My two favorite genres are romance and crime. And you wouldn’t believe how often these two intersect. I’ve written about how some of my favorite love stories are buried within crime novels, but this tale takes this concept to a whole new level.
The Marriage Pact starts off strong with Jake’s narration. And even though it’s a story about a married couple, I loved that the entire book is written solely from Jake’s point of view.
Jake and Alice are by all accounts a fun-loving and sensible couple. As newlyweds, they have a beautiful home together, thriving careers, and are a cheerful duo. He’s a therapist with a budding practice and she’s a lawyer at a huge firm. It’s through Alice’s job that they receive a gift from one of her esteemed clients. An invitation. Ultimately, they choose to accept his invite to join this perplexing and exclusive club.
The purpose of the club seems noble enough, it’s to help couples keep their marriages alive and happy. I loved reading about some of the rules and seeing how Alice and Jake fulfilled them or…fell short.
For example, you must always answer the phone when your spouse rings. You must give one another small gifts once a month to let each other know that you’re thinking of them. But then some of the rules (and punishments) get more demanding and dangerous…
Needless to say, the allure of glamorous parties and lofty goals vanishes fast. The mysterious club quickly becomes a horror story they cannot escape from.
But surprisingly, it’s not all dread. Alice and Jake’s relationship is magnetic. They pulled me in. Richmond is at her best when writing about Jake’s observations about his beloved:
I’ll be honest. Every time I glimpse the collar, or just glimpse my wife—sitting or standing upright, chin straight ahead—it makes me sense how committed she really is. Each night, I help her wash beneath the collar, running a warm, soapy washcloth over her skin, threading it between the fiberglass stays. As I watch her, as I cook for her, as I make love to her, as we hold hands in front of the television, what I never say to my wife, what I never confess, is this: Our marriage was my idea, my way of keeping her, yet here we are, just a few months into it, and she has already sacrificed so much more than I have.
The Marriage Pact, Michelle Richmond
We all want to be seen by our partners, and this concept is never clearer than it is through Jake’s detailed descriptions of Alice. He remembers everything and truly understands why her background has made her more susceptible to the idea of The Pact. Without these revelations, Alice would have never accepted the crazy requirements that The Pact mandates.
Even with plot elements that would normally seem impossible, Richmond is so good that this sane couple following The Pact was not only believable, but downright fascinating. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.
I loved this story. It made me realize I’m not the skeptic I think I am. I found that the goals of The Pact were incredibly romantic and admirable. In a world where the divorce rate is at fifty percent and there is no end to our culture’s growing self-centeredness—I understood the aims of The Pact.
Is there anything more beautiful than complete devotion? Selflessness is so rarely seen these days, so when done right, it can make you rethink everything, especially about how you treat the one you love.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this novel.