Review: Truly, Madly by Heather Webber

06Jan10


Title: Truly, Madly
Author: Heather Webber
Publisher: St Martin’s Press
Year Published: 2010 (will release in February)

Spoilers: A few non-specific ones.

Recommended: This is what I would call a “popcorn book.” It’s fun to read, but it won’t stay with you and doesn’t have a lot of substance–and if you dine exclusively on its ilk you’ll probably get scurvy. If that’s what you’re in the mood for, go for it.

I received this book through Library Thing’s early reviewer program and read it over the holidays. It doesn’t release until the beginning of February, but if I don’t write this now I’ll forget everything about the book. If you know me at all you know this isn’t exactly my typical genre, and I wouldn’t have read it if it hadn’t been free. I did enjoy it, but I also probably wouldn’t be reviewing it if not for the program, since I don’t have a whole ton to say.

The basic premise is that Lucy Valentine is the latest in a long line of matchmakers who operate by matching auras. Lucy, though, doesn’t see auras. Instead, she can find lost objects. But when a scandal forces her father to take an extended vacation, she gets handed control of the matchmaking agency her family runs. Within her first few hours on the job she stumbles onto a murder mystery and a possible soulmate.

Like I said, this is a fun book without a lot of ambition. It relies on charm more than substance, but for a quick palette-cleanser it was entertaining and fluffy. Some of the matchmaking and interactions were delightful, although the caricatured nature of the characters was somewhat tiring in places. I also must admit to being too much of a cynic for this book, or at the very least disagreeing on the concept of “compatibility.” If your values are incompatible with someone’s life, I don’t think they’re really your “perfect match.” But I was willing to let that go, since it’s a fantasy world anyway.

Some of the plot was extremely predictable; as soon as a news report on a missing child flashes across the television, it’s obvious that Lucy will somehow be involved in finding him. Any surprise and complexity in the novel didn’t come from these big plot events, but rather in the micro interactions and the turns in relationships. Because I wasn’t expecting surprises, I wasn’t troubled by cliche or predictability, but in retrospect I do have to roll my eyes a bit. More troubling as I was reading was the reliance on coincidence. For instance, in saving that boy, Lucy draws the attention of the police and one cop in particular. She slips away without giving her name, but then runs into the cop again–when he’s the other half of a blind double-date she’s on.

Still, I again moved past the eye-rolling and started enjoying myself again. The middle sections are a bit muddled, but again that’s not a problem if you’re focusing on the details, the cute matchmaking sessions, and so on. But then we came to the ending. It was unforgivable. When I finished it I had the feeling that the author had realized she had run into her length limit and panicked. The book suddenly turns into action adventure for five pages, previous information is reversed or hand-waved away to make the conclusion make sense, and and the badguy gets hit by a train.

Train. Really. Out of nowhere. Note to self: always have climactic confrontations near a railway.

But ending aside, I liked this book well enough to slip it in as a bonus Christmas gift to a friend. It’s a fun but forgettable bit of popcorn reading. Pick it up if you’re looking for a something that will inspire a few smiles and chuckles but not a lot of thought–and make up your own ending.

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