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The Matchmaker by Elin Hilderbrand

The Matchmaker is the fifth book by Elin Hilderbrand that I've read and reviewed here on the blog.  I enjoy her books--they have a tendency to grab hold of the reader fairly quickly, and this one is no different.  If you click here, here, here, and here, you can read the previous Hilderbrand book reviews posted to this blog.  I could tell where this story was headed pretty much from the first complaints of "not feeling right" by one of the characters.  But when I tell characters to do something, they never listen to me, so this one kept putting off going to the doctor, which was really annoying.  Like there were several days when she couldn't get out of bed because that's how much pain she was in, and she still wouldn't go!  Then after three straight days in bed, her (grown) daughter says to her father, should we take mommy to the hospital?  And the father's all, oh, give it another day.  Dude.  This is why your wife stepped out on you--you're condescending, you're distant, you're disconnected, you treat her like a child, and when you should have hauled her ass to the hospital, YOU DON'T.  Also when you get towards the end of this book, make sure you have tissues, okay?  You will need them.  Lots of them.

Dabney hasn't felt right for weeks--she's exhausted, she has pain in her abdomen and her back, she's losing weight, and although she chalks it up to the distress and upheaval of her ex and one true 'perfect match,' Clendenin (what kind of name is that?  This dude isn't even a native Nantucketer, so there is no excuse for his name;) abrupt return home to the small island of Nantucket.  She hasn't seen nor heard from Clen for over a quarter of a century per her orders when he left which were to cut off all contact.  Meanwhile, Dabney's much older husband, Box, (I know his name isn't much better than Clen's, but at least it's a nickname taken from his middle name 'Boxwood') a world renowned economist and Harvard professor condescendingly and obliviously chalks up Dabney's symptoms to work stress.  Dabney's doctor can find no reason for the symptoms besides her mysteriously elevated white blood cell count.  But in order to run more tests to find out why the white blood cell count is elevated, Dabney would have to go to Boston, which she will not do.  This is because she hasn't been off island in over 25 years (!!!) thanks to a rather unique mix of OCD, paranoia, and agoraphobia stemming from her childhood abandonment by her mother and the conviction that nothing good comes when she leaves the island.  Girl. NO.  GO TO THE DOCTOR IN BOSTON FOR THE TESTS.  At this point I already know everything will end in tears.

Dabney has a special gift: she can match people with their one true love, and she has dozens of successful pairings to her credit to prove it.  But her gift didn't work for herself because Clen left even though she couldn't go with him and she knew he couldn't stay.  Instead Dabney settled for a life and marriage with Box the economist even though their relationship has devolved to being mere roommates/friends while his work and reputation takes precedence over their relationship.  AND Box (and Dabney's daughter) thinks her matchmaking gift is a bunch of malarkey and that Dabney shouldn't be meddling in other people's personal lives.  The only things Box has going for him is that he's a good father (even though his daughter's fiance has him so snowed that he can't see the man or the red flags for what they really are), and for the most part, he means well.  But when Clen returns, so do all Dabney's feelings for him.  And so the two begin rebuilding a friendship that a hot second later becomes a full blown extramarital love affair.

Complicating Dabney's already complicated life is the recently announced engagement of her (and Clen's) daughter, Agnes, to a man who is most certainly not her true match.  This Dabney knows; she knows the man is too old, too controlling, and she suspects that his charming exterior (that has Box so charmed) hides much more sinister personality traits.  Dabney knows it would be a colossal (and dangerous) mistake for her daughter to follow through with this marriage.  But previously sharing this knowledge with Agnes blew up in Dabney's face and resulted in a months long estrangement between mother and daughter.  So Dabney must tread lightly in the wake of the engagement news despite her determination to forestall and completely derail this marriage.  Normally I don't like meddling people, but this is one instance that requires a meddling mother--abuse is a dealbreaker, Agnes, and even though he hasn't physically battered you yet, girl, stop ignoring all the warning signs.  

There are some tension filled passages in this book involving Agnes and her fiance, and that whole relationship is thisclose to ending in tragedy, but pulls up short fortunately.  We have enough to cry about at the end, we don't need to cry about Agnes's ill fated love affair.  If you're expecting a happy ending, you should go read a different book.  This ending is bittersweet (with many tears).  I recommend this book to anyone looking for a good read.  Elin Hilderbrand fans won't be disappointed.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie

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