Book Review

Ms Match by Jo Leigh: A Guest Review by Test Driver Evangeline

B

Title: Ms Match
Author: Jo Leigh
Publication Info: Harlequin October 2008
ISBN: 0373794282
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Book CoverMs. Match was my first book by Jo Leigh, and cliche upon cliche, it won’t be my last. My experience with Harlequin’s Blaze line is largely hit-and-miss. I’ve followed it sporadically since the line’s inception (2004-ish?) and have cringed over the tepid sex-centered plots and characters who definitely were not “hip” (God I hate that word) or modern. Despite my so-so experience, I continue to give Blaze a chance because fun and sexy contemporary romances are difficult to come by. When Harlequin offered each Test Driver $25 to splurge on HQN titles, I went immediately to the Blaze’s, figuring that if I got burnt again, it was no skin off my nose—or my wallet.

Instead of buying Ms. Match from Sony’s bookstore I went to Harlequin’s ebook site to experiment with purchasing and downloading books directing from them. After fiddling around with other releases, the whole Adobe Digital Editions thing is a breeze, and five minutes later, I had Ms. Match on my Sony Reader. At its heart, Ms. Match is a “what’s on the inside counts” and Leigh skillfully manuevers through this theme without bludgeoning it to death.

This being a Harlequin, the hero is of course, a high-powered millionaire. Paul Bennet owns a public relations firm based in L.A. that scoops up the entertainment industry’s hottest clients. He is cool, sexy and intelligent—the perfect package, natch. He also has it easy with the ladies—except Autumn Christopher, a drop-dead gorgeous jetsetter who toys with his lust for her by not giving it up. She’s in Rome, teasing him over the phone, when she lays a challenge on him: take her plain younger sister Gwen to the family’s celebration of their parents’ fifty year anniversary. Paul figures being nice to the sister with the “nice personality” will give him an in to Autumn’s pants and agrees to this pity date.

The set-up occurs fairly early on in the book, which is what I like about category romances—none of that meandering to get to the plot. Gwen Christopher is plain and intelligent, but extremely likeable. I especially enjoyed how Leigh did not make Gwen to be this moody, wallflower with low self-esteem—she has a witty tongue and views her lack of blinding beauty with perspective. Granted, during the first half of the book Paul and Gwen’s perceptions of one another were a pain—he was incredulous that he could have such a great time with a plain woman, and she moped that whenever they went out everyone would wonder why they were together—but Leigh’s characterization lifted them out of irritating mundanity. 

Now let’s get to the sex (I know that’s what you read romance for, haha). It was hot and dripping with sensuality. It was also realistic how they got into bed with one another—most books would have the two wringing their hands over their lust. The sports angle to the book didn’t add anything spectacular, though it did help to flesh out Gwen’s character and nudge Paul towards self-realization of his shallowness. What dropped Ms. Match to a B was the trite manner in which Leigh threw a wrench into Paul and Gwen’s relationship. Her gorgeous family was drawn in such broad caricature that I called Autumn’s reappearance at the worst time from page one. Ms. Match was fun and sexy, and a credit to the Blaze line. Now I’m going to be busy glomming Jo Leigh’s backlist!

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    tracyleann says:

    I think Blaze launched in late 2001. (I remember because it was around the time of my—failed—job interview with Harlequin/Silhouette).

  2. 2
    lunarocket says:

    I especially enjoyed how Leigh did not make Gwen to be this moody, wallflower with low self-esteem—she has a witty tongue and views her lack of blinding beauty with perspective.

    HEY!!! Some of us resemble this remark! I think I’ve killed off the low self esteem thing pretty well by now though, being older and wiser really helps as do those good mood drugs.

    But back to the book. You’ve actually given me a desire to read this because though I’ve only been indulging in these romance books since July of this year, I am already sick of girls/women with alabaster skin and faces like Botticelli Angels! ARGH!!!

  3. 3
    Beki says:

    The book sounds more like a meh to me.  But I think the review is just lacking a few salient details, like what the reader particularly loved about the story.  What was it about their fall into bed that was different than hand-wringing?  And what was the sports angle, exactly?  I’m curious about that.  But not curious enough from this review to buy the book.

    I used to like some of the Blazes, but they turned, for me, too mechanical.  Almost like a date with the GYN instead of a hot date with a great guy.

  4. 4
    Anne Calhoun says:

    I loved this book. Along with Sarah Mayberry and Kathleen O’Rielly, Jo Leigh’s one of my auto-buys for Blaze. The sports angle was actually one of the best “why they should be together beyond fantastic sex” motifs in a story. Gwen’s a walking sports trivia encyclopedia, and she competes with a bunch of her friends from work at a sports bar in one of those computer trivia games. Paul agrees to meet her at the bar one night, and he’s also a sports trivia fan…they bond over this, which was, I thought, a really creative way to show how they’re compatible in more ways than the physical attraction.  In fact, what I remember about this book is the sports bar scenes, the dialogue, not the sex, or even the black moment.

    Thanks to some very realistic dialogue and internal characterization, Gwen and Paul felt real to me in a way so many category romance characters don’t, despite the “we can’t be together IRL because you’re so pretty and I’m not so pretty” attitude, which wasn’t resolved in two seconds, either. And, if I remember correctly, Jo Leigh said in the reader letter that she was still thinking about Gwen and Paul, months after finishing the book. I did, too.

  5. 5
    Beki says:

    You’ve convinced me on that anyway.  The sports bar bonding does sound fun.

  6. 6

    I love anything by Jo Leigh.

    Blaze began in mid-2001. I read the launch books while trapped on a plane on Sept. 11.

  7. 7
    Jill Monroe says:

    HUGE Jo Leigh fangirl – she’s on my auto buy list, too!

  8. 8
    Caroline says:

    I just read my first Blaze, called Texas Heat, by Debbi Rawlins.

    I had to say, the characters were interesting, I enjoyed the story arcs, and the romacne in them was ok, if not the usual “love within the first syllable” kind of thing. The plot was a little bit thin, and I suppose the length of the stories might have had something to do with that. I was kind of disappointed in the lack of “creativity” in the sex. It was straightforward lusty meat and potatoes sex. I have since been told if I want more “exotic”, I should check out the Spice line. Ok! :)

    But it intrigued me into reading more in the line. If only I had an e-reader to do it, since my local bookstore has a pitiful quarter-shelf of Harlequin serials, and I really don’t have the space in my home to shelve all these books if I was to buy them all in physical form. (boo :( )

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