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Matchmakers: Romance’s Cupids

November 18, 2012

One of my favorite things about romance novels is the “meet cute,” aka the scene where the hero and heroine meet. Sometimes they literally bump into one another, other times they’re thrown together in amusingly over-the-top situations (week-long blizzard, anyone?). But out of all the ways to introduce the H/h, what takes the cake for me is when finding love is out of the main characters’ hands and instead left up to what I like to call amateur cupids, otherwise known as matchmakers.

From small-town nosy neighbors, to online dating sites, to actual professional matchmakers, setting the H/h up on awkward and unexpected blind dates (then watching them fumble through said blind dates) fills me with all sorts of romance-lovin’ glee.

Matchmakers have been around for centuries, from ancient astrologers who use the stars to predict the couples’ future to town busybodies who refuse to mind their own business and insist on bringing two people together. Regardless of their training (or lack thereof), matchmakers always take the story’s humor and conflict up a notch, Emeril Lagasse-style (Bam!).

One of literature’s most memorable matchmakers is Jane Austen’s Emma. Oh naïve, misguided Emma. She is a prime example of a clueless busybody who simply wants to help others find love. Though her original plan backfired, thankfully everyone ended up with a happily ever after—including Emma.

In Leigh Michael’s The Birthday Scandal, readers are introduced to the Duke of Weybridge, a 70-year-old amateur matchmaker who attempts to set up his blue blood nieces and nephews. However, with them all having given up on love, the Duke definitely has his work cut out for him and the aging aristocrat quickly learns that the heart is more fragile than a crystal chandelier.

Not all matchmakers come in the form of nosy neighbors (or relatives) who insist on meddling with your love life. In fact, some of them are professionals who are pros at creating the perfect match. In Susan Elizabeth Phillip’s Match Me if You Can, Annabelle Granger inherits her grandmother’s matchmaking business and is determined to make a name for herself as a top-notch cupid. But, as fate would have it, Annabelle stumbles into her own match made in heaven. As part of SEP’s Chicago Stars series, this is definitely one of my favorite reads and has a permanent home on my “keeper” shelf.

Since we are, after all, in the 21st century, no list would be complete without mention of online dating. While there may not be actual human beings playing cupid, I’d consider complex dating algorithms just as qualified to act as matchmakers. Rachel Gibson gives readers a delicious peek into the world of online dating in Sex, Lies, and Online Dating. Lucy Rothschild is looking for love while Detective Quinn McIntyre is looking for…a serial killer. While Lucy pretends to be a nurse, Quinn pretends he’s a plumber and just when things are on the verge of getting too mixed up, the skeletons come stumbling out of the closet. Don’t worry, in the end they both find what they’re looking for, plus more.

If you’re like me and like your stories never-ending, then I suggest Claudia Dane’s Courtesan Chronicles, which centers around ex-courtesan Lady Sophia Dalby, who cleverly uses her charm and wit to bring together couples in this Georgian era series. There are currently five books in the series; I suggest starting with book one, The Courtesan’s Daughter, which introduces readers to Lady Sophia and sets the precedence for the subsequent four books.

I realize that with all this talk of matchmaking, it’s possible that you’ve started thinking about how perfect [insert friend/relative] would be for [insert other friend/relative]. Before you pull out cupid’s arrows, I recommend checking out these books instead; you’ll get your fill of drama and a guaranteed happy ending without the consequences!

ROAMING QUESTION: Do you like matchmaker tropes in your romance? If so, what’s your favorite type? Have you ever played Cupid in real life?

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