Sparks the Matchmaker by Russell Elkins Ollie just wants one thing. The girl. Things haven’t been going so well with Anne lately, though; their relationship has become a perpetual study date, and Ollie’s roommates are starting to worry about him. How to fix things? Why, with a marriage proposal, of course. Unfortunately for Ollie, his relationship with Anne has run out of gas. Life feels like it’s counting down to one. And that one is the only person in Ollie’s life he really cares about: Ollie. Perhaps, then, he should get over himself. But first he has to deal with Sparks, the irritating little Yankees fan who invades his life in order to “help” him. And while Keith, his best friend, is doing all he can to help, Ollie’s other friend Richie never fails to show up and threaten to ruin everything just by being himself. Never mind all the drama Sparks brings to the party by forcing Ollie to take a job actually helping people in need. Will Ollie meet the girl? Will it be in history class? On a road trip to Colorado? Can he get over Anne, or should he try to mend the relationship? Should he pursue the new girl Sparks is trying to set him up with? As the strings of the puppeteer tangle with the strings of the heart, only one person can sort out the mess Ollie has made. It seems that the harder he tries, the more Ollie messes things up. Is Sparks a cruel manipulator, or is he really going to help Ollie find his match?
Author Russell Elkins
Russell Elkins has become a leading expert on open adoption through first-hand experience that he now shares in Open Adoption, Open Heart. Russell regularly contributes to Adoption.com. He also writes his own blog at russellelkins.com to educate others in the struggles and beauties of open adoption.
Russell has always been a family man at heart, looking forward to the day when he could be a husband and a father. It took him a little while, but eventually his eyes locked onto a beautiful blonde, and he has never looked away. Russell and Jammie were married in 2004. They had the same goals for their home and didn't want to wait too long before starting their family. However, filling their home quickly with children wasn't in the cards, and they found themselves weighing their options to overcome problems with infertility. Their lives changed dramatically the day they decided to adopt.
Russell and Jammie have adopted two beautiful children, Ira and Hazel, and have embraced their role as parents through open adoption. Both are actively engaged in the adoption community by communicating through social media, taking part in discussion panels, and writing songs about adoption.
Russell was born on Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, D.C., in the fall of 1977. Along with his five siblings, he and his military family moved around a lot, living in eight different houses by the time he left for college at age 17. Although his family moved away from Fallon, Nevada, just a few months after he moved out, he still considers that little oasis in the desert to be his childhood hometown.
Even after leaving home, Russell always stayed close to his family. He shared an apartment with each of his three brothers at different times during his college career. They formed a band together back in the 1990s and still perform on a regular basis under the name of the Invisible Swordsmen.
After nearly a decade of college and changing his major a few times, Russell received his bachelor's degree in sociology from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. He later graduated from Ameritech College where he learned the trade of being a dental lab technician. Russell now owns and operates Elkins Dental Lab located in Meridian, Idaho.
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Excerpt: They sat in the car outside Anne’s apartment, watching her chat with someone. Ollie had never seen this guy before, which was odd, because he used to practically live at Anne’s place. He watched her laugh at something he said and she slapped his knee. An avalanche of bittersweetness let go inside of him. He felt sick inside at the thought that she only needed a few hours to move on from him, but Ollie also knew it had been a long time since she’d laughed like that at something he had done. He’d forgotten what it sounded like; it was music.
Ollie felt foolish, which dragged him mercilessly back to the softball field. He rubbed behind his ear. It was still tender. “Why didn't you tell me the catcher was going to hit me?”
“I'm not the one knocking people over at home plate,” Sparks said. “Why aren't you going to admit you're the reason it happened; that it’s not anyone else’s fault?”
Ollie glared out the window, resenting everything in the world. Am I really asking for so much? Why can’t I just be happy? He blinked his eyes and groaned. It was masochistic, watching Anne laugh as her hand rested on this guy’s knee, but Ollie needed to punish himself for allowing their relationship to decay. It was like attending the viewing at a close friend’s funeral. “I ended up leaving the game looking like a fool.”
“Is that why you think I’m here?” Sparks asked.
“Isn’t it obvious? Everything’s your fault.” Ollie knew it was a desperate lie as soon as he said it, and he had a feeling Sparks would see through him.
“Can’t you just say it wasn't my fault that the catcher hit you?”
“Fine. I shouldn't have done it. I shouldn't have knocked that guy down.”
“Actually, you should’ve stopped at third base.”
“Come on! Are you really going to make me admit every tiny thing I did wrong today?”
“Okay, fair enough. I knew he was gonna punch you. I didn't tell you because I didn't want to.”
“Just like that. Because you didn't want to.” Ollie kept staring at Anne and the boy. “That's it?”
“It's more complicated than that, but yeah. I didn't want to.”
“So why were you ‘helping me out’ in the first place?” Ollie looked at Sparks and made air quotes at him.
Sparks grinned at him and said nothing.
Ollie looked back across the street to where Anne was sitting. “You know what I think?”
“Of course. I think you do a lot of thinking without really thinking.”
“So now you're going to insult me. That explains everything.”
“Yeah, it does. You enjoy watching me squirm, you enjoyed the little awkward dance you made me do in the outfield, and you enjoyed seeing me get hit by the catcher, too. I bet any second now you're going to start pouring some lemon juice into the wound that Anne left for me earlier today. You are, aren't you? You chose to come to me because I'm a miserable person and you’re a miserability magnet.”
“Is that even a real word?”
Ollie raised his hands in exasperation. “See?” He looked Sparks in the eyes. “You’re a parasite looking to feed on my misery.”
“You got part of it right.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You're right that I chose you because I think you're miserable.”
Ollie shook his head and looked back toward Anne: the object of all his affections, the One Thing he couldn’t have. Every second he stared kept the bubbles of pain boiling inside him, but every moment also brought him closer to letting go.
Sparks reached out and touched his shoulder. “Hey,” he said. “I know it’s tough to understand it. It’s just a little more complicated than we have time for right now.”
Ollie rolled his eyes.
“I promise I’ll give you all the details you can stand tonight,” Sparks said. “I just don’t think you want to know right now. At least not until you’re done staring at… at somebody else’s girl.”
My Review: ****--4 Stars
I thought this was a very sweet book with some very unique characters. I still get a little confused about who exactly Sparks is. At first, I thought he must be an angel or something. How in the world could he know the future? He claims it's because he pays attention to the little details, but really...
I loved the supporting characters and thought they really added a lot to the story, but I think my favorite thing about it was the way Ollie handled his life. When he misses the clues and his life takes a turn he's not prepared for, he takes some risks and jumps right into some big decisions and changes. Yes, he was "forced" to, but he's a big boy (physically, too) and doesn't have to let people push him around. I loved seeing how these changes were totally right for him, yet he was very skeptical about them all at first. Ollie comes across as very impatient, always wanting to know exactly what to do and say and I enjoyed watching him learn, grow, and mature.
Content: kissing; mild violence. Clean.