Matt Burlingame, $1.99, ISBN 978-1370232956
Contemporary Romance, 2017
Ira Hughes comes back to his hometown to care for his father, and he can’t say that he is entirely happy about that. There are too many unpleasant memories about growing up there – way too many of them revolving around Colton McCabe, who was as much his tormentor and nightmare as he was the object of his teenage desires. There is no getting away from Colton, though, as he has basically wormed his way into the good graces of Ira’s parents while Ira was away. Ira’s mother wants him to help Colton out at the mall, too, and more confusingly, Colton seems to have become the perfect prince of Ira’s dreams in the last fifteen years. What is going on here?
Now, there are some things to like in Matt Burlingame’s The Perfect Match – for a romantic tale of a city guy coming back to the small town, there is a refreshing lack of the same old “The small town is where you belong all along, and you are now a person of lesser character for having left!” nonsense that tends to permeate such stories. In fact, I mentally give Ira a standing ovation when he tells off Ira for daring to judge him for being away while the father was ill. Also, the author captures Ira’s conflicted feelings perfectly about homecoming. Sure, there are many things one probably don’t like about going back – especially when doing so comes with memories of how inadequate that person might have felt back then – but still, there is something rather comforting nonetheless about being home again, even if one doesn’t want to acknowledge that much.
I also like how the author attempts to build up the relationship between Ira and Colton through conversations and little interactions. There is no rush to jump into bed here, so there is something endearing and somewhat believable about the relationship as a result. Somewhat believable, that is, as I still have a hard time buying Colton’s complete 180 swing from bully to gentleman.
Then again, it is possible that Ira is a melodramatic narrator, because my goodness, this fellow can be one tough protagonist to follow. He is quite overwrought by nature, prone to overreacting and launching into melodrama at the slightest provocation. I have a feeling that there is a good reason why his family didn’t want to tell him how sick his father really is until he gets back – that guy will likely go even more hysterical than he did here, and probably wear everyone out even before he gets back.
Also, this story eventually becomes drenched with sentimentality that makes me fear for my blood sugar levels. I have a sense of dread early on of what is coming when I realize that this story features the combination of overwrought hero and sick father, and yes, I am ultimately correct. This story is pure Hallmark by the time I reach the last page. To some readers this won’t be an issue, but me, my threshold for such sentimentality is clearly too low when it comes to this thing.
In the end, I do like reading The Perfect Match for the reasons I’ve stated, but my god, I do cringe as well for the reasons I’ve stated. All things considered, it’s the perfect example of a three-oogie read.