Title: A Matchless Man
Author: Ariel Tachna
Narrator: John Solo
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release: 6th October 2016
Length: 5 hrs and 22 mins
None of the matches caught his eye as much as the matchmaker himself.
Growing up poorer than poor didn't leave Navashen Bhattathiri many options for life outside of school. All of his concentration was on keeping his scholarships. Sixteen years later, he's fulfilled his dream and become a doctor. Now he's returning home to Lexington and is ready to prove himself to the world. In doing so, he reconnects with Brent Carpenter - high school classmate, real estate agent, all-around great guy, and closet matchmaker.
Brent makes it his mission to help Navashen develop a social life and meet available, interesting men. Unfortunately Navashen's schedule is unpredictable, and few of those available, interesting men value his dedication like Brent does. Brent's unfailing friendship and support convince Navashen he's the one, but can he capture Brent's heart when the matchmaker is focused on finding Navashen another man?
I have listened to several of the Dreamspun Desires audiobooks and this is my favourite so far. The Dreamspun Desires stories often require the reader to suspend disbelief, but this one was quite plausible and realistic. The series also features popular tropes and for this story we are treated to the friends-to-lovers trope.
Nav and Brent were classmates at high school rather than best friends, enjoying a friendly rivalry and no romantic connection. They didn’t keep in touch while Nav was studying and training to become a doctor. Sixteen years later when Nav returns to his hometown after accepting a position at the local hospital, he contacts Brent in the hope he will help find him a new home. Nav wants to maintain his independence from his strict Indian parents and he wants to provide a home for his younger brother who requires assistance. Much of the first third of the book covers this aspect of the story and sets up Nav's situation and family background, including his mother’s homophobia, the traditional Indian family values, and her wish to arrange a marriage for him. They all have an important bearing on the story and are not there as a filler.
Nav and Brent re-connect as they view the various properties together and we get to see that Akshat needs the freedom to achieve greater independence away from the clutches of their loving, but rather controlling mother. Nav comes across as selfless and wonderful because he provides for his family and cares for his brother. As a result of his studies, his somewhat introverted nature, and the care of his family Nav’s social life is almost non-existent.
Brent is kind too, and goes above and beyond what a realtor would do for a client. His interaction with Akshat also shows what a great guy he is. Brent soon wants to help improve Nav’s dire social life and tries to set him up on a date, although the matchmaking is a relatively small part of the story.
So, as the story was ambling towards the mid-way point I was beginning to wonder about the romance and when it would blossom. Yes, by now I had become invested in Nav and Akshat and found their story enjoyable, and I’m sure John Solo’s narration also helped keep me interested in the story and the characters.
Brent and Nav spend time together with Brent’s friends and Akshat. For a time, Nav doesn’t think Brent sees him as anything more than a friend, but eventually they become close and get around to going on a date by themselves. Throughout, Brent comes across as a true gentleman. He only kisses Nav on the date and is in no rush to seduce him—not that he didn’t want to. I’m not sure if this is a reflection of the Dreamspun Desires requirement for a limited number of sexually explicit scenes, the author’s preferred style of writing, respect for Indian cultural beliefs, or just because it suited the characters and their story. Whatever the reason, the romance comes across as sweet and old-fashioned, almost innocent. And that might be the appeal of the story for me.
I think Ariel was showing what a fabulous future partner Brent would be through his actions with Nav and his interaction with Akshat. Having said that, I wished there were more scenes with Nav and Brent getting to know each other and showing the development of their relationship as a couple because they really didn’t have much time doing that in the story. Perhaps having this instead of the detailed descriptions of the houses Nav and Brent inspected at the beginning of the story would have been better.
Throughout, the chemistry is understated and bubbling in the background, but even so, I was routing for these guys and willing for them to get together. My favourite section of the story is the final four chapters. I’ve listened to them at least three times. Their ‘break-up’ scene is plausible and understandable given Brent’s past. It brought tears to my eyes. The make-up is sweet, as is their one love-making scene, which isn’t sexually explicit as such.
I loved Akshat’s contribution to the romance, especially his encouragement and words of wisdom to Nav. For me, he provided an integral part of the plot and it was wonderful to see the progress in his maturity and independence.
John Solo's narration is excellent as always. His pace and tone are spot on. He portrays the characters and their emotions superbly, giving them each a distinctive voice. I particularly liked Akshat’s voice. It matched his personality perfectly.
One thing the audio version highlighted for me was the frequent use of said as a dialogue tag. Once I latched on to this it became more noticeable as the story progressed. With John’s wonderful narration and also with the story structure itself, it was clear to me who was speaking.
A recommended story for readers and listeners who enjoy a sweet, almost innocent romance with a low level of angst and little heat.
Meet Ariel Tachna
When Ariel Tachna was twelve years old, she discovered two things: the French language and romance novels. Those two loves have defined her ever since. By the time she finished high school, she’d written four novels, none of which anyone would want to read now, featuring a young woman who was—you guessed it—bilingual. That girl was everything Ariel wanted to be at age twelve and wasn’t.
She now lives on the outskirts of Houston with her husband (who also speaks French), her kids (who understand French even when they’re too lazy to speak it back), and their two dogs (who steadfastly refuse to answer any French commands).
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