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MATCH MADE IN CHICAGO

FAN FAVE SUSAN ELIZABETH PHILLIPS DELIVERS MORE CHICAGO STARS LOVE AND LAUGHTER

What happens when a matchmaker falls for one of her clients?
Susan Elizabeth Phillips tackles this dilemma and more in her
latest novel, Match Me If You Can (Aug., William Morrow)--
the sixth title in her Chicago Stars series, about a team of football
players and their friends.

In Phillips' novel, readers are introduced to newcomers Annabelle Granger and Heath Champion. "Annabelle is a woman with a checkered employment record who inherits her grandmother's matchmaking agency, and Heath is a high-powered, workaholic sports agent" for cherished Chicago Stars quarterback Kevin Tucker, says Phillips.

Where did the talented wordsmith come up with such a fascinating concept for her 17th tome? "I'd been wanting to write about a matchmaker for ages," says Phillips. "Finally, Annabelle put down her foot and demanded I pay attention to her--she's a little pushy like that." As for the ideal candidate to match wits with her heroine, Phillips says, "I was trying to figure out what industry the hero was involved in when I had one of those 'Well, duh!' moments. Heath's a natural fit for both Annabelle and for me."

Match Me If You Can took the award-winning author 16 months to complete (she keeps records!), since she wanted to make sure the story was completely satisfying. Plus, she wanted to be certain that she properly defined Annabelle's and Heath's careers. "I knew more about sports agents than matchmaking," she says. "I interviewed several matchmakers and did web research. Generally, I found them rather guarded and very intent on letting me know their businesses were legitimate and that they took them seriously."

In real life, Phillips met her husband, Bill, through a matchmaker of sorts--a co-worker set them up on a blind date. Phillips, who had been teaching English, speech and drama in Columbus, Ohio, remembers exactly what Bill looked like when he arrived to pick her up for the date--his hair was hanging over his face and he had a cigarette dangling from his mouth, which angered her father. By the second date, she knew he was "the one." The two have been married for 34 years and have two grown sons.

But don't ask Phillips to be your matchmaker--she's terrible at it! "The couples I've fixed up barely made it through an hour date," she says, laughing. "Matchmaking is my weakness."

Phillips has already begun writing her next book, another installment of the Chicago Stars series. "When I was working on Match Me If You Can, a character named Dean Robillard made a grand entrance and absolutely knocked me off my feet," she teases about her upcoming hero. "I had to know more about him, so I'm working on his story now. Dean is Kevin Tucker's back-up quarterback. I'm about a third of the way done and very, very entranced with this man." No title or release date has been set.

When not concocting elaborate stories, Phillips can be found in the kitchen of her suburban Chicago home preparing delicious vegetarian meals (she shares recipes on her website). What would the chef recommend dining on during a first date with your match? She coyly says, "The simplest food that doesn't require much attention to eat." --Cheryl A. Hoahing


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