Saturday, April 1, 2017

Book Review ~ The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond

The Marriage Pact
by Michelle Richmond
Expected publication: July 25th 2017 by Bantam

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.

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The Marriage Pact is an agreement that is made with between spouses.  It’s a membership within a group of like-minded individuals to support and enforce the agreement.  The Pact was created for three reasons:  1) “to establish a clear set of definitions that can be used to understand and discuss the contract of marriage”;  2)”to establish rules and regulations for the marriage participants to adhere to, designed to strengthen the marriage contract and ensure success”; and 3) “to establish a community of individuals who share a common goal and desire to help each other achieve their individual goal” (a successful marriage) “which in turn strengthens the group”.

 Sound all good, right?  I mean, who wouldn’t want all the tools needed in order to make a marriage work?  And to have a huge support group involved that will help achieve the goal of blissful marriage?  Most people would say ‘sign me up’, which is the case of Jake and Alice.  Newly married and madly in love, they have been selected to join this exclusive ‘club’ and when presented with the expertly phrased sales pitch, they are beyond excited to use these new tools in order for their marriage to grow and survive.  But all does not go well as The Pact uses surveillance, threats, and interrogation to get their members to abide by the rules set forth in the Manual that each member is given upon signing up – and most of the members are okay with this type of treatment!  Jake however is not, and even though he goes along with the group, he will do everything in his power to get him and Alice out….alive.

For all intents and purposes, The Marriage Pact has some sound ideas on how to make a marriage work, most are common sense, and if put to use will guarantee a solid marriage.  The problem with this ‘club’ is the extreme measure they use in order for the couples to comply. If any rule is broken, members are sent to ‘prison’, sent before a judge and sentenced for their ‘crime’.  Punishments are brutally harsh and beyond comprehension and include, but not limited to electrocution, and stripped naked and place between two pieces of plexi-glass and then placed for all other ‘inmates’ to see.  I’m not going to lie – some parts of this book were difficult to read.  Once you become a part of this club, the members really never have a life of their own.  It is expected to drop everything and be at the beckon call of the leaders.  Forget about wanting to leave the Pact as the only way out is death.

I really was enjoying this book in the beginning, but as the story progressed, it just became too unbelievable and bizarre.  The members were expected to drop everything in their life (like their job) to be, for lack of a better word, get reconditioned.  Most of the members were okay with how they were treated and acted like it was all normal.  Things just got weird the further I got into the story.  The punishments were beyond extreme, and quite frankly, unbelievable.  I mean, what sane person would put up with that crap?  Don’t get me wrong, the writing was good, there was just a certain creepy factor that I just could not get past.  The author is an excellent story-teller and the writing is solid but the story itself was a little to gruesome for my tastes.  However, just like a train wreck, I just could not stop myself from witnessing the horror that was unfolding before my eyes.  I believe this book will appeal to a wide range of readers, just not this one due to the violent nature of the story.

3 stars

I like to write about ordinary people in tense situations: a kidnapping (The Year of Fog), a hostage crisis (Golden State), a decades-old murder that became a true crime sensation (No One You Know), and now THE MARRIAGE PACT.

My novels are often set in San Francisco and the Bay Area, where I've made my home, but my stories and novels also take inspiration from many of the places I've lived and traveled--from China and Iceland to Norway, Hungary, and Argentina. My story collection HUM (2014) features Americans caught up in espionage, surveillance, and all manner of marital crimes.

If you love discovering new books, or if you've enjoyed any of my books, I'd love to send you my author newsletter! It includes notes on what I'm reading, dispatches from the writing life, and book giveaways. You can sign up for the newsletter at

Back story: I knew I wanted to be a writer for almost as long as I can remember, way back when I was a kid growing up in Alabama. I used to write skits to perform for my parents with my two sisters. After graduating from a huge public school in downtown Mobile, I studied journalism and creative writing at the University of Alabama, then worked in advertising and magazines, as well as in restaurants and a tanning salon (!) for a few years before enrolling in an MFA program in creative writing. I bounced around the South for a while and lived in New York City for a couple of years, with a brief work stint in Beijing, before settling in Northern California in 1999. I've been writing here in the fog ever since.

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