Perfect Match
by Dara Girard, contemporary (2013)
Kimani, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-86314-3


Hannah Olaniyi is a lawyer who could use some pick-me-up in her life. Her father has racked up some expensive medical bills, and Hannah herself hadn't hit the rat race long enough to make the money needed to pay off the debts. Her older sister is basically a leech who blames Hannah for everything wrong in her life, and the cow will jump over the moon before Abigail does anything to help the family. Of course, Hannah, being a virtuous darling, didn't exactly put herself in the fast track to earn lots of money, since she's following her heart and not where the dollar signs are, that kind of thing. In other words, Hannah needs money - badly - so she's just the perfect heroine for a romance novel. Love won't find a woman if she can find herself, that kind of thing, you know?

So, she is desperate enough to take on a case that is not going to be easily winnable. Amal Harper - that's an "M" in the name, people, just in case you aren't paying enough attention - needs some legal help to solve a mess left behind by his now broken-off relationship with his volatile ex-girlfriend. He's smart enough to go on a business venture with her, and now that they are no longer sucking face, she's not going to make it easy for him to make a clean break and collect what he feels is his from the debris of their business venture. Her family is said to be powerful, so he needs someone smart - or desperate - enough to take him on.

Perfect Match has a very flimsy premise. Hannah and Amal definitely aren't being very professional here, but that won't be so bad if their initial interactions weren't so awkward and bewildering. Amal immediately comes on to her in a manner that crosses the line into sexual harrassment if the other party wants to take offense in his behavior. Even he admits to himself that he doesn't understand why he is being so tactless with Hannah, so this is a case where the hero is as equally befuddled as me by his behavior. At least I'm not alone in my confusion, I guess.

This behavior doesn't make sense because, one, he needs her help so it is reckless to behave like Pepé Le Pew and risk driving her out the door, and two, she's a freaking lawyer who knows better than most on how to nail him for sexual harrassment if she put her mind to it. Am I to believe that the sight of a gorgeous woman turns Amal into a drooling randy creature bent on humping her leg, and this is fine because he has a flat stomach and a fat wallet?

Naturally, Hannah finds such behavior attractive enough to soon pucker up for a kiss and more, because. really, when you are so desperate for money and you certainly can't afford to jeopardize your reputation and credibility, it makes perfect sense to sleep with your client! And every other secondary character who isn't the obligatory Skanky Miley wannabe approves - heck, they are even matchmaking and practically forcing these two to have sex on the second date if they have their way. It is as if the author had little confidence in having her characters fall in love on their own, so every other secondary character here is created to push those two together, scold these two when they have some relationship drama, and cheer when they finally get married.

The romance itself isn't anything special. It's a collection of popular tropes put together in a lackluster manner. The secondary characters act like shrinks, the skanky hos show up to demonstrate how amazing and special Hannah is as a woman worthy of everyone's affections, and there is tedious "this won't work, we'll break up; I hate you but I really love you, but I hate you for not reading my mind" drama when things are starting to quiet down, and these two are practically nagged by secondary characters to kiss and make up instead of resolving things on their own. The last doesn't inspire confidence in the happily ever after.

Sure, the author can do romantic comedy if she puts her mind to it, but this one can't depend on the occasional amusing banter to carry it to the finish line. Too much about it is generic, half-baked, and, often, requires me to suspend my disbelief unnecessarily.

Rating: 58


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