A historical novel follows a privileged young woman whose parents die suddenly, leaving her to find a husband on her own.
In her contribution to the Matchmaker Series, a collaborative project between multiple authors (12 books by 12 authors in 12 months, all including a common matchmaking character), Moore (Summer in New York Collection, 2016, etc.) introduces readers to a lovable heroine who encounters a difficult struggle. Nelle Thompson is approaching her 21st birthday in 1908 in New York City. Her parents haven’t yet found her a husband, but Nelle has such a satisfying relationship with her mother and father that she feels no urgency to create a new attachment. Everything changes when Nelle’s parents are killed unexpectedly. She is sent to the country to live with her nasty, miserly aunt and self-involved cousin. Nelle’s inheritance will not become available to her until her next birthday, and in the meantime, she is at the mercy of her parsimonious aunt. Nelle is ordered to repay every penny used at her aunt’s, down to the last cup of tea, once her trust fund becomes unencumbered. In this horrid environment, Nelle’s grief over her parents intensifies, leading to insomnia and other health problems. The only time Nelle feels like herself is in the company of Mathew Janson, who, sadly, is engaged to her frivolous cousin, Alice. At her wits’ end, Nelle happens upon a quiet apothecary shop in town and makes an immediate connection with the store’s proprietor, a mysterious Asian woman named Miss Pearl. With help from her new friend, Nelle finally begins to get her life in order and create a pathway toward her future. As Moore narrates the story from the alternating perspectives of Nelle and Mathew, readers should be caught up in the magical romanticism of the tale. At one point, Mathew muses that Nelle reminds him “of a china doll in a shop’s window display…sweet inside and out, not exactly blending in with the practical countryside.” The fast-paced book remains appealing even as it deals with difficult topics, ranging from death and depression to love and redemption. Moore tackles each issue with wisdom and grace. Despite the story’s somewhat predictable end, the characters are sufficiently fresh and unexpected that even discerning readers should be satisfied.
An engaging, wholesome love story, best suited for fans of early-20th-century romances.