MATCH ME IF YOU CAN
William Morrow, August 2005
Reviewed by Barbara Fielding
Annabelle Granger is the self-proclaimed "loser" in a family of high-powered overachievers. Her twin brothers, Doug, vice president of a Southern California accounting firm and Adam, a St. Louis heart surgeon, are the stars of the family. Thirty-one year old Annabelle lives in her late grandmother's old Wicker Park home in Chicago and has taken over her declining matchmaking business. Annabelle has updated the business with a new website, a catchy new name, Perfect for You, and gone after some celebrity clients. Her friend Molly Somerville Tucker got her an interview with her husband's millionaire sports agent, Heath Champion. If Annabelle can find the perfect match for him maybe she can snag some of his rich and powerful clients as well. Then she might finally be able to prove to her family that she is capable of taking care of herself.
Heath "The Python" Champion has come a long way from his beginnings in the Beau Vista Trailer Park. After earning a college football scholarship and attending Harvard Law he built Champion Sports Management, a premiere company, from nothing. He is thirty-four and wants to find a wife before his thirty-fifth birthday. He's practicing celibacy and making time in his schedule to meet with the potential candidates. Heath is looking for a woman who will be "...the ultimate symbol of his accomplishments" and he's approaching the search for her like any other important business decision. He's signed a contract with Portia Powers at Power Matches. Portia specializes in finding matches for millionaires.
Molly, the wife of Champion's top client, Kevin Tucker, asks him to give her friend Annabelle an interview. When Annabelle arrives disheveled and ten minutes late for her appointment, Champion recognizes right away she doesn't have the killer instinct to make it in his league. In fact..."Annabelle had screwup stamped all over her." When she reminds him of the time he was hungry to sign his first client and begs him to give her a chance, he reluctantly agrees. Annabelle gets one shot to hit him with her best candidate. She sets out to prove she can outmaneuver "The Python" with a bold plan. She's not just looking to find the woman he wants, she going to show him the woman he truly needs.
MATCH ME IF YOU CAN is an enchanting romantic comedy. It's rich with sharp zingers, a wicked sense of humor, and over-the-top comedic moments. Annabelle is quirky and appealing. Her offbeat personality makes her the true star in a family of stuffed shirts, well-meaning and loving, but stuffy. Heath Champion is cynical about love, but serious about finding the perfect trophy wife. His cocky self-assurance is partly a sham. He's a chameleon who has learned to be whatever he needs to be to close the deal. He's another Jerry McGuire, only better. Sports agents can be notoriously sleazy, but he is known for being a fair player. Heath and Annabelle are an unlikely pair, yet Susan Elizabeth Phillips has used her impressive writing skills to turn Champion into the perfect match for Annabelle.
There is a romantic subplot involving Portia Power and Heath's assistant recruiter, former football player Bodie Gray. Their relationship is sexually charged and raunchy. Portia is responsible for one of the most hilarious scenes in this tale. Ms. Phillips also introduces a new character, quarterback Dean Robillard, who will be the subject of her next book in the Chicago Stars football series. Readers will enjoy a special treat revisiting the entire cast of this series, beginning with Phoebe and Dan Calebow and all the other character's from the series, at a book club weekend at Kevin Tucker's campground. Molly and Kevin's four year old daughter, Pippi, is another adorable character worthy of mention. Heath says she "will be in prison before she makes it to first grade." Pippi is a scene stealer for sure.
MATCH ME IF YOU CAN is the sixth spinoff in the Chicago Stars football series which began with IT HAD TO BE YOU (1994), HEAVEN TEXAS (1995), NOBODY'S BABY BUT MINE (1997), DREAM A LITTLE DREAM (1998) and THIS HEART OF MINE (2001). Phillips' talent for heart tugging romantic comedy puts her in a class by herself. Many writers create wonderful characters but the incredible chemistry between Heath and Annabelle is an outstanding accomplishment. MATCH ME IF YOU CAN is this year's keeper.
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