Another NetGalley promotional email (how do they always know the kind of books I’ll like?), this pacey thriller was an interesting examination of how people grow and change together, as well as how far one would go to protect their marriage.
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.
While the premise of this thriller was really interesting – a secret organisation that aimed to support others in their marriage and dire consequences if you failed to adhere to the rules – I was massively let down by a major point near the beginning. Alice is a lawyer, and signs a contract without actually reading it. She skims it, and is certainly more aware of the rules than Jake throughout the book, but this kind of impulsive decision seems out of character with her lawyer persona. Now it is stated in-text that she can be impulsive and doesn’t always think through her decisions, but even still. Any other kind of profession might have been more appropriate than having a lawyer impulsively sign a contract which binds her to all sorts of weird and wonderful rules.
But other than that minor quibble, I mostly very much enjoyed this thriller. As Jake and Alice realise how deep they’ve gotten themselves into something they actually know nothing about, and try to extricate themselves, they realise that The Pact is a more sinister organisation than they could have guessed.
What I really liked about this was that obviously as a couple Alice and Jake wanted their marriage to succeed. So the juxtaposition of wanting to get out of The Pact – which aims at making their marriage succeed – and still wanting their marriage to succeed presents some nice misdirection on what their aims are.
Jake himself is something of a nothing character. There’s little that’s distinguishing about him. Alice is the centrepiece of this book. A collection of contradictions, former rocker chick, band frontwoman, but also a junior associate in a commercial law firm, writing briefs for IP cases. She contains multitudes, and Jake doesn’t understand her, but he worships her. Their relationship and the insights given into it is the driving force of this novel, as they forge their first year of marriage and navigate the path The Pact has drawn for them.
Some twists at the end that I didn’t see coming, and one that I did, meant that the ending of this book was something I found very satisfying in its very ambiguity. The first book I’ve read from Michelle Richmond, I would be surprised if it was the last.
A note on cover art – the left-hand picture above is the cover art on NetGalley, while the right-hand side is the GoodReads cover art. Perhaps one is the American edition? Either way, here’s my question: Why does the right-hand side image, which is clearly two left hands, not have wedding rings on the ring fingers? When it’s a marriage pact? How bizarre.