~ By Elle Filz

At some point or another in our lives, we’ve all been there.  Another breakup, another stock price-surging rush on the Ben and Jerry’s aisle, and another roll in the hay with the irrepressible jerk we just can’t seem to get over, leaves us wondering if we might be better off calling in that last-ditch-can’t-possibly-do-any-better marriage pact that we made back in the summer of ‘99 when Rupert Everett and Julia Roberts swept us off our feet in My Best Friend’s Wedding.  Which, considering the fact that the movie showed exactly how many ways a so-called marriage pact could go wrong, is kind of ironic.

Dontcha think?

And, yet, M.J. Pullen’s self-published new release, The Marriage Pact, endeavours to show us all the ways one of these things can maybe, just maybe, go right for once.  When Austin temp Marci Thompson — newly 30 and sleeping with her (married) boss — is reminded of a long-ago promise she shared with her college pal, Jake, to hitch up if they both reached that oft-dreaded age still single, she thinks it’s a joke.  But when a weekend trip home to her parents’ in Atlanta and a subsequent work disaster leave her boyfriendless and jobless at the same time, Marci decides to move home, bite the bullet and say “yes.”  But is Marci really over the ex in Texas?  And can she take Jake out of the “friend zone” long enough to be the perfect girlfriend/fiancee/wife he deserves? Those are exactly the questions Pullen aims to answer.

The Marriage Pact is Pullen’s debut; her first-born if you will. It’s a fun, frothy read with an artfully crafted main plot that draws the reader in and won’t let go.  Plus, at $0.99 for the ebook on both Amazon and Barnes and Noble (as of 7/13/2011), the price can’t be beat.

As a first-born, however, there are some flaws.  For example, it seems like there might be a little too much in the way of suplots and characters that, instead of acting as garnishes to the main plot and characters, sort of become completely different “meals.”  Two subplots, in fact, seem like they’re sort of abandoned before resolution.  Or maybe they’re just so built up and the resolution kind of peters out so that you just don’t notice that it’s over.  They’re kind of like Bobby Martin and those darn skis on All My Children. (Note to ABC…there’s a plotline you might want to explore before the end of September!).  Likewise, the characters.  Marci and Jake are vibrant and lifelike, but when it comes to the secondary characters, it seems like Pullen might have gotten her priorities a little mixed up.  For example, Victoria, Marci’s supervisor in Austin, is completely memorable even though her last appearance is long before the first third of the book is out.  At the same time, I wouldn’t be able to pick Suzanne — a character whose presence is so necessary to most of the major turning points — out of a line up.

The one thing The Marriage Pact has in spades, however, is heart.  Pullen has clearly poured all of hers into crafting this darling novel.  She’s a talented artist whose love of her hometown of Atlanta (The Flying Biscuit…whoo hoo!) and college home of Athens radiates off the page in her details.  She cares about Marci and Jake, and she makes the reader care about Marci and Jake.  Pullen’s going places for sure.  I look forward to reading much more from her in the coming years.

By day, Elle Filz is an IT geek in Baltimore, MD.  By night, you can either find her singing karaoke or jotting down notes for her next women’s fiction story.  She is also an aspiring Betty Crocker-type who thanks God every day that a fireman lives next door.