there are scenes which I find really funny or romantic. But on the whole, there isn't much of a plot going on and the story relies too much on the heroine playing hard to get for reasons that I don't find credible.
But first, the story. It's a simple one. Noelle Brown runs Love Unlimited, a matchmaking agency, one that she'd like to believe is a cut above her competitors because she applies her personal attention to each client. A few successful matches bear testament to the effectiveness of her methodology. Alas, her company is still new and it is still operating in the red, so Noelle is looking for that big break that will help bring in more business for her company.
This is where Derrick Brandt comes in. He is a prominent social figure in Philadelphia, so having him as a client is a small coup. Getting him into a successful long-term relationship would be a triumph. Or, if you want to put it in another way, he has already paid an enormous deposit, one that Noelle has already spent, so she's really going to find him at least a steady squeeze at the end of the day. It's do or die, in other words.
Alas, Derrick isn't called the Most Ineligible Bachelor of Philadelphia for nothing. The man may be loaded, but he's completely devoid of social skills. He brawls with members of the press in public, says the wrong things at the wrong time, and generally alienates people he meets. The only person who seems to like him is an elderly woman who works as his PA, and that is because they go way back. I mean, he tells Noelle upfront that he is looking for breeding hips and big breasts in his future wife. When Derrick decides that he'd rather date the matchmaker, poor Noelle wants to scream.
I am still trying to figure out how a man like Derrick can become what he is. Perhaps if this is a historical romance and Derrick is a member of a privileged class, I can understand how people defer to him long enough to tolerate his presence, but I have a harder time imagining how that man, who is a walking encyclopedia of social faux pas, can end up running a successful company. The thing he says and does - yikes. How does he not alienate all his clients again?
I am conflicted about Derrick. On one hand, I think he can be adorable the way a grouchy bulldog can be sometimes. He means no malice, he is just blunt and confrontational because that is how he is. He is like some of Loretta Chase's heroes in that respect. On the other hand, I am not too pleased with how Derrick often rationalizes his actions as him being himself. When he errs, he can feel remorse, but at the same time, he will justify his actions by saying that this is how he is. I think the problem here is that Ms Overton isn't afraid to let Derrick make mistakes, but at the same time, she is also afraid that the reader may lose any sympathy that she has for Derrick so Ms Overton is always trying to reassure the reader every time Derrick commits a social faux pas that Derrick can't help being himself. In this case, Ms Overton comes off as trying too hard to compensate for Derrick.
But the bigger problem here is Noelle's continuous refusal to let Derrick into her life even after she's sleeping with him. I don't understand why she is set against an affair with Derrick. It isn't wise to sleep with Derrick from a professional standpoint - I doubt her clients would be pleased to know that she has taken the man she is matching them up with for a trial run - but this reason doesn't worry Noelle as much as she is worried that Derrick makes her feel too much passion. She gets even more ridiculous when she insists on continuing to pair Derrick off with her clients even when she's going out and sleeping with him. If I'm Derrick I would feel really insulted, so I suppose in this instance it's a good thing that Derrick has such thick skin. Noelle can become really exasperatingly silly in this story and her silliness is the reason why this story is as long as it is.
There are some good things about the story. The secondary characters have a good rapport with the main characters. Some scenes here are really funny, as Derrick's clueless nature can often lead to some hilarious exchanges between him and Noelle. Because Derrick can be so clueless, when he does try to be sweet and charming for Noelle, he comes off as just too cute in those scenes. There are some good scenes in this story, it's just that the overall story is problematic. This story also doesn't have a poorly integrated romantic suspense subplot like too many of the author's previous books, which is a good thing indeed.
To conclude, I have a hard time buying the main characters' antics in this story, which is the main reason why I can't fully appreciate Seducing The Matchmaker.
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