The Matchmaker’s Lonely Heart by Nancy Campbell Allen
Publication Date: September 7th, 2021
Publisher: Shadow Mountain / Proper Romance
Genre: Historical Fiction
Amelie Hampton is a hopeless romantic, which makes her the perfect columnist to answer lonely heart letters in The Marriage Gazette. When Amelie plays matchmaker with two anonymous lonely hearts, she also decides to secretly observe the couple’s blind date. To her surprise, the man who appears for the rendezvous is Harold Radcliffe—a grieving widower and a member of Amelie’s book club.
Police detective Michael Baker has been struggling ever since his best friend and brother-in-law died in the line of fire. Because he knows the dangers of his job, he has vowed never to marry and subject a wife and family to the uncertainty of his profession. But when he meets Miss Hampton, he is captured by her innocence, beauty, and her quick mind.
When a woman’s body is pulled from the river, Michael suspects the woman’s husband—Harold Radcliffe—of foul play. Amelie refuses to believe that Harold is capable of such violence but agrees to help, imagining it will be like one of her favorite mystery novels. Her social connections and clever observations prove an asset to the case, and Amelie is determined to prove Mr. Radcliffe’s innocence. But the more time Amelie and Michael spend together, the more they trust each other, and the more they realize they are a good team, maybe the perfect match.
They also realize that Mr. Radcliffe is hiding more than one secret, and when his attention turns toward Amelie, Michael knows he must put an end to this case before the woman he loves comes to harm.
I want more of Amelie and Michael solving crimes together! I feel like this book would be a great introduction to a series that follows these characters as they uncover various mysteries but I guess I will just have to be satisfied with it being a standalone.
There was something extremely unique about how the story unfolds, in that you never really question who the ‘bad guy’ is and yet you cannot help yourself from flipping the page to see how our main characters handle the case. We are also able to get the thought processes from both sides with POVs from Amelie and Michael which is something I always love in these types of books.
The internal conflict for Michael was completely understandable and I think that he did things as best as he could with every situation which was refreshing. If it made sense to bring someone into their ruse, he did it so there wasn’t much ‘keeping secrets for someones own good.’ He is a respected detective in his own right.
Amelie was a little quick in with helping the case than I would have expected considering she went from being extremely wary of Michael to being completely okay with working undercover with him in such a short time. But I understand the plot had to get going and Amelie had her own reasons for wanting to be a part of the operation. It was sweet that she referenced fictional detectives that she had a bit of inspiration from but those touches fell a little flat because we never really got much background about it and it made her reasoning feel more childish than feminist.
All that being said, these two work great together. I appreciated that Michael was protective but certainly not overbearing, that Amelie took charge when she felt it necessary (even though it did get her into trouble), and that their supporting cast of characters balanced conflict and camaraderie very well.
A touch that I really enjoyed was the snip-its after each chapter header which did make me laugh from time to time. They are taken from ‘guides’ on how to court, how to be a good detective, etc. And the chapter in question had a direct relation to those quotes. Much of the time it included our main characters doing the exact opposite of what was advised and a few of the times in made me laugh. Such a fun touch.
I also loved the added aspects of Amelie and Michael’s home lives - and their siblings in particular. You do not often see mental disability represented in historical fiction and the fact that Allen included it, felt natural and respectful. It helped to deepen their characters but also it was just nice to see it included.
In the end, I had a great time reading this book and will definitely be looking into Nancy Campbell Allen’s backlist.