SEARCHING FOR PERFECT by Jennifer Probst

Looking for a lovable nerd hero? You’ll find your guy in SEARCHING FOR PERFECT. This is the second in Jennifer Probst’s Searching For series (the first is Searching For Someone), centering around three college friends who own the matchmaking company Kinnections.  In this book, we meet Kinnections’ lovely but troubled social director, Kennedy.

Beautiful, charismatic  Kennedy Ashe (picture Julia Roberts circa My Best Friend’s Wedding), finds a pet project in transforming an unsuspecting, geeky client named Nate Ellison Raymond Dunkle (acronym, anyone?) into a total hottie.

 Nate is an aerospace engineer who once worked for NASA but has now moved into the private sector. Never having had time for a personal life, he is now looking for The One. But from the moment of his very first speed dating event, he only has eyes for Kennedy. Of course, he doesn’t realize who she is. And by the time he finds out, her only interest in him is making him her personal re-invention project: “A nerdy, rich rocket scientist who wanted to get married and meet his match. This was her swansong – her Eliza Doolittle – her crowning achievement and challenge of a lifetime.”

Nate is not Kennedy’s first major makeover. That distinction belongs to herself: “Her entire life was about remaking herself into the person she’d always dreamed to be.” Kennedy is beautiful and accomplished, but she avoids intimacy because of a traumatic past. Having once been overweight and abused at school, she developed an eating disorder. She has her anorexia under control, but it’s always just below the surface. Some of my favorite moments in the novel come when Nate manages to get her to relax and enjoy food, like a scene where he gets her to indulge in eating ice cream: “Oh, God. The peanut butter hit the piece of truffle and exploded in her mouth like a double orgasm.”

When their chemistry results in a passionate first kiss, Kennedy tells Nate this can’t happen – she won’t date a client. He says he’ll quit Kinnections. She tells him.” Absolutely not. You don’t want me, Nate. I don’t do forever. I’m not looking for marriage or security or children right now. I just do…now.”

I enjoyed the push-and-pull of the attraction between them, but the training/make-over part of their relationship gets tedious. I’m all for the nerd hero – want to see more of them. My problem with this particular nerd hero is that as an aerospace engineer (aka rocket scientist) he’s supposed to be brilliant, but he shows a complete lack of common sense when it comes to other aspects of his life. I understand socially awkward, but this goes beyond that.  Kennedy not only has to transform him physically, she has to undo a lot of bad programming that Nate got courtesy of his annoying brother.  It’s hard not to feel like Nate should have known better on his own. And so while I root for him, I never quite fall in love with him.

In some ways, this novel reminds me of a romance version of Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project. It has a certain charm, and Kennedy and Nate do have moments of genuine heat. If the frog-to-prince trope is your thing, you’ll happily go along for this ride.

SEARCHING FOR PERFECT by Jennifer Probst

Gallery Books/April 29, 2014

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