After last year’s fiasco with Heaven, Texas, I tried another book from Ms. Phillips and I must say this was all right, even better, it was funny. A rom-com with little drama 🙂

It still featured a bossy red-hair girl just over 30 who falls in love with a hunky football agent after getting hired as his professional match-maker and then being the match herself. Plot was paper thin to begin with as you knew they would end up together but the book was filled with humour and unexpected situations that would probably make a better rom-com movie than that piece of trash “Mamma Mia!” (and the sequel).

The story

Annabelle Granger is tired of being the lone failure in a family of overachievers. She’s endured dead-end jobs and a broken engagement to a man who decided to go through a sex-change because he didn’t identify with his assigned gender. But that’s going to change now that she’s taken over her late grandmother’s matchmaking business. She revamps the name, tries to get rid of some old customers who still are waiting for a match late in their 70s and tries to get into the upper markets of high-class matching by attempting to find the perfect woman for the most demanding man: Hearth Champion (his real name his Harley Davidson Champione).
With his money-green eyes and calculated charm, Heath Champion is the best sports agent in the country. He’s wealthy, driven, and gorgeous, so why does he 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 his success–the perfect wife. And to make an extraordinary match, he needs an extraordinary matchmaker, right? And he already has a high-end matching agency supplying him with models and Channel-smelling wanna be wives.

The first meeting these two have is kinda hilarious as she is late for the first meet-up due to a hobo sleeping under the car she was supposed to take, lovingly named Sherman (the car, not the hobo). She sweats through her dress, crinkles it, puts lipstick in a corner by trying to have a sniff and what made me chuckle was the description of her hair-do.

Worst of all, her hair was uncoiling from the Aqua Net curl by curl, with the hair spray weighing it down just enough so that the escaping locks hung lank around her face like bedsprings that had been tossed from a tenement window and left in an alley to rust.

Anyone with curly and unmanageable hair will probably relate to this 🙂

Pretty soon, based on the rules of propinquity*, the mogul and the wannabe match maker are becoming friends and spending a lot more time together in informal circumstances. He even goes to her house for dinner and to crash after a few hard days.

“You got anything to eat?”
“Some leftover pad thai, but it’s starting to grow hair, so I can’t recommend it.”

* (The propinquity effect is the tendency for people to form friendships or romantic relationships with those whom they encounter often, forming a bond between subject and friend. Workplace interactions are frequent and this frequent interaction is often a key indicator as to why close relationships can readily form in this type of environment)

Pretty soon they have loads of excuses to hang around since Anabelle is in friendly terms with Phoebe – the chief of the NHL or something and Hearth wants to get into her good graces after a blunder in his early years that turned her into a fierce enemy. They even go to a retreat where they do adult things like dancing together, getting pissed and watching a softcore movie.

She gazed up into a pair of half-lidded deep green eyes and thought about how being drunk could give a woman the perfect excuse to do something she normally wouldn’t. The next morning, she could always say, “God, I was so hammered. Remind me never to drink again.”

They decide to put professional behaviour aside and have sex on a mattress outside. Well, the sexual tension was mounting so there had to be some sort of a volcanic eruption somehow! PS: it’s really, really stupid to mix business and pleasure.

“This is going to ruin everything,” she whispered against his mouth, needing to say the words even though she didn’t do one thing to stop him. “Let’s do it anyway,” he said in a husky rasp. “We’ll sort it out afterward.”

But they don’t sort it out afterwards and realising the mistake she made by sleeping with her only class A client, she tries to clarify it (lamely I believe) that she only used him to get over her gender-fluid ex. She finds him a good match – a classy woman who is educated, funny and can handle him and she steps aside. It’s only when the new-found match and Heath meet the Bears and the Chicago Bulls under one roof for an informal get-together, that the new missus decides this is not the life she actually wants and pulls back.
This is also the time when Heath realises he actually cares deeply about his matchmaker and decides to marry her.

From the very beginning, Annabelle had made him happy, but he’d been so focused in the wrong direction that he hadn’t understood what that meant. Annabelle wasn’t the woman of his dreams. Far from it. His dreams had been the product of insecurity, immaturity, and misdirected ambition. No, Annabelle was the woman of his future…the woman of his happiness.

So much CHEESE

 

Her shiny swirl of hair reminded him of autumn leaves, and his fingers ached to rumple it. If he hadn’t been so wrapped up in his outdated, misdirected notions of what made up a trophy wife, he would have realized months ago the place she occupied in his life. But it had taken last weekend’s party to open his eyes. Annabelle made everybody happy, including him. With Annabelle, he remembered that life was about living, not just about work, and that laughter was as precious a commodity as cash.

 

She walked to the window. Her words drifted back to him muffled, as if she were having a hard time getting them out. “I think…I think this is the way love feels to people like you and me. Threatening and dangerous. We have to be in control, and love takes that away. People like us…We can’t tolerate vulnerability. But despite our best efforts, sooner or later love seems to catch up with us. And then…” She drew a jagged breath. “And then we fall apart.”

As a side-plot, we have the owner of the other match-making business who falls in love with a thug – Harth’s bodyguard. They are really mismatched but he seems to really like the hard-wired woman of 42 (Self-proclaimed 37).

“I’m the strongest woman you’ve ever known.”
“You spend so much time trying to prove how superior you are that you’ve forgotten how to live. You obsess over all the wrong things, refuse to let anybody see inside you, and then you can’t figure out why you’re not happy.”

“But you’re so afraid to lead with your heart that you’re dying inside.”

Bodie the bodyguard is actually the nephew of a high-class society lady and exactly the type of man she should be seen with so they split up (!) and then get reunited at the end of the book and after some lovely lovey dovey confessions they get together again and she hopes to marry him.

I had to laugh a bit at the ending as in a funny twist, she gets to have a laser face-peel and she turns blue just before mayhem breaks loose. She goes to warn Heath about Anabelle and their encounter is hilarious:

He heard a hiss from behind the bushes.
“Come over here.”
“No way. I’ve read Stephen King. You come to me.”
“I can’t.”
“I’m not moving.”
She was blue. Her entire face and what he could see of her neck. Not a faint bluish tint, but bright, bold, Blue Man Group blue. Only the whites of her eyes and her lips had escaped.
“I know,” she said. “I look like a Smurf.” He blinked his eyes.
“I was thinking of something else, but you’re right. Does it wash off?”
“Do you think I’d come out like this if it washed off?”

PS: be forewarned that the book is pretty much plot around sex scenes. And they’re kinda well described. I wish Haruki Murakami would read these and take some notes, as most of his sex scenes are lacklustre.

He offered the heat of his body to make the goose bumps disappear, rubbed her arms and the small of her back, suckled the warmth back into her puckered nipples. Eventually, his fevered fingers found the tight folds between her legs and opened them into summer-warmed petals plump with welcoming dew. He claimed every inch of her body with his touch. She gasped as he entered her.

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