Julia Stuart's first novel, The Matchmaker of Perigord, is as delightful and quirky as The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise, reviewed earlier this year on Cats and a Book. The Matchmaker follows the career of Guillaume Ladoucette, a barber who set up shop in the tiny hamlet of Amour-sur-Belle. This peculiar town features characters as eccentric as the geographic quirks of the town itself, including a persistent breeze that seems limited to the city limits and whips up into a "mini-tornado" from time to time. When the barber discovered that Amour-sur-Belle males were growing bald or visiting a barber in a neighboring town for their coiffures, he determined "there was no role for a man of forty-three who had dedicated his life to conquering the cow's lick, the double crown and dandruff," and decides to take up matchmaking.
His initial attempts result in awkward conversations and disappointed would-be lovers, but eventually, the tide begins to turn. As the former barber opines, relationships are not unlike cassoulets--sometimes you find a bit of succulent duck and sometimes you find something rancid. Or, as the author says of one character, "it never dawned on him that his life's greatest misfortune was not that he had never married Florence Ladoucette, but that he had married the love of his life and never realized it."
His own love-of-his-life, Emilie Fraisse, had left town but wrote to Ladoucette, who was too intimidated by love to respond. Eventually, she marries another, but returns to town after her marriage dissolves leaving the matchmaker to decide if he will make a match for himself.
The Matchmaker of Perigord is not only the story of Ladoucette and Fraisse, but a collection of sweet love stories, tempered by intensely imaginative events and charming descriptions. It was published in 2008 by Harper Collins.