|The Christmas Matchmaker is a follow-up of sorts to The Family Matchmaker, and the leads from that previous book play an important role here. Vincent Beverly, brother to the bubbly Georgi of the aforementioned novel, is on his way to Georgiís house for a Christmas house party when he finds a woman and a small child huddled against a tree in the snow. He canít leave them to freeze, so he takes the woman with him to Georgiís for temporary shelter. To everyoneís surprise, Georgi and the young woman are acquaintances.
Penelope Garth has returned from the Continent, where her soldier husband was killed at Talavera. Their elopement several years earlier caused an estrangement with her father, and when Penelope and her little boy tried to visit him, he threw them out of the house. Penelope has an inheritance of her own and plans to move north to be near her late husbandís family, but at the moment, the inns are full and she has no place to stay. Penelope is convinced to join Georgiís house party, though privately she plans to keep to herself and set out for Scotland as soon as the holidays are over.
Georgi, the matchmaker of the title, has plans of her own. Her beloved brother needs a wife, and Penelope is a wonderful candidate. If only she can get them in proximity, she is sure all will work out splendidly. But there are several roadblocks. Penelopeís father shows up, calling her some truly horrendous names before he is escorted out. Then Penelopeís old suitor, her fatherís choice for a husband, appears. He is infatuated with her beautiful singing voice and still wants to marry her. Vincentís sister-in-law resents the fact that Vincent plans to move into the dower house and turns her spite on Penelope.
This is a story that has little conflict except for the actions of the secondary characters. Vincent and Penelope have no reason at all not to fall in love, and indeed, they do so quite quickly. Vincent waffles around for a while, believing that itís too soon for Penelope to love again, but other than that, they get along fine. The secondary characters are mostly obnoxious. Penelopeís former suitor is a complete boor, but for some reason, Georgi allows him to hang around the house. One canít be impressed with her taste in friends. The nasty sister-in-law is given several pointed set-downs but continues to carp and complain. Georgi herself comes across as rather dimwitted in several instances.
So the problem here was that the focus was on the annoying secondary characters rather than the romantic leads, who are quietly going about the business of falling in love. Itís not exactly scintillating stuff. The author throws in a silly kidnapping sub-plot near the end of the book, and it exists only to give Vincent a chance to play the hero. Polish it off with a truly unbelievable reconciliation and what we have is a book that fails to satisfy on any level.
Iíll go out on a limb here and suggest that cranking out five Regencies in a year may be too much for an author. The Christmas Matchmaker never rises above the mediocre and for a good part of the book, itís not even that. The Regency sub-genre needs a healthy shot of new blood or weíre likely to see it disappear altogether.