Book Review for “To Capture His Heart” by Nancy Campbell Allen.
Summary: “Eva Caldwell is an accomplished and well-known photographer who often works with the local constabulary to assist in documenting crime scenes, which means she also often works alongside the handsome and charming detective, Nathan Winston. She appreciates his intellect and how he treats her like an equal, but Eva’s heart is still healing from a past relationship, so, for now, she decides to keep her feelings for Nathan a secret. One evening, Nathan arrives on her doorstep asking for a personal favor. Would Eva be available to photograph his mother’s legendary, week-long dinner party and matchmaking event? The catch is that Eva would also have to pretend they are courting in order for Nathan to avoid the many single women seeking his attention. Though wary of the charade, Eva agrees. Spending a week with the two things she loves most—her detective and her camera—sounds simple enough. And if she wants to imagine that Nathan’s pretend courtship of her is real, well, what’s the harm in that? But when a criminal from Nathan’s past threatens revenge on the detective, Nathan must be extra vigilant to keep his mother and the rest of the partygoers safe. He confides in Eva, and as the two work together to solve the mystery and apprehend the criminal, they find that they might capture more than they expected—each other’s heart.”
Age: Adult; Genres: Mystery (cozy), Romance, Fiction; Settings: Historical, Victorian England – fictional seaside town; Other Categories: Novel, Women, Crime, Sequel (Matchmakers #2).
First off, no, I didn’t read the first book in this series (The Matchmaker’s Lonely Heart), but from what I can see from the blurb of that book, this one takes two minor characters from the first novel, and turns them into the main protagonists in this one. To be totally honest, I’m not sure I want to read the first one, since the female in that book sounds less interesting to me than our Eva here. You see, Eva is a photographer who was apparently called in to take pictures of a crime in that book, but now she’s going to photograph an extended house party. That one of the detectives she met back then, and apparently continued to help in the meanwhile, is the son of the woman throwing this romantic get-away, is a real plus. But as a woman who earns her own living through her camera, she’s not playing games, she’s got a real career, and in the late 19th century, that’s something to be admired. So, while I’m sure her friend Amelie from the first book is lovely, and clever enough to write a lonely hearts’ column for a local paper, I don’t think she’ll need to depend on that to keep her in whalebone corsets.
That means I’m already pleased with the premise of this novel, but obviously, I thought I would have some catching up to do to get me on the same page (so to speak) with Allen’s cast of minor characters. This wasn’t actually the case, because as I mentioned before, the focus of this novel is on two protagonists who were minor characters in the first book. That meant new background stories (for the most part) and new family members, as well as (almost) all new relationships. So, although it is listed as being the second one in a series, there is absolutely no reason why you should feel you have the need to read the first one before you read this. In fact, I felt this was enough of a stand-alone novel that I’m balking at calling it a sequel at all.
That doesn’t mean that I didn’t feel a bit of confusion when starting to read this book. You see, a house party that supposed to take place over several days, with a large group of people, means a very large cast of characters, especially once all the guests arrive, and lots of names tend to muddle things for me. Happily, this passed quickly after the party started. Plus, we already know that there’s going to be some kind of mystery involved here, because Nathan is a detective and Eva has done some crime scene photography for him in the past. And what better way to throw bunches of red herrings in our path than to place the story among a large gathering of suspects? Interestingly enough, while some unusual and suspicious things happen quite early on, we don’t get to the really dangerous stuff until close to the end of this novel. However, that’s how Allen is able to introduce more of the romance between Eva and Nathan. I’m happy to say that this wasn’t sappy, and despite a few twangs of angst here and there, it was actually a very nice relationship to watch develop.
Allen’s writing here is also in this book’s favor, with carefully crafted descriptions that don’t feel at all out of place, nor overly poetic, and I was able to visualize the action. Mind you, in the beginning of this book, I pictured Eva as being much older, and I’m not sure why. Perhaps her being so single minded, independent, and a 19th century career woman added elements to her maturity that made me think she was in her forties and not in her early twenties. Still, once I realized my mistake, things fell nicely in place (but Eva was still an old soul in a young body). For all of this, I enjoyed this novel, and while I had an inkling of who “done it,” I wasn’t totally sure until the reveal, so that’s also in this book’s favor. That’s why I’m recommending this book to people who generally like historical fiction, but haven’t really delved into the romance mystery sub-genres, as I feel this would be a truly charming introduction for them. Finally, I believe this deserves a solid four out of five stars.
Shadow Mountain Publishers released “To Capture His Heart” by Nancy Campbell Allen on October 12, 2022. This book is available (via the following affiliate links) from Amazon, Blackwell‘s, The Book Depository UK and Book Depository US (both with free worldwide delivery), Wordery UK and Wordery US, Kobo US (eBooks and audiobooks), Booksamillion.com, iTunes (iBooks and audiobooks), new or used from Alibris, used from Better World Books (promoting libraries and world literary), as well as from as well as from Bookshop.org (to support independent bookshops, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic) or an IndieBound store near you. I would like to thank the publishers for sending me an ARC of this novel via Edelweiss.