In this story loosely based on Jane Austen’s Emma (which is weirdly never really acknowledged, by the way), Laurie Holbrook, a 23-year-old photographer, is out to get everyone married, except herself. Although she’s resolved never to marry and leave her beloved but needy father, Laurie is far from having anything against marriage as a concept. Now that she’s got her older sister happily wed, her confidence in her own skills is higher than ever, and she’s eager for new victims. She sets her sights on pairing up her diligent but uptight coworker Ruby and her friendly, laid-back pastor Nick. There to help are her lifelong best friend Brandon, Hannah, a Barbie-perfect new coworker who might not be as irritating as she first appeared, and Ryan, Ruby’s younger brother, among others. But things don’t go as smoothly as Laurie imagines.
Miss Match is published by Navpress, which is a Christian-affiliated publishing company, and Christianity has a pretty large presence in the story. I happen to be a mix of Jewish and agnostic, and although I did my best to be open-minded, I wasn’t always completely comfortable. It’s just something to be aware of when you start the book. Anyhow, you can take my review with a grain of salt, but I tried to write a totally judicious and objective review.
This is Mangum’s first novel, and it shows natural skill for entertaining. I think what she needs to work on now (or may have already worked on— it’s been six years since she wrote Miss Match) is mastering editing skills so that she doesn’t sabotage her own good material.
My favorite thing about this book was the energy. The mood of Miss Match is very light and vibrant. The characters have good moods and bad moods, but the story is never heavy or lethargic. It’s a feel-good book, relaxing and uplifting. It’s fun. And it doesn’t take itself too seriously; nor do the characters. There’s a good sense of humor here. The witty banter is right on target, and Laurie is loveable and funny. I enjoyed her quirks and idiosyncrasies.
But like I said, sometimes editing issues hurt the good things. Some character reactions to funny or strange behavior seemed melodramatic and excessive. It seemed like a lot of times a character said or did something moderately funny, and everyone around them started rolling on the floor howling with laughter like they’d just seen Bridesmaids for the first time. Or when Laurie said or did something only moderately weird, people stared at her like she belonged in the deepest corner of a mental institution. Things like that. And there were sentences that I just wanted to take a red pen and cross out. Less is more.
Regarding the Christianity elements, one thing another person who read this book said to me is that they could have been incorporated more smoothly, and I think I do have to agree. A lot of references were made to religious concepts, but it could have gone farther to make them relevant to the story– at times references seemed dropped in as tokens, rather than being fully woven in. I could figure out how they could be relevant, but it needed just a little more.
Back to positives, another plus of Miss Match was the romance element between Laurie and a character whose name I shall not divulge. They’re pretty cute. Good together. And the evolution of their relationship was fresh and well-done. I could almost give it a Squee. I don’t know if I want to go quite that far, but I’m definitely giving it a smile and an approving nod.
If you have a tight schedule with preciously-rationed reading time, there are more sock-knocking options. If you’re getting ready for a long, leisurely vacation, then sure, go ahead and add it to your beach-read arsenal.