The Matchmaker, The Milliner and The Man from Maastricht

Ali explains more…

At its heart, this book is about love but don’t be put off if you think romance novels are just about sultry Sheiks, brooding Counts and dashing doctors!  No more heroes with chiselled jaws, piercing blue eyes and private jet bank balances, sweeping away hapless young beauties to their tents/castles/ operating theatres (delete as appropriate!).

My novel has a modern, contemporary yet exotic setting with a vein of humour running through it.  I like my leading characters to be honest and kind but also relatable and flawed. I also love to create a strong ensemble cast of supporting characters that we come to care about just as much as much as our leading man and lady.

My ‘hero’ – Dann Huismann – is handsome (of course!) but not obvious, strong but not macho, decent but definitely not boring.  He also has a touch of vulnerability, which I find appealing.  My leading lady Anna Peel is ‘every woman’ – smart, interesting and accomplished, with inner beauty to match her outer beauty yet sometimes struggling with the same insecurities and worries that we all have.

 In terms of style, I’ve really enjoyed writing this book in the first person ‘epistolary style’ which I hope gives the readers an immersive experience and connects them to the unique and distinct voices of my characters.

If you love romantic literary, you’ll know that chemistry and conflict, tension and tears, misunderstandings and miscommunications are all essential on the journey to happiness.  My aim is to create a strong narrative arc for my characters and, while they may sometimes be derailed along the way, there is always an unstoppable trajectory towards a satisfying and uplifting final page.

Oh, and shhh, don’t tell anyone, but I love a happy ending!


When up-and-coming celebrity hatmaker Anna Peel gets divorced, she starts looking for something fulfilling to occupy her time and signs up to become a sponsor at a school on the banks of the Zambezi. So begins her correspondence with precocious 10-year-old Henry Sissonga, the founder of Mwabonwa School – and part time matchmaker – Grace Nkomo, and former Captain in the Royal Netherlands Army and now Geography Teacher, Dann Huismann. 

But when Dann abruptly ends their written correspondence, Anna is once again thrown into emotional turmoil. Is his sudden disinterest linked to the mysterious death of his wife and son or perhaps it is his growing attachment to visiting Danish academic Dr Lottie Lund.  When an opportunity comes to spend time in Zambia tutoring at the newly created Women’s Art Centre, Anna embraces the opportunity for adventure and personal fulfilment, but must balance her commitment to the empowerment of the village women of Twalumba with her growing affection for a man – damaged by war and personal tragedy – who clearly does not reciprocate her feelings.

The book is set in England and Zambia and takes the form of a series of warm-hearted letters, emails and correspondence between Anna, Henry, Grace, Dann and Anna’s older sister, the witty and insightful Izzy Rowbottom.

​Read an extract of ‘The Matchmaker, The Milliner and The Man from Maastricht’


Email from Anna to Dann
Dear Dann
I’ve had a letter from Henry telling me about the baby monkey. Don’t think I’m being over-sentimental but I have literally just stopped crying. He said you did everything you could to keep it alive and also what you said at the graveside, which was beautiful and very moving. Wasn’t it lovely of Esther to put up a marker too.

Email from Dann to Femke Huismann
Hoi Mama
Hoe gaat het met jullie? Is papa’s rug beter?
Mama, ik wilde je gewoon laten weten dat ik iemand heb ontmoet. Nou, ik heb haar niet echt ontmoet. Ik weet nog niet zeker of het ergens toe leidt, misschien nergens, maar ik laat het je weten.
Liefs voor jullie beiden.
Dann xx

Email from Dann to Anna
Hi Anna
Of course I don’t think you’re being over sentimental. I felt sad too, although I put that down to being pretty tired after staying up for three nights trying to keep it alive.
I suppose I just didn’t want to let Henry down, as he seems to think I am some sort of miracle worker.  I did everything I could but no amount of midnight feeds was going to help, I’m afraid.  I am glad he liked what I said, though. I’m not religious but it felt appropriate somehow.
In the end, it was just it’s time to go, and I think Henry understands that now. People are generally less sentimental about death here.
Oh, and please don’t tell him, but I put up the grave marker. I felt I was a bit harsh when I told Henry not to name the monkey, and I thought it might give him some comfort.
Dann xx

Email from Dann to Anna
Just noticed the ‘xx’ on my email, totally inappropriate, sorry! I was emailing my mother at the same time.

Email from Anna to Izzy
Izzy, read this. I haven’t been able to stop crying for the last ten minutes.

Email from Izzy to Anna
OMG – that is literally the saddest thing
Anyway, more importantly, Mr Huismann?  What did I say before – disciplined, athletic, clever and decent? I think you can now add strong, brave, educated but practical, nurturer of small children and carer for dying animals. If Matt was the Ratt, is Dann the Mann??

Email from Anna to Izzy
Have you been drinking? 

Email from Izzy to Anna
Very funny, you know I never touch a drop before noon and certainly not when I’m in uniform!
You have to agree that on the surface Dann does seem to be ticking some ‘ideal-man-aka-Mr-Darcy’ type boxes. Granted, he could actually be a serial killer or perhaps he has a fetish for stilettos or model trains or spends his spare time sitting in the dark playing online Dungeon and Dragons like some overgrown man-child.
Worse still, perhaps he is like Matt (no offence, I know you married him!)
Or, perhaps, he is actually, literally perfect?

Email from Anna to Izzy
None taken ref. Matt!
Just because Dann cares for small children and animals, has a brain and can lay a breeze block does not necessarily make him Mr Right!!!! Oh, and if you hadn’t noticed, he lives on the other side of the world.

Email from Izzy to Anna
Goodness, four exclamation marks from you and two Freudian kisses from him. Interesting! 😊

How to purchase a copy

The best way to buy a copy of  ‘The Matchmaker, The Milliner and The Man from Maastricht’ is via my dedicated page on the publisher’s website. Click below :

Alternatively, you can purchase my book in both paperback and as an e-book at a number of online bookshops, such as Waterstones, W H Smith, Barnes & Noble, the, KOBO, Amazon, Google Play and Bookfinder and in selected bookshops.
My book is now on sale at the following retailers: