Review: The Marriage Pact
I love a good mystery.
It’s a genre that I return to again and again because I like narrative puzzles. And in the case of The Marriage Pact, I like a mystery that has implausible thrills. That sounds like backwards compliment, but what I mean is, I like when I’m asked to suspend my disbelief above and beyond the mystery, to agree to step into a world so unlike my own.
I was able to read an advanced copy of the book thanks to Random House Publishing Group-Ballantine Bantam and NetGalley.
Here’s the publisher’s description:
In this relentlessly paced novel of psychological suspense, New York Times bestselling author Michelle Richmond crafts an intense and shocking tale that asks: How far would you go to protect your marriage?
Newlyweds Alice and Jake are a picture-perfect couple. Alice, once a singer in a well-known rock band, is now a successful lawyer. Jake is a partner in an up-and-coming psychology practice. Their life together holds endless possibilities. After receiving an enticing wedding gift from one of Alice’s prominent clients, they decide to join an exclusive and mysterious group known only as The Pact.
The goal of The Pact seems simple: to keep marriages happy and intact. And most of its rules make sense. Always answer the phone when your spouse calls. Exchange thoughtful gifts monthly. Plan a trip together once per quarter. . . .
Never mention The Pact to anyone.
Alice and Jake are initially seduced by the glamorous parties, the sense of community, their widening social circle of like-minded couples.
And then one of them breaks the rules.
The young lovers are about to discover that for adherents to The Pact, membership, like marriage, is for life. And The Pact will go to any lengths to enforce that rule.
For Jake and Alice, the marriage of their dreams is about to become their worst nightmare.
As always, I will try to keep my review spoiler-free, only addressing things that are shared explicitly in the promotional copy, or that give personal context.
This was a 4.5 star read for me. Two things kept it from being a five star read: 1. The occasionally too conversational style of the book. Jake narrates the story of his marriage to Alice and their life within The Pact, but in the very beginning he twice uses the phrase “We can talk about that later…” as though it’s a two way conversation, almost as though he has some awareness of the audience, which doesn’t work for me.
2. The inconsistencies of equality- The Pact says that it accepts all couples of all sexual orientation and gender, but the only couple we come to know with any real depth are hetrosexual couples, and in most cases, it feels like the women are expected to take on more “traditional” gender roles within the marriage. As this is something that isn’t specifically laid out by The Pact, but something shown throughout the book, it feels like a subconscious choice on the author’s part.
Beyond all that, this is a deliciously twisty book. When faced with some of the unsettling moments that the characters encounter I was often tempted to ask myself, “What I do if I were in this position?” and then quickly stopped asking. It didn’t matter what I would do. I wanted to know more about how Jake and Alice would respond and why.
I was pleasantly surprised by how much the general concept of marriage was explored in the book. As a psychologist Jake’s character is given reason to be able to pull facts and figures about what makes a successful marriage and drop them in frequently throughout the story.
As a newlywed Jake says that he wanted marriage to feel different than the two years spent living together, a feeling that I completely understood. My husband and I dated, and then lived together for years before our wedding, prompting many discussions how marriage made our lives different, outside of external perception.
There are some really dark moments in this book, a few that were just on the cusp of me feeling truly uncomfortable in this fictional world, but overall each creepy moment just ratcheted up the tension.
I’m also a big of fan of the “Be afraid but I can’t tell you more” character.
Or rather, I have one of those “love to hate you” relationships with any character who drops little truth nuggets on a clueless character and then walks away/disappears before they can say too much. It makes me want to know more as much as the main character does.
This is a tense read, and there are enough curiosities to separate it from other domestic thrillers.
It will be a great summer read, when the days are longer.
Not that those who could be watching will bother to wait for darkness…
The Marriage Pact will be available in the US on July 27, 2017- if you're not ready to put it on your Goodreads To Read list now, I'll remind you of this great read in a Summer Reads roundup at the end of May!