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Thursday, January 22, 2009:
"Match Me If You Can" by Susan Elizabeth Phillips - review

You met star quarterback Kevin Tucker in "This Heart of Mine". Now get ready to meet his shark of an agent, Heath Champion, and Annabelle Granger, the girl least likely to succeed.

Annabelle's endured dead-end jobs, a broken engagement . . . even her hair's a mess! But that's going to change now that she's taken over her late grandmother's matchmaking business. All Annabelle has to do is land the Windy City's hottest bachelor as her client, and she'll be the most sought-after matchmaker in town.

Why does the wealthy, driven, and gorgeous sports agent Heath Champion need a matchmaker, especially a red-haired screw-up like Annabelle Granger? True, she's entertaining, and she does have a certain quirky appeal. But Heath is searching for the ultimate symbol of success -- the perfect wife. And to make an extraordinary match, he needs an extraordinary matchmaker, right?

Soon everyone in Chicago has a stake in the outcome, and a very big question: When the determined matchmaker promised she'd do anything to keep her star client happy . . . did she mean anything? If Annabelle isn't careful, she just might find herself going heart-to-heart with the toughest negotiator in town.

After the last one I reserved judgment on this one, but I'll tell you right now, I shouldn't have worried. "Match Me If You Can" has all the sparkle and wit and fiestiness the previous book lacked, and I absolutely loved it.

Annabelle Granger is the misfit in her family of successes. Having taken over her grandmother's matchmaking business, Annabelle knows she needs to make a drastic move if she's ever going to make a success out of her new career. She sees Heath Champion, sports agent, as her way to the top, but she first has to convince him that she has what it takes to find him the perfect wife.

Heath is a busy, busy man who doesn't have time to date with his erratic schedule, so when he decides it's time to find a wife, he looks to an expert: a professional matchmaker. Heath knows exactly the kind of woman he's looking for, and he believes that Power Matchs, run by perfectionist Portia Powers, is the way to go. With with her connections and savvy, he's sure to have a wife long before his contract is up. But when Annabelle finds a stunner of a date, he definitely sees her small agency, Perfect for You, has potential, and decides to hire her on as well. Now these two ambitious women are battling to find Heath the woman of his dreams.

Annabelle is nothing if not determined, and soon her and Heath are working closely to find his future bride. The chemistry between them is smokin' hot, but both ignore their attraction for the greater goal. Annabelle also went to college with Molly, Kevin Tucker's wife, and since Heath is Kevin's agent, he doesn't need the complication of hooking up with Annabelle. Still, she's a firecracker, and he finds he's able to be himself around her. Annabelle becomes like a friend to him, and she's perceptive enough to find him exactly the wife he needs. The problem is, she's not the wife he wants....

My thoughts:

What a fun, fast-paced read! This to me is the book I expect when I read a SEP novel: funny, clever, sexy. Annabelle might not have been the success her family was, but they adored her anyway, whether she knew it or not, and she was worth adoring. When she fell in love with Heath, she didn't lay down and claim surrender. No, she continued to keep him on his toes. Annabelle knew that she was not the woman he was looking for, so rather than getting all mopey and emotional, she was professional and efficient, setting him with with acceptable matches while at the same time being the sparkling, captivating woman that drew Heath like a moth to a flame. That's just the way she was.

I loved that she never once changed herself to fit the image of Heath's perfect wife, but instead razzed him and hung out with the athletes and fit more into his world than any trophy wife ever could. He would rather spend time hanging with Annabelle in her cozy, worn home than in his big, fancy, lonely place. Annabelle blew his idea of his suitable wife all to hell, but she was more perfect for him than any other woman.

I was expecting Heath to be kind of smarmy and loud, uncultured and obnoxious, but he was a sexy, competitive, self-made man who took care of his clients and stood behind his word. He dressed well, went to the best places, and believed that a pedigreed woman would make him happy and give him the stability and beauty he craved. Watching him fall for Annabelle was very satisfying because although she wasn't a society belle, she had a beauty that was uniquely hers, and Heath didn't stand a chance. Another thing: I loved seeing his initial wariness towards children melt when he fell under the spell of a three-year-old charmer who had a thing for cell phones. Heath Champion really was a prince of a guy *g*

Another enjoyable thing for me was the references to Chicago and the surrounding areas. It's so cool to actually know the streets and towns SEP mentions in her stories. There's the feel of the midwest as well as the flavor of the big city. My city. As if I didn't love this book enough as it is, she endeared me to it even more with familiar places and memories. I loved that sense of connection.

One thing that SEP doesn't do is have drawn-out, detailed love scenes, and that's not necessarily a bad thing, at least not here. Instead she focuses more on the sexual tension between the characters, which smolders hotter than some of the more explicit naughty parts I've read in other books. That encounter after Annabelle and her girlfriends watch the movie? Wow. You might have had to use your imagination, but yeah, very effective storytelling.

Let's see, what else? There were so many fun parts to this book I hated to see it end. Seeing Portial lose her cool to a man she considered to be beneath her was just fabulous. Annabelle's matchmaking clients were an interesting group, and I loved that she took care of the contracts for those who knew her grandmother. It was fun watching Annabelle hang out with the athletes, and became good friends with several of them. Dean Robillard sure caught my attention, and I can't wait to read his story, which is up next.

So yes, I felt that this book made up for what I hated in the last one. It was wonderful seeing Dan & Phoebe, Darnell and Charmaine, Molly and Kevin, and other previous characters again. I would have loved to have seen the Chicago-based characters and those living in Salvation, North Carolina come together. That would have been the icing on the cake. Still, I like the sweetness I got with book #7. "Match Me If I Can" is a definitely winner.

Rating: ***** out of *****

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  1. This is the line that you said that says why this book is so great:

    I loved that she never once changed herself to fit the image of Heath's perfect wife.

    Isn't it great when the hero and heroine don't change who they are and still fall for one another?

  2. I love, love, love this book! It's one of my all time favorite SEP's!

  3. Match Me If You Can is one of my favorite SEP books. I love to visit Chicago and love that I recognize some of the places in the book.

  4. Yup - this was a good one, all right :)

  5. Yay! It's one of my faves, too. :o)

  6. I really enjoyed this book too, it was a fun read, great review sweets!

  7. Wonderful review Stacy! I really liked this one too. Still need to read Phoebe and Dan's story.

  8. I loved this book!!! I just got it back from a friend and have this urge to reread...

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