cover image Calling on the Matchmaker

Calling on the Matchmaker

Jody Hedlund. Bethany House, $17.99 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-0-7642-4196-3

Hedlund (The Last Chance Cowboy) sets this slow-burning historical romance in a 19th-century St. Louis gripped by a cholera outbreak amid a wave of Irish immigration. In 1849, handsome Riley Rafferty narrowly rescues Finola Shanahan from certain death beneath the wheels of a runaway horse and wagon. Riley’s well known for his acts of bravery around town, earning him the nickname “Saint Riley” and making him a shoo-in as the city’s next mayor. He’s immediately smitten with sassy, independent Finola, who’s intent on becoming a nun, though she’s not immune to Riley’s charms (“He had the kind of body that could make a nun blush”). Things get complicated when Finola’s parents turn to matchmaker Bellamy McKenna, who hopes to pair the two together. Though sparks fly, Finola remains skittish about marriage and children—a fear rooted in a buried childhood trauma she must grapple with as she weighs a life of service against the chance for once-in-a-lifetime romance. Hedlund’s textured historical backdrop brings the city’s Irish tenements to life, and the romance between Finola and Riley, full of longing and barely contained passion (“She was like a fire burning down a building. And he was walking straight into the flames”), is a treat. Readers will revel in this charming romp. (Dec.)