In The Match, author Sarah Adams reminds the reader—through a delightfully adorable plot—that the only person you need to prove yourself to is you. In fact, spending time proving yourself to others will only lead you down the wrong path and make you feel like you’re always failing. This is the first book of the It Happened In Charleston duology, and I absolutely loved the quirky characters, fun plot, and of course a super cute dog who doesn't die. I loved it so much that I proceeded to gobble up three more of the author's books over the next few weeks.
Evie wants to live the life of her choosing, a life of freedom and independence. A life she didn’t get when she was a kid growing up with epilepsy, raised by old money parents in Charleston. She’s given up on finding a man and decided that maybe she doesn’t need one to be happy anyways.
Enter Jake, a recently divorced, super hot dad who is desperate to protect and care for his 10-year-old daughter, Sam, who’s just been diagnosed with epilepsy. But it feels like no matter what he does, it will never be enough. He’s sworn off women after having his heart broken by a cheating ex-wife.
But when Sam goes behind his back to orchestrate a meeting with Evie, who works at a service dog training and matching company, neither Jake nor Evie will ever be the same. It's dislike at first sight, setting off a series of confrontations and conversations that will push and pull the two together all the way up to their happy ending.
There were so many things I loved about this book. First, the pacing was superb, with every beat hit at the exact right time. From the inciting incident and first rude meeting in the coffee shop (orchestrated by Sam), to the first of multiple interrupted kisses, the confrontation with her rich ex, an unforgettably unbearable dinner scene with her family which almost ends their relationship for good, every moment felt right and needed. The romantic tension was on point without it being X-rated.
I also really appreciated that Evie, while not totally original, did have something different about her: she was an adult with epilepsy, struggling to make it in a world that wasn't always safe for her. The author explored what it meant for Evie to live on her own, what it meant to have a service dog, and the strain this kind of diagnosis can put on a single woman's dating life. It added an extra element to the story that made it more than a quick read, but something I actually learned from.
The author also does a great job building Evie's distinct voice, and weaving that throughout the story and the character's inner monologue and external dialogue. For example, when Evie meets Jake for the first time, here is her inner narration: "The most spectacular pair of blue eyes hit me, and I almost feel like taking a step back. I’m staring into his eyes and dreaming of swimming in the shallow part of the ocean where you can still see your feet but the water is so blue that it looks like God dipped his brush in it after painting the sky." Or when Jake and Evie share their first kiss, "And then, I close my eyes and finally feel his warm lips press against mine in the lightest, most feather-soft motion. I inhale deeply and skim my hands up his shoulders to tentatively rest them on the back of his neck. I want to sink in and live inside this kiss for the rest of my life, but I can’t because suddenly there’s a KNOCK KNOCK at my door, and I swear I’m going to murder whoever is on the other side. Jake and I both forget we are grown adults and catapult apart on my loveseat so fast you would think we just got caught making out in a closet during a Sunday school class."
In both passages, you can almost hear Evie's accent, and the little hints of her Southern upbringing are a nice touch. The novel had a confessional tone that made me want to lean in and get the full story from Evie as fast as she could tell it.
Lastly, there were so many great relationships and characters in this story beyond the lovers themselves. From Jake's daughter Sam, a clever young girl going through a hard time to Evie's wealthy mother Melony, who is the image of what Evie may have ended up like had her life taken a different turn. Then there's Charlie, Evie's service dog, who adds an adorable layer of doggy humor to the mix, and Joanna, Evie's retirement age boss who is full of lewd humor and carpe diem advice. Plus, June, Jake's hyper younger sister, ends up being the protagonist of the second book in this Sweet RomCom duology.
My big complaint with this book, and all of the books by the author that I read, was the obvious lack of people of color. I don't have that much familiarity with Charleston (the setting of this duology) or Nashville (the setting of the other one I read), but I do find it hard to believe that every major and prominent side character would be white. In this day and age, this does feel like a glaring omission.
Overall, The Match was such a fun read, and a great example of what this genre can be: sweet, sexy, and easy to consume. This is the kind of beach reach you can finish in a weekend, if not a day. And if not for the lack of diversity, I'd be shouting about it from the rooftops. But if you're looking for a well-written RomCom to keep you entertained for a day at the beach, this one is certainly a great pick for that.