Monday, November 21, 2011

Review: TURNABOUT'S FAIR PLAY by Kaye Dacus

What happens when a group of meddling but well-intentioned senior citizens decide to become under-the-radar matchmakers for their single grandchildren? That's the premise behind The Matchmakers series from inspirational romance author Kaye Dacus.

Turnabout's Fair Play is the third novel in this humorous series and even if you haven't yet read the preceding novels (I haven't either!), you won't have any trouble catching on to the story. Once you're in, you're sure to fall in love with the charmingly dorkilicious main characters in this funny romance.

The sitch: Flannery McNeill is a hardworking senior editor at a Nashville publishing house. Tall, blond, and in her mid-30s, Flannery has sworn off dating good-looking men, believing them all to be shallow heartbreakers. Setting her sights on finding a wholesome but dorky guy to marry someday, she dedicates herself to her career. But with her two best friends now happily in love, Flannery is feeling all alone, wondering if her knight in shining pocket-protector will ever appear.

A gorgeous sports advertising hotshot, Jamie O'Connor is everything Flannery despises. But when she and Jamie become the target of their grandparents' matchmaking schemes, she discovers that Jamie might just have enough geek within him to fit the bill. As each uncovers the hidden dorkiness within the other, the attraction between them grows.

The more time Flannery and Jamie spend together, the clearer it becomes that a flirtation has developed between their wannabe-matchmaking grandparents. Suddenly, the matchmaking tables turn and Jamie and Flannery start inventing opportunities for their grandparents to spend time together. After all, there's no expiration date on the ability to fall in love.

Hits & misses: The story begins in the point of view of Jamie's 84-year-old grandmother, Maureen "Cookie" O'Connor. It is clear that Cookie is attracted to Flannery's grandfather, Kirby McNeill, from the moment he walks into the senior center on his granddaughter's arm. I wasn't sure how I felt about reading an octogenarian romance, but Cookie is charming, clever, funny, and believably girlish. I quickly grew to like her, but I was relieved to find the scenes from her point of view to be brief and limited. The many scenes from Jamie's and Flannery's points of view are worth the short side roads between them.

Although the author spends a little bit too much time on minutia in certain sequences of dialogue (driving directions, anyone?), having lived in Music City myself several years ago, I was quite familiar with most of her detailed locale. For me, it personalized the tale; but readers who are unfamiliar with the Nashville metro area might find themselves skimming through some passages. That being said, there's so much to like about this book that I'm smiling just thinking about it. Full of humor and unique, visual characters,Turnabout's Fair Play is just plain fun reading.

What made me squirm: The title.

When I first read the title, the word "Turnabout's" seemed like it should be a possessive proper noun. I assumed it to be a character's (odd) name. But "Turnabout" is not a proper noun, and the apostrophe is not meant to make it possessive. "Turnabout's" is a compound word.


I wasn't crazy about the title before the context of the story explained it to me, but even after my "ahh …" moment, I found it somewhat clumsy, as titles go. The publisher could have easily clarified the meaning by un-compounding the word (Turnabout Is Fair Play) or by letting the word Turnabout stand alone on the cover. Sure, it's a little thing as fiction hang-ups go, but there it is: I really liked the story, but I don't like the title. It made me squirm.

To read or not to read: Kaye Dacus has written a humorous tale of 2-for-1 matchmaking gone right. Turnabout's Fair Play is a sweet, fun, dual romance -- with just the right touch of "dork" to make you smile long after you've turned the final page.

(This review originally appeared at USA Today's Happy Ever After, a romance fiction blog)

Serena's Rating:


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