Following fearlessly in Mel Gibson's footsteps: Heart Searching: How do you find the love of your life? Should you turn to a matchmaker? Rachel Lipman seeks the answers in two new books

Sensual, imaginative brunette, 25, artistic, intelligent, with a sense of humour, enjoys: home life, cooking, sports, country life; no ties, own home. Seeking a tall, strong, intelligent, fun companion, with inner depth, for passionate, loving romance, 25-35. Photo guarantees reply. Must feel able to love Ben my dog too. Midlands/anywhere.

NOT JUST any old personal ad, but the best - at least in terms of getting a response. According to Linda Sonntag's Finding the Love of Your Life, those 50 or so words led to no fewer than 241 replies plopping on to the doormat of the lucky advertiser.

Mind you, I am not sure I would want to hear from some of the men who are likely to reply. You might, for example, get the poor bloke who was on the books of the same marriage bureau for 24 years.

This is a lively, well-written and practical handbook for anyone who is thinking of meeting people through an introduction agency or a personal ad, packed with advice about such matters as cost, personal safety, and your chances of success. On wording your ad, women are advised never to reveal their age and always to say they are attractive - 'put it in, otherwise they'll think you look like the back of a bus]' Apparently, respondees to singles ads say they regard a 'sense of humour' as the most important quality (in my opinion, they are lying - at least the men are), followed by 'caring' and 'attractive'. As for turn-offs, if you are thinking of describing yourself as 'fat, smoker, wealthy, sexy, handsome and fun-loving', forget it]

Having commendably decided 'before I could write about it, I had to try it for myself', and armed with the comforting thought that Mel Gibson found his wife through a dating agency, our heroine set out to meet Mary Balfour, of Drawing Down The Moon, in the most entertaining section of the book. She was immediately told that, at 41, she was too old; not only that, but she wore glasses. 'I was utterly amazed that this should go against me, especially in an agency that advertised itself as being for 'thinking people'.' Ms Balfour agreed that this was unfair, but even educated men in top jobs preferred younger women and, when it came to sex, did not like specs. Their loss.

Worse was to come. Ms Balfour took one look at the photograph Linda submitted and announced: 'Men don't like women with things on their heads. This hat, or whatever it is - they won't like it.' 'This hat' was in fact a spotted headband of which the author was particularly proud, but it had to go. Concluding 'men feel their authority is undermined by a woman in a hat,' she advises not to take it personally if an agency rejects you - try elsewhere.

The section on agencies, which includes an appendix giving details of members of the Association of British Introduction Agencies (a bit hard on the many good agencies that are not in the ABIA, but I suppose she had to stop somewhere), gives some idea of the wide range available. Whether you are green, glamorous, Asian, vegetarian, handicapped, a farmer, rich, poor, shy or confident, there is an agency for you somewhere.

She sums up by saying: 'The message of this book is not that this is an infallible method of searching out and finding love and happiness, but that it is all right to try it. As society gets more and more fragmented, I am sure it will become a more obvious and acceptable way of getting in touch.'

'God was the first matchmaker. There is no suggestion in the Bible that Adam and Eve chose each other.' Hedi Fisher, who makes this striking observation in her new book, may not have been around quite as long as that but is a venerable figure in the ever-changing world of introduction agencies and marriage bureaux. In 25 years she has introduced thousands of people to each other and claims to have been instrumental in bringing about more than 5,000 marriages.

Matchmaking is in her blood: an aged aunt performed the task for her village back in her native Hungary in return for a 10 per cent cut of the dowry from any subsequent wedding. Hedi survived the Holocaust, unlike most of her family, and grew up in Britain where, after a divorce, she gave up her job as a social worker to set up her own marriage bureau. Her personal story is a fascinating one and it would have been interesting to read more about it.

Instead, rather too much of Matchmaker Matchmaker is devoted to a series of generally dull case studies of former clients, most of which read like second-rate soap opera. We are told of Vanessa, a gorgeous model type who catches her millionaire husband in bed with the au pair and rebounds into a succession of relationships with playboys before finding true happiness with Sydney. A chapter promisingly titled 'The Author and the Athlete' turns out not to be an updated version of the old Bishop and the Actress joke but the tiresome saga of Lance, an unhappy novelist, and the beautiful Scandinavian, Ingrid, with whom - you guessed it - he finds true happiness.

Style, as well as content, leaves much to be desired. The errors of grammar, punctuation and spelling liberally strewn through the text are distracting, even when Mrs Fisher has a good point to make: thus 'nice men simply did not register with a marriage bureaux (sic) in the 1960's (sic) because of the stigma which surrounded this form of meeting'.

The book is not without insights, such as the suggestion that the basis for the happiest relationships may lie in neither partner feeling the other putting pressure on them in any way. There is also an excellent passage on unrealistic expectations and the dismal failure of many people to see themselves as they really are.

She is also good on the illogical way some people still attach a stigma to using agencies: 'If you want a house, you go to an estate agent. If you have a pain in your back, you go to a doctor. If you want a spouse you go to a marriage bureau.'

However, don't take the jacket blurb too seriously. 'This book relates the secrets of Britain's most successful Matchmaker. She takes you behind the scenes, revealing a wealth of human stories - humorous, tragic and . . . . . . . . sexy.' Despite those eight tantalising ellipses (count them), Matchmaker Matchmaker is about as sexy as the Maastricht treaty.

'Finding the Love of Your Life' by Linda Sonntag (Piccadilly Press, pounds 6.99)

'Matchmaker Matchmaker' by Hedi Fisher (Book-Line, pounds 5.99)

(Photographs omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Fans line up at the AVNs, straining to capture a photo of their favourite star
life Tim Walker asks how much longer it can flesh out an existence
Life and Style
Every minute of every day, Twitter is awash with anger as we seek to let these organisations know precisely what we think of them
techWhen it comes to full-blooded vitriol, no one on social media attracts our ire more than big businesses offering bad service
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Consultant - London - £65,000 OTE.

£65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...

Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable