There’s an art to getting people hooked on a series. One of the ways to do it is to write a “prequel” novella and set it for free in the hope that the hook will cause people to go check out the rest of the series.
Power of the Matchmaker is just that. A hook.
Mei lives in rural pre-Boxer Rebellion China. (It’s not terribly clear.) Her family, like so many, is very traditional. Believes in arranged marriages. Mei doesn’t. She’s been in love with her neighbor Chen for as long as she’s lived. So when the matchmaker decides to match them with other people, Mei wants Chen to run away with her to Shanghai. Chen refuses, choosing instead to marry his arranged match. Mei, repulsed by her match, leaves taking with her a precious possession and her hopes for a better life.
So… This is the story of how the Matchmaker for the rest of the series gets her start. There’s a lot of how crappy it is to be a single woman in 19th century China.
I mentioned earlier that the time period isn’t absolute. The reason I say that is there’s definitely a mish-mash of history going on here. I noticed it where it came to food that a lot of the foods mentioned were either created in America or are Chinese but weren’t created until the 1950s. I’ll admit, Chinese history isn’t my game, but if you’re going to write about a period in history you need to do the research. I only know the food stuff because two of my exes' families were from China (One via China/Taiwan/Argentina/US, the other from Shanghai/US) and food is a big thing with them (One ex’s family had a Chinese Restaurant) so I learned.
Mei goes through a lot of trials and travails. And she’s pretty darn naive and stupid during it. She’s not willing to steal. She’s not willing to beg. She’s not willing to sell her body. She’s not willing to sell her prized possession from her beloved Chen who so nobly abandoned her to marry his arranged match. So yeah. She’s a bit of a “Too stupid to live” character.
To get into the rest of the reason why I’m rating this why I am. I need to give a Spoiler Alert.
So, there isn’t a happy ending. In fact, this isn’t a romance. The main character, Mei. Doesn’t end up with anyone at the end. Oh she’s happy with her life choices, which if this wasn’t billed as a romance I’d be totally cool with. But because it is, you need to have a happy ending either a HEA or HFN and the relationship has to be the core and the two protagonists need to be together at the end. It’s a thing. I would have been totally cool if she’d found romance with someone else other than her first love.
But alas… it was not to be!
I get why the author collective did this. To make is so that Mei who is now a long-lived eternal matchmaker can go on and make HEA for white people.
Which leads into the second problem. Mei is turned into a Magical Asian. Oh she’s not a Kung Fu master. But she is there to dispense ageless wisdom and lead the characters to their happy ending. And did I mention that for the rest of the 12 book series all of the characters getting matched up are white? The whole series is also billed as an Inspirational, clean, and wholesome romance.
Worse, the stories aren’t even linked easily so you have to chase down the individual authors to find the books.
The only reason I’m not lowering this to One star is because I really did like Mei’s journey of self discovery and ultimately her choice to embrace a life as a matchmaker. I just wish the Unfortunate Implications weren’t there.
As it is…
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