Katie Fforde’s books are always a treat, as comforting as a cup of tea & a Sunday afternoon in my favourite reading chair. Her new novel, The Perfect Match, delivers all the bucolic Englishness we’ve come to expect although I didn’t find the main romance quite as involving as usual this time around.
Bella Castle is a real estate agent in a small country town. She left her home town three years before after falling in love with a married man. Although their relationship consisted of nothing but flirting over the photocopier & a kiss under the mistletoe, once she realised Dominic was married & that his wife was pregnant, Bella left. Now, she has her life completely on track. She lives with her godmother, Alice, loves her job & is practically engaged to her boss, Nevil.
Bella is the kindest, most considerate & altruistic real estate agent I’ve ever met in fiction. She goes to endless trouble with picky clients & becomes friends with an elderly lady, Jane Langley, who doesn’t want to sell her big, inconvenient house but is worried about the future when she can no longer manage the house & her beautiful garden. Nevil imagines that Bella’s visits to Jane are a way of softening her up for the eventual sale of her house but Bella is genuinely concerned for Jane, who becomes a friend. Imagine Bella’s dismay when Jane’s nephew comes to visit & he turns out to be Dominic Thane, the man she left her previous job & life for. Bella is already having doubts about her relationship with Nevil & her doubts increase when she begins to suspect that he’s involved in some dodgy property deals. Her decision to look for evidence of these deals leads her into potential danger.
Bella’s godmother, Alice, is in her sixties, happy with her life although she is starting to get itchy feet in her comfortable domesticity after a life of travel. When she meets Michael on the train one day, there’s an immediate attraction although she’s reluctant to make too much of it as she’s several years older than he is. However, Michael isn’t deterred & their relationship moves quickly. Michael’s two daughters are not so welcoming & Alice has to make some crucial decisions about her future.
Dominic could never understand why Bella left so abruptly & believes the rumours at their workplace that she had covered up for his wife, Celine, who was having an affair. Their marriage broke up soon afterwards. Dominic isn’t happy to discover that Bella is his aunt’s friend & Bella is dismayed to realise that she is still in love with Dominic. Their friendship slowly develops as misunderstandings are cleared away & Bella asks Dominic’s help with her investigations into Nevil’s shifty dealings.
The Perfect Match is a lovely book to read on a Sunday afternoon although I don’t think it’s as good as her earlier novels. Bella is a sweet girl but I couldn’t understand why she was still with the odious Nevil. He might have built up her confidence when she first arrived but she really only seems to be still with him because she loves her job & knows he’d sack her if she broke up with him. Every word he says & every assumption he makes just shows that they’re poles apart in values, morals & everything that matters. It surely didn’t take her three years & the arrival of Dominic to work this out. Bella & Dominic’s romance never really gets off the ground, they have so many obstacles to get over. I did love Alice & Michael’s story & this reminds what I love about Katie Fforde’s earlier novels. They were about older women still living interesting lives, having relationships & fitting all that in with busy lives. I believed in Alice where I didn’t really believe in Bella.