~ Great romance (with terrific chemistry!) - stubborn and independent woman meets a charming but tortured hero (5 stars) ~
I absolutely loved THE MATCHMAKER, Becnel's first book in her "Maker" series. She is a talented writer and really knows how to write wonderful chemistry that leaps off the page! Her main and secondary characters are three-dimensional and accessible and we meet a great hero and heroine in Neville and Olivia. One looks forward to each of their encounters and the subsequent teasing and sparring that takes place.
Olivia is 21 years old and though she's been on the marriage mart for three years and received many offers, she has yet to meet a man whom she would want to attach herself to for life. Her family situation is an interesting one: she has an older brother and younger sister and they each have different fathers. Her mother, Augusta, is a woman who loves being in love and has been widowed three times. Memories of her father's devil-may-care ways and watching her mother's relationships with men has made Olivia wary of passion and matters of the heart. She's a wonderful heroine who is easy to like - independent and strong-minded, intelligent and sensitive.
Lord Neville Hawke (~30) is the tortured hero-type. He has suffered a great deal of loss in his life: he was in the army and watched many of his friends and fellow soldiers die in battle (causes his nightmares, feelings of guilt, and escape into alcohol addiction) and a couple of years ago his parents and brother died. He's friendly and charming and flirts with Olivia at every opportunity, engaging in a battle of wills and chasing after her, unable to resist the strong pull between them. His devil-may-care facade (which reminds her too much of her late father) hides an extremely sensitive and lonely man, however, who (of course!) is unknowingly waiting for the right woman to provide him with his HEA.
SUMMARY (from back cover):
"Since her entry into society three years ago, Olivia has kept detailed notes on every eligible man with whom she's ever sipped a cup of tea or twirled across the dance floor. Some of her diary entries have resulted in successful matches for her friends, but she's never found any man she considered remotely suitable for herself.
But once Lord Neville Hawke comes into her life, the other men in her book look positively perfect. Neville's a notorious scoundrel with a shady and painful past, and a penchant for destroying rooms in fits of drunken rage. A heartbreaker and a rogue, Lord Hawke is the kind of man who knows how to seduce a woman with only his taunting eyes and challenging words. The kind of man to whom a well-bred lady like Olivia is quite definitely immune. Until he kisses her.
And in that kiss he lets her know she is his salvation. With each caress he dares her to stop looking in her book and start listening to her heart. For two very stubborn souls have just found their perfect match ..."
OTHER BOOKS IN "MAKER" SERIES:
Olivia's younger sister, Sarah, is the heroine of the second book in Becnel's "Maker" series, THE TROUBLEMAKER, and her older brother James, Viscount Farley, is the hero of the fourth and last book in the series, THE HEARTBREAKER. The third book is THE BRIDEMAKER and it's hero, Adrian Hawke, is Neville's illegitimate nephew.
A definite keeper and re-read for me; the only complaint I have is that the ending (right before the epilogue) is a little too sappy, but the book is so great otherwise that I found it easy to overlook.
I love Rexanne Becnel. She is a really good story teller.
god characters, sarcastic humor & romance.
I really liked this book. Based on the cover and on Olivia's matchmaker status, I went into it expecting a much lighter book. By the time we get our first glimpse of Neville's despair when trying to make it through the night, which happen on pages 15 - 19, I realized that this story would be quite a bit darker than I expected. But then the story reverted back to a less angsty tone. It seemed like the despair would come unexpectedly, for me at least. I kind of liked it.
Even though the book had a lighthearted tone through most of it, it never felt fluffy. The characters felt well-rounded and engrossing. I particularly like the mother's character. I still don't know if I like her or not, but I felt that she was given a lot of time and attention. I liked how information about her relationship with Olivia's father was given in small doses through stray comments. It felt way more authentic than characters info-dumping about a subject that they weren't comfortable discussing with each other. I felt that Olivia's mother was willfully blind to Olivia's issues. But what could she really say to change her mind? I understood both of their side's but I wished she was less self absorbed.
I really felt for Olivia. She was never a ninny, but she was afraid. Afraid of repeating past mistakes. She only saw the black and white of the issue, not the gray. She didn't understand that those symptoms of attraction don't always spell disaster. I really liked how levelheaded Olivia was. It seemed like that was also her biggest weakness at times. She was too afraid to let herself go. I really appreciated that she didn't sugarcoat Neville's drinking. She refused to let herself be sucked into that kind of relationship.
I really liked how she would go write in her journal whenever Neville irritated her in the beginning of the book. I also liked the note he left back! She was always so irritated and scandalized by his gall, but Neville was right when he said that's what drew her to him too.
Neville was an interesting character. He wasn't a rake, but wasn't adverse to dallying. He also didn't conform to the typical portrayal of an alcoholic. In some ways that's my main gripe with the story. I felt that it was much too easy for him to ignore his addiction when it suited the story. I liked that the epilogue alluded to his sleeping problem taking a while to fix, but I still would have like a bit more care taken with his drinking problem.
I really liked their relationship together. I'm interested in going back and reading about the couples that Olivia had a hand in setting up!
I had to reread two parts of the book before I put it down. The scene where Olivia talks to her brother in an attempt to foil Neville's plan to pressure her into doing something she didn't want to. His reaction was so funny! The other scene was where Sarah busts her mom and the brother jumps to the wrong conclusion. His shock when he found out what was really going on was hilarious!
A book that started off fairly strongly and then never really went anywhere, ending with a whimper.
While Rexanne Becnel seems a competent writer, I really did not like the heroine who came off is selfish and without any empathy. Becnel introduced the hero in a classic tale of PTSD, a war hero who cannot sleep due to his terrible nightmares. This theme carries on through a good half the book, then seems to disappear until the last few pages of the story. It felt like Becnel's research on the subject of PTSD was weak, and when she realized her failing, kind of abandoned the notion until the end when she was forced to wrap it up.
As to sensuality, I thought she did a decent job of keeping the sexual tension through the book. She did not have a real love scene until the very end of the book and it was okay but not memorable.
Olivia keeps detailed notes on every eligible man in her diary to promote successful matches for her friends until Lord Neville Hawke comes into her life.
Review here at All About Romance: