Kindergarten teacher Mary Margaret Sneed always liked to dance, but she never thought she’d be dancing in a burlesque show. However, after the death of her husband leaves her responsible for his severe gambling debt, she doesn’t have a lot of options. So when night falls, she dons her wig, her mask, and struts across the stage as Foxy Roxy. The only problem? She might be a little too good at her new job. As word spreads about the stunning new show, more locals begin turning up at the club, including her crush, Mayor Kevin Hadley. The last thing either of them needs is a scandal, and Kevin knows he should be settling down with someone safe and lowkey—someone like Mary Margaret. But he just can’t stop thinking about Roxy. With a little outside push, though, they each might get exactly what they want in time for Christmas.
It’s beginning to look a lot like … extortion.
Stuck in a personal and financial rut leading up to the Christmas season and facing strong-arming from a pair of shady bill collectors, Mary Margaret is at her lowest. In these earliest chapters, author Melinda Curtis has no problem letting the suffering pile on. And as Mary Margaret initially comes off as a quiet, resigned character who’s barely getting on, there’s a genuine worry that she’ll be stuck under a mountain of debt, or worse. Fortunately, Curtis utilizes a quiet optimism that permeates the pages, and there’s always an understanding that brighter moments might only be a chapter away. After all, Christmas and love are in the air—how bad can things get?
It’s when Curtis moves beyond these initial woes, though, that things really pick up. Elaborate burlesque performances. A politician with a secret and an image to uphold. A meddling matchmaker grandma. Curtis expertly weaves a lot of threads together and, while her writing always has a muted charm, she knows how to pack in plenty of action and tension.
However, it’s her attention to relationships that’s her greatest asset. Mary Margaret has the perfect potential partner in Kevin, even if they might not immediately understand that themselves. Curtis keeps things slow, with only a few chance encounters and eventual dates—mostly because they’re so wrapped up in personal drama that takes up the bulk of the action. Mary Margaret is risking her teaching career by dancing, while Kevin juggles a burgeoning political career with family stress. These big moments take center stage, but their romance simmers in the background and it’s incredibly effective.
Ultimately, A Very Merry Match is a sweet Christmas romance with plenty of quiet moments that let its underlying heart shine through.
Note: I received a free ARC of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.