by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
I think that it’s safe to say that this book represents SEP, as much as any other, at the height of her powers. When she got in the groove with writing contemporary chick-lit, she tended towards more angst and dark overtones. They were still funny, with feisty heroines and Alpha-male heroes, and very romantic with sometimes hard-won happy endings. She got a little lighter and a lot funnier, but her heroes tended to be a bit rapey and women found themselves (or put themselves) in demeaning and cringe-y situations. I’m sure they were not unusual for their time, but in this more enlightened age, they can be quite uncomfortable to re-read.
Match Me if you Can hits a sweet spot. Both the hero and heroine are appealing and hilarious, and the plot is fresh and unusual, but not contrived. The hero had a sad childhood which has affected his ability to be emotionally open and accept love, but the reader doesn’t have to wallow in darkness. The heroine is sweet and kind but a force of nature as well. She also has a difficult-to-deal with over-achieving family who seems not to approve of or appreciate her or anything she does. More on that later. There is a secondary romance that is unexpected and funny. It is a true romantic comedy.
Throughout the novel, one of the recurring themes is Annabel’s formidable and critical family. The reader learns to really resent them and hope they get their comeuppance and to see Annabel for the shining star she is. When Annabel brings Heath, the hero, who is impressive in all of the ways her family holds dear, to her 31st birthday party as her date, we wait in anticipation for them to be properly chastised courtesy of Heath and for the scales to fall from their eyes. Instead, something totally unexpected happens in a well-played twist. Brava, Susan E. Phillips.
For those who love closure, like me, there is a nice epilogue, in which absolutely everyone is assured of a happy fulfilled life forever and ever. The only thing missing, unfortunately, is a final resolution and understanding between Annabel and her family. Although we know everything became fine between them, it would have made a delicious scene or two, and I missed it.
Anna Fields, as the narrator, is one of the best. Her acting with all of the characters was spot on, although she does tend to exaggerate men’s and children’s voices a little bit more than necessary. **5 stars out of 5**
May 11, 2021