Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Match Me If You Can (2005)
Author: Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Genre: Chick Lit
Annabelle is a young entrepreneur in Chicago is trying to rejuvenate her late grandmother's matchmaking business. Shooting high, she lands an interview with a major sports agent, Heath Champion. On a whim, he gives her a chance, and is blown away by the first interview she provides (with her married and expecting though not showing best friend). Heath appreciates Annabelle's intuition, involving her in not only the interviews she lands, but also those made by matchmaking rival, Portia Powers. Heath also appreciates Annabelle's close relationship with his greatest job challenge, the owner of the football team Stars. He invites himself on a weekend retreat with the gals and their husbands, sharing a small cottage with Annabelle. Sparks begin to fly, despite Annabelle's attempts at professionalism. After a night's lapse in professional behavior, she disguises her feelings, thanking him for a healthy fling, and returns to the task at hand - finding Heath a mate. But Heath is running out of patience, and gives both Annabelle and Portia one last chance. Annabelle must hide her feelings and find the perfect mate. SPOILER: Annabelle sets up what she feels will be a great match. Heath and the new girl hit it off splendidly. After several weeks of dating, Annabelle accidently interrupts his plans to propose over dinner calling Heath away to take care of a mess his clients have made of her home. Spending an innocent night with Annabelle, Heath realizes that she is a perfect match for him. Later, he proposes in front of her family, but is unable to admit to her that he loves her. She disappears, upset, and he must track her down at the retreat cottage where they spent their first night together. He proves to her that he loves her by his unusual lack of concern for anything else in life, and they plan to be married.
Geographic Setting: Chicago, Illinois
Time Period: Contemporary (2005)
Series: Chicago Stars Books #6
Phillips' characters are detailed, with identified strengths, and weaknesses that change through the course of the novel. Annabelle, our heroine, is sassy, but sweet, and extremely likable. She doesn't have it all put together, and she gets frustrated by that appearance. In opposition, Heath is a very put together individual, but has forgotten how to understand and express his own feelings. Both learn throughout the novel how to overcome these weaknesses. The pace is engrossing. Though the novel isn't fast-paced, the story line and characters compel the reader to continue through. Thus, the story line is quite character oriented. The reader experiences the changes and developments in Heath, Annabelle and several secondary characters. Though these changes are affected by the action in the story, the plot exists based on the character development. The tone is light, heartwarming, and occasionally humorous. The framing of the sports industry provides an interesting and amusing background in dealing with high-ego macho characters, while the relationship and romance between the main characters melts one's heart and keeps the reader fighting for things to work out. Phillips uses a candid, yet whimsical writing style in this novel. A mixture of snappy and sweet dialogue is employed throughout. While not over-dramatizing the romantic scenes, she writes a simple story that draws the reader in, and tells the story lightly, humorously and straightforward.
Read-alikes: For another taste of Phillips like humor, try Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie. Min Dobbs overhears a bet between friends that one can get her into bed within a month and gives these gentlemen a run for their money until she begins to fall for Cal, the bet taker. Crusie employs humorous situations and dialogue and a detailed set of main characters supported by vivid secondary characters in this novel. Those enjoying the sports framing of the novel might try See Jane Score by Rachel Gibson. A character similar to Annabelle in demeanor, reporter Jane Alcott is given the task of traveling with the Chinooks hockey team, but is having trouble getting information from the team until the star player, Luc, names her a lucky talisman and sparks begin to fly. The sports background and characterization make this a good match. Humor can be found in another romance novel by Elizabeth Bevarly, My Man Pendleton. In this novel, Kit is in a time crunch to marry or forfeit the family inheritance leaving her entire family without funds. Pendleton is hired into the family business but sent to woo Kit who has run away. The humorous tone and intriguing, self-actualizing characters will draw Phillips readers' interest. If you enjoyed the secondary characters in Match Me If You Can might also enjoy the next book in the Chicago Stars series, Natural Born Charmer. Dean Robillard is the next of the Chicago Stars to be entranced into another humorous romance by Phillips, with the expected snappy dialogue and slightly eccentric and personable characters. In this series continuation, Dean is on a mission to better understand himself when Blue, an eccentric football groupie, falls into his life and changes everything. For that sports and romance lover, try Body Check by Deidre Martin, in which publicist Janna MacNeil is assigned to turn a rough and crass team of hockey players into a marketing dream team. The task proves hard with this reluctant team, and with the team captain, Ty Gallagher, in particular, but an unexpected connection between the two eases the burden. A framing tie of sports and romance and humor mixed into several characters make this a great read.
Red Flags: Description of sexual encounters.