A bit far-fetched as it may sound, Ms. Becnel reminds me of the incomparable Jane Austen. Now, being a out-and-out Austen-maniac, I am not the one to make such a (shall we say) bold statement without any sound reason.
For one thing, Ms. Becnel has created a set of wonderful characters whom I can't help but grow to care for and fall in love with.
Olivia Byrde manages to be a most lovable paradox of a heroine I've ever come across. See, she is beautiful yet utterly unconscious of her charm; she is innocent but is quick to respond to the hero with passion; she is feisty and stubborn without being annoyingly pigheaded; she turns into clay whenever she comes into physical contact, however slight, with the hero, but save for that, she has as much wit and sharpness about her as can be.
Lord Neville Hawke is the more common sort of brooding, dangerous, and devilishly handsome hero one will expect from a romance novel. Although initially he appears more like a drunkard who sets his mind on nothing but the seduction of Olivia, he gradually proves himself much more than just meets the eye. Along with Olivia, readers come to know he's hard-working and cares more about the well-being of other people than his own. His un-gentlemanly behavior towards Olivia during their first encounter is satisfactorily explained and I grow to sympathize with him. (Trust me, he is really a tortured lost soul.) What makes him so fascinating, however, is that despite his outward composure and confidence in his ability to woo Olivia, deep down he's actually a sorry (but adorable)case of insecurity and self-resentment: he may be able to kiss Olivia into oblivion but he feels himself totally unworthy of her love. Now, how cute is that?!
What makes Ms. Becnel "Austenian" is that she concentrates primarily on the courtship of the two protagonists, never distracting readers by tossing in a large group of secondary characters or by too many plot twists and turns. This is not to say the secondary characters, most notably Olivia's mother and sister, do not have their own appeal. Together with Olivia and Neville, they make a dazzling, unforgettable ensemble!
For another, Ms. Becnel, like Jane Austen, writes in such a peaceful, serene manner that although the story may not have a lot of "action," as one reviewer complains, it still is a page-turner, one you need to be patient with and willing to slowly immerse yourself in.
And there is Ms. Becnel's writing. I confess I cannot abide a horribly written story with irritating narratives, no matter how interesting the plot or characters are. This is not the case with THE MATCHMAKER, which is told with lucidity, elegance and subtlety. (notice how Ms. Becnel plays with the names of the hero and heroine?)
All in all, THE MATCHMAKER is a definite keeper for me and for those of you who like Jane Austen and a good Regency. As it is my first read from Mr. Becnel, I was furthermore thrilled to have discovered such an awesome writer. THE MATCHMAKER is not for those who like their romance action/adventure-packed and fast-paced (and thank goodness, there is not the dreaded big misunderstanding in the story), but I say, KEEP'EM COMING, Ms. Becnel! You've done a great job!!