The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond
Would you stake your life on your marriage? Newlyweds Jake and Alice are offered a mysterious wedding gift – membership of a club which promises its couples will never divorce. Signing The Pact seems the start to a perfect marriage. Until one of them breaks the rules. The marriage of their dreams is about to become their worst nightmare. Because The Pact is for life. And its members will do anything to make sure no one leaves…
Are you married? Or planning your wedding right now? And do you ever read those ubiquitous features in women’s magazines that tell you how your marriage can thrive and never lose its sparkle?
You know the kind of thing: make sure your spouse knows you love him by giving him a thoughtful gift from time to time; always answer the phone when he calls; make sure you go away together on frequent small romantic breaks.
Sounds sensible – but be afraid. Be very afraid. Because The Marriage Pact is a blueprint for marriage – and murder.
Alice and Jake are newly married: a picture-perfect couple. Alice (once a singer in a well-known rock band) is now a successful lawyer. Jake is a partner in a thriving psychology practice specializing (of course) in marriage guidance.
They live in San Francisco – the beautiful, hippy-happy city approached by the legendary Golden Gate bridge. Everything is shiny-shiny perfect.
Except they get a most enticing and mysterious wedding gift from one of Alice’s most prominent legal clients. It is a wooden box containing the handbook, and rules, of an exclusive club – ‘The Marriage Pact.’
The club is secret – you can’t tell anyone anything about it. And once you open that intriguing, beautifully-designed little casket… well, Alice and Jake don’t know it, but they’ve taken the lid off Pandora’s box and unleashed a torrent of curses.
The exclusive club is in reality an evil cult dressed up in white satin and orange blossom. Beware. DO NOT JOIN IT.
The Marriage Pact is a pacey, page-turner of a novel of psychological suspense. As Judy implies, it’s a fairy tale or a fable about the rewards of faithful marriage – enjoying the company of other well-to-do couples at glamorous parties with fine wines in beautiful houses.
Well, that’s the packaging. And all this exclusive club wants from its gilded members is simply for the couples never, ever to divorce. So what’s wrong with that?
There are echoes of The Stepford Wives in this cleverly conceived tale; the women in the Pact definitely have a rougher time than the men. But for both spouses, the club is potentially deadly.
Jake, the idealistic young psychologist, loves his new wife and is desperate for their marriage to work. Alice, more quirky and free-spirited, soon gets into trouble with the club. And both are quickly swept up in a horror story worthy of a science-fiction fantasy.
The Marriage Pact is at once a genuine love story and grim contemplation of the real nature of marriage: possession, jealousy, and control. It’s extreme but grippingly though-provoking.
So the moral is, if you’re about to get married, inspect your wedding gifts extremely carefully. Pandora’s box may be lurking among those presents bedecked in silver bows and wedding bells. And if it IS there – whatever you do, don’t open it.
Read an Extract from The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond
I come to on a Cessna, bumping through the air. My head is throbbing, and there is blood on my shirt. I have no idea how much time has passed. I look at my hands, expecting to see restraints, but there are none. Just an ordinary seatbelt looped around my waist. Who strapped me in? I don’t even remember boarding the plane.
Through the open door of the cockpit, I see the back of the pilot’s head. It’s just the two of us. There is snow in the mountains, wind buf¬feting the plane. The pilot seems completely focused on his controls, shoulders tense.
I reach up and touch my head. The blood has dried, leaving a sticky mess. My stomach rumbles. The last thing I ate was the French toast. How long ago was that? On the seat beside me, I find water and a sand¬wich wrapped in wax paper. I open the bottle and drink.
I unwrap my sandwich—ham and Swiss—and take a bite. Sh*t. My jaw hurts too much to chew. Someone must have punched me in the face after I hit the ground.
“Are we going home?” I ask the pilot.
“Depends on what you call home. We’re headed to Half Moon Bay.”
“They didn’t tell you anything about me?”
“First name, destination, that’s about it. I’m just a taxi driver, Jake.”
We hit an air pocket so hard my sandwich goes flying. An urgent beeping erupts. The pilot curses and frantically pushes buttons.
“But you’re a member, right?”
“Sure,” he says, his tone unreadable. “Fidelity to the Spouse, Loyalty to The Pact. Till death do us part.” He turns back just long enough to give me a look that warns me not to ask any more questions.
We hit an air pocket so hard my sandwich goes flying. An urgent beeping erupts. The pilot curses and frantically pushes buttons. He shouts something to air traffic control. We’re descending fast, and I’m clutching the armrests, thinking of Alice, going over our final conversa¬tion, wishing I’d said so many things.
Then, suddenly, the plane levels out, we gain altitude, and all appears to be well. I gather the pieces of my sandwich from the floor, wrap the whole mess back up in the wax paper, and set it on the seat beside me.
“Sorry for the turbulence,” the pilot says.
“Not your fault. Good save.”
Over sunny Sacramento, he finally relaxes, and we talk about the Golden State Warriors and their surprising run this season.
“What day is it?” I ask.
I’m relieved to see the familiar coastline out my window, grateful for the sight of the little Half Moon Bay Airport. The landing is smooth. Once we touch down, the pilot turns and says, “Don’t make it a habit, right?”
“Don’t plan to.”
I grab my bag and step outside. Without killing the engines, the pilot closes the door, swings the plane around, and takes off again.
I walk into the airport café, order hot chocolate, and text Alice. It’s two p.m. on a weekday, so she’s probably embroiled in a thousand meet¬ings. I don’t want to bother her, but I really need to see her.
There’s so much I want to tell her, but I’m scared. The more she knows, the more dangerous it will be for her.
A text reply arrives. Where are you?
Back in HMB.
Will leave in 5.
It’s more than twenty miles from Alice’s office to Half Moon Bay. She texts about traffic downtown, so I order food, almost the whole left side of the menu. The café is empty. The perky waitress in the perfectly pressed uniform hovers. When I pay the check, she says, “Have a good day, Friend.”
I go outside and sit on a bench to wait. It’s cold, the fog coming down in waves. By the time Alice’s old Jaguar pulls up, I’m frozen. I stand up, and as I’m checking to make sure I have everything, Alice walks over to the bench. She’s wearing a serious suit, but she has changed out of heels into sneakers for the drive. Her black hair is damp in the fog. Her lips are dark red, and I wonder if she did this for me. I hope so.
She rises on her tiptoes to kiss me. Only then do I realize how desperately I’ve missed her. Then she steps back and looks me up and down.
“At least you’re in one piece.” She reaches up and touches my jaw gently. “What happened?”
I wrap my arms around her.
“So why were you summoned?”
There’s so much I want to tell her, but I’m scared. The more she knows, the more dangerous it will be for her. Also, let’s face it, the truth is going to p*ss her off.
What I’d give to go back to the beginning—before the wedding, before Finnegan, before The Pact turned our lives upside down.
Book Club Questions for The Marriage Pact
1. What do you think motivates people to join cults such as The Pact? What motivates Jake and Alice in particular?
2. Are there any rules of The Pact that you think could strengthen a marriage? Are the principles behind the extreme methods sound, or not?
3. How and why does Jake and Alice’s relationship change over the course of the novel? Do you think their marriage will last, and why or why not?
4. What surprised you most in the novel?