Romance novels aren’t my forte. I’m more of a YA or fantasy fan. Books are my escape and I find it more exciting to escape into worlds of fantastical creatures than worlds of cliche romances. I like different. I like spectacular.
So what a great start to my reviews than with a romance novel.
Match Me If You Can by Michele Gorman follows three friends and roommates as they navigate their love lives and house renovation.
Catherine runs a website called RecycLove, a dating app that allows people to rate and recommend their exes. She part-owns the business with her ex-husband, Richard, that is until he gives his half of the business to his 23 year-old fiancee, Magda. Catherine has to figure out how to run her business with her new partner who thinks she knows best. How will Catherine pry her business back from the grasp of Magda before she ruins the whole thing? And is there something more to her dislike of the 23 year-old than she first thought?
Rachel is an aspiring architect who works with her friend and ex-boyfriend, James. When a big client shows interest in their company, their boss, Ed, chooses them both to compete for the design. To make things worse, Catherine has convinced them both to sign up to the website. James dives head first, but Rachel finds herself only meeting one guy. Is there a reason why she’s holding off? And why is she so bothered when James becomes interested in her best friend, Sarah?
Sarah is a card designer and passionate baker. She’s also practically a hermit and would rather laze on her settee than go out clubbing. So it’s a whole new world when she joins RecycLove and meets Jeremy, club-addict. But staying out all night takes its toll for Sarah and begins affecting her everyday life. On top of the that, Whispering Sands, her younger sister’s home, is closing and she needs to find another place that has the expertise to take care of people with Down Syndrome that also offers the social opportunities Whispering Sands does. Will she find Sissy a new home? And what does she do when James reaches out to her?
Writing and publishing any novel is hard work so, credit where credit’s due, the mere fact that this novel was written and published gives it points.
The story itself contains all the usual cliches and tropes of a romance novel. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; the things that make these novels sell are exactly what makes me think they’re cheesy. However, the story was original enough that it didn’t feel like I was reading just another romance novel. The cliche mixed with the unique created a novel that was both familiar and unfamiliar. A credit to Gorman’s writing was definitely a twist that was both expected and unexpected; something I knew was not what it seemed and yet, Gorman wrote the story in such a way that I didn’t expect it in the end. This is something many writers fail to do when using cliche twists; being able to write something the reader expects that makes them question themselves.
I’ll steer away from as many spoilers as possible if only to allow you to make better judgements for yourselves.
Although there were times when I felt the atmosphere could use more work to create more emotion, overall, the story was extremely emotive. I found myself connecting more with Rachel (possibly over a similar experience) which allowed me to feel her emotions a lot more. That being said, I think all the characters are written in a way that allows the reader to sympathise with them and, to some extent, empathise.
The ending was wrapped up neatly in a happy ending. No surprise there for a romance novel, but it didn’t leave any important questions hanging and made sure to leave the reader with real closure.
With all that being said, there were a few things that kept me from loving this book:
I’m all for characters you dislike. Nothing is better than creating characters your reader won’t get on with to show how three-dimensional they are. That being said, I’m sure Catherine was not intended to be a dislikable character (although to some extent, the author really doesn’t have much control over that). Perhaps my age comes into it; I can sympathise with the feeling of being replaced by a 23-year-old and being protective of a business you’ve nurtured and grown. But, as a 23-year-old, I found the treatment of Magda by Catherine patronising and demeaning. Referring to her as a child and talking down to her (at least in thought) is a great way to alienate younger readers (and by younger, I mean those in their early 20s who are often met with attitudes like Catherine’s in their everyday life). Catherine seems self-aware enough to acknowledge why she feels this way towards the younger woman but makes no effort to change her behaviour. By the end of the book, when she’s more aware of her emotions towards Richard and the marriage, her behaviour towards Magda may be less patronising, but her dislike for her is still strong. Whilst I understand the protective urges of Catherine, I feel there was a lot of potential here to show more emotional growth than what was offered.
The other characters, personally, were more likeable. Although I struggled to match Rachel’s independent nature with her ideal that the man has to pay for dinner every time, her ambition in the workplace and emotional growth/awareness felt a lot more realistic. Sarah’s struggles show raw emotion and her character’s quirks make her different from the rest. Refreshing for me personally, as the other characters did all feel very similar.
My main issues with this novel were the short chapters and flashbacks. The chapters alternate between each of the friends, but I found them rather short and jarring. They wouldn’t always carry on with a particular scene in that character’s next chapter which sometimes left me feeling out of place with the novel. Time wasn’t indicated clearly, either. I also found the flashbacks were often forced. They stuck out, as they should, but the rhythm and flow of their introductions took me out of the story too much. I found myself having to re-read the scene before the flashbacks to remind myself what exactly had happened. That being said, I did enjoy the flashbacks in how they told the stories of the past that influenced each character’s present.
Overall, I found the novel an interesting change from my usual read. Before this novel, I’d read the third instalment of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Library of Souls, which, as you can imagine, was a drastic shift in storytelling and plot.
Match Me If You Can offered all the things a romance novel should offer and created characters that were both cliche and unique. It was intriguing and kept me reading to find out what happens next, particularly with the situation between Rachel, James and Sarah. Although the start was rather hard to get into, it certainly picked up the pace and within a few chapters, I was immersed in their world.
I won’t be offering ratings out of 5 or 10, I don’t fully see the usefulness in those types of ratings and often, what one person regards as a 3 out of 5 will be different to what someone else believes. Instead, I’m offering a simple question:
Would I recommend this book?
Connect with the author: