Melissa reviews The Perfect Match by Matt Burlingame, narrated by John Steinkamp, audiobook published October 23, 2018, ebook published September 3rd 2017, 102 pages.
Leaving his life in New York City behind, 33-year-old Ira Hughes has moved back into his childhood home to help care for his ailing father. His overbearing mother quickly guilts him into looking after her interests in the family curio shop. That means dealing with her business partner, Colton McCabe, the bully who made Ira’s teen years a living hell.
Ira is now forced to confront painful memories from his past. As he watches his father fight for his life, and his relationship with his mother becomes even more strained, he begins to find unexpected comfort in his time with Colton. Could it be that Colton is not the high school horror he used to be? Is the bane of his youth now becoming the love of his life?
A complimentary copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.
Why I read this: I have become a big fan of Matt Burlingame and narrator John Steinkamp. There is a special chemistry between author and narrator; like peanut butter and jelly. 😀 They just belong together. And the blurb really sounded good.
The story behind The Perfect Match is not easy because it deals with bullying and the all the suffering the recipient deals with, even in to adulthood. And it wasn’t trivial bullying, no. Colton tormented Ira severely and Ira suffered through it alone. He wrote about what Colton did to him in his diary/journal and the dread and pain he went through just getting up in the morning to go to school. I really felt what Ira was going through because I suffered through bullying in school and it was hell. I couldn’t wait to graduate and get OUT. And for whatever reason, Colton decided to pick on Ira, and Ira didn’t tell anyone how bad it really was. Partly because Ira’s parents thought Colton was a dream child who could do no wrong. When Ira finally moves away and grows up, he goes to counseling to deal with his childhood and it seems he has come to grips with it. But now that his father’s health has deteriorated, Ira comes back home and sees Colton again.
Colton doesn’t have the same feelings about what Colton did to Ira as a kid. Colton claims it was all harmless kid fun. Ha, yeah – Ira doesn’t feel that way and is really struggling to come to grips with the Colton he knew as a kid, and the Colton who is now an adult and business partner to Ira’s mom. Ira can’t help but bring up all the tortures Colton did to him and while Colton acknowledges he was a shit to Ira, he thinks Ira should get over it. I didn’t like that at all. Colton was abusive towards Ira, and now Ira is having to deal with Colton because of his mother’s store. That was very hard to listen to because I have no desire to be around those who hurt me in school. Talk about torture!
Ira can’t help but be afraid that Colton is playing an act and will turn in to kid Colton once again, and that is the crux of this story. Colton wants to be friends with Ira, doesn’t want his past to define who he is now, and hates that Ira keeps bringing up the past. But Ira is struggling with letting go. How do you forgive someone who hurt you like that? Isn’t this the same relationship dynamic that an abused spouse/partner suffers? Would an adult victim – SHOULD and adult victim, forgive and forget what their abuser did to them? I really had a hard time letting go of my anger towards Colton.
Not a lot of time passes from when Ira comes back to town and Colton and Ira become a couple. It happens over the course of a few weeks, which is very fast and unrealistic for me. HOWEVER!!! as the story is going along and Ira and Colton spend time together, and as I see Colton struggle with what he did as a kid, everything that transpired over the course of those weeks felt…good. One half of my brain was like, yeah right, and the other half was saying, it’s ok to trust him. Very weird feeling. I didn’t want Ira to suffer anymore and from Colton’s actions and admissions, Ira sees that Colton isn’t playing a trick on him and it’s ok to trust him with his heart.
I found this to be a very serious story with a mix of holiday romance. Their path to an HEA was far from easy and I do think Ira and Colton will continue to need to work on their relationship simply because of their shared past. Would I recommend this story? You betcha! It was well written and I felt what the characters were feeling, not just between Ira and Colton, but between Ira and his mother and father, and Colton and Ira’s parents. For being such a short story it packed a lot into it and I do recommend this. Ira and Colton manage to find their way and it was very sweet to see that. I still find it hard for myself to forgive Colton what he did to Ira, but they both decided to move on and not let the past get in their way.
The narration was excellent and I think I’ve mentioned before that John Steinkamp’s voice isn’t what one would consider a traditional narrators voice. But I very much enjoy it and it fits so well with the characters Matt Burlingame has created. I think this is my third by this duo and I look forward to them each time because I know they are going to be great.
4 stars/8 pots all around!
John Steinkamp is a professional actor with extensive vocal training, skilled at vocal characterizations and a wide range of dialects. BA(Hons), English. 30 years of stage acting, from Shakespeare to Sam Shepard, roles in film and television, most recently the series Leverage and Grimm.