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Baggage Check: A Novel (The Marriage Pact) Hardcover – July 12, 2016
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"Readers will quickly fall in with Pullen’s natural storytelling style and realistically flawed characters. As with the previous titles in the series, there is enough of a love story here to please romance readers, while women’s fiction fans will be more than satisfied with the way the relationships with Rebecca’s family and friends play out." ―Booklist on Baggage Check
“In this story, no romance, friendship, or parent-child relationship is perfect, which makes it all the more uplifting and sweet.” ―Kirkus Reviews on Baggage Check
Praise for M.J. Pullen's Regrets Only:
“This entertaining blend of comedy and romance―with a healthy dash of suspense―will delight fans of funny women's fiction.” ―Booklist
“Romance abounds in this sexy and modern love story.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“Both protagonists are incredibly likable, though flawed, and together their friendshipo-fueled chemistry sizzles. Despite the thread of suspense that runs through the plot, the story still manages to convey a tone of warmth. Dylan himself evokes smiles nearly every time he appears on teh page, thanks to his wry amusement, and, frankly, his sheer dreaminess. The reminder not to judge a person by assumptions rings true and timely.” ―Romantic Times, four star review
“A deftly written and captivating tale of how our best laid plans often go astray. Just as Suzanne's nearly perfect life falls apart she finds herself on a roller-coaster journey (with a country music star no less!) with surprises both haunting and heartening, leading her to exactly where she was meant to be. Don't miss this sexy and engrossing romp!” ―Cherry Adair, New York Times bestselling author on Regrets Only
“M.J. Pullen writes relatable characters who are quirky and fun. I really enjoyed Regrets Only.” ― Susan Hatler, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author
“Regrets Only has it all! A sprinkle of romance with a dab mystery. Add a pinch of family dynamics, blend in a few dreams with a dab between the sheets that will cause some blushing. A delightful recipe for a sweet journey. I love this book…it is on my keeper shelf!” ―Fresh Fiction
Praise for M.J. Pullen's The Marriage Pact:
One of InStyle's November Book Club Picks!
"Entertaining...with a few laugh-out-loud moments, M.J. Pullen's novel is a very enjoyable read. Fans of Jane Green or Emily Giffin are sure to enjoy The Marriage Pact." ―Shelf Awareness
“A charming cross between romance and chick lit...Pullen’s characters are realistic, and the dialogue is funny, making this an excellent choice for fans of early Jane Green, Jennifer Weiner, and Emily Giffin.” ―Booklist
"This novel is chick lit to its core and makes for a light and easy read." ―Library Journal
“M.J. Pullen brings clever quirkiness to romantic comedy!” ―Penny Reid, international bestselling author of Neanderthal Seeks Human
“Funny, wise and painfully true. Make sure you clear your weekend before you pick up The Marriage Pact!” ―Chrissie Manby, author of Getting Over Mr. Right
“All five stars for The Marriage Pact; a roller-coaster ride through love, friendship and self-discovery. Well done!” ―Valerie Joan Connors, author of In Her Keeping and Shadow of a Smile
“A fun, frothy read with an artfully crafted main plot that draws the reader in and won't let go.” ―Elle Filz, ChickLitWriters.com
“There are times you laugh so hard at the antics between Jake and Marci, then there are times that you just have to sigh at the romance of it all....This story is a must read that will have you eagerly awaiting the next installment in the series!” ―Faerie Tale Books
“Will keep you reading...in one sitting like I did. Well done!” ―Let's Get Booked!
About the Author
MANDA (M.J.) PULLEN is the author of complex, funny contemporary romances including The Marriage Pact (Thomas Dunne Books, November 2015). She was raised in the suburbs of Atlanta by a physicist and a flower child, who taught her that life is tragic and funny, and real love is anything but simple. After traveling around Europe and living in cities like Austin and Portland, she returned to Atlanta where she lives with her husband and two sons.
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Pullen writes books that are hard to classify with complex characters. One of the things that is so great about Pullen's books is that while I often don't like the characters, the book pulls me in anyway. Pullen knows these characters are flawed, and that makes them not only very human, it makes them more interesting than the average book character. This book takes the friend from the previous books that we've been taught to hate -- she was in love with Marci's guy, after all -- and makes her the central character. And she's fabulous. She looks tough and holds everybody at a distance, but we get to see the real Rebecca and understand why.
While this book is billed as a romance, the romance, to me, fell secondary to what was the real plot of this woman Rebecca confronting her past and learning to deal with her father and mother.
**Minor spoiler follows**
When Rebecca returns to her home town to deal with what seemed like a minor financial crisis of her mother, she comes face-to-face with the fact that her mother is a hoarder, something that started after the death of Rebecca's brother. Rebecca must come to terms with her mother's hording, come face-to-face with her past, forgive her father for leaving her mother, and learn to trust and love. We realize she has been running from facing this fact for many years -- leaving home at an early age, becoming a flight attendant who is always on the move, even the fact that she doesn't collect souvenirs from her travels is a response to her mother.
It's all this internal work that Rebecca must do while cleaning out her mother's house that is the real obstacle in her budding romance with Alex. He has been attracted to her since high school, and is ready to get involved. It is Rebecca who needs to deal with her life first before she can get involved.
This is an amazing book, but to simply approach it as a romance is misleading. The hoarding scenes are where the book comes alive, and is also very painful to read for anyone who has known people trapped in this situation. It's a tribute to Pullen's skill that I kept reading.
If I have one criticism, it is that I found Marci as annoying as ever, particularly in her new blogging persona. The blog posts seemed extraneous, and the "subhub" nickname for her suburban husband was off-putting to me. However, their purpose, I think, is to let you see how little Rebecca lets her friends in, and that they really do care about her, even while she holds them at a distance.
It was a great read and now I miss all the friends from Atlanta I feel they we are friends too. This is a must read in the series.
Baggage Check tells the story of a thirty-four year old woman who has carefully contained and orchestrated her life so there is nothing messy about it. She even washes down grocery carts and restaurant tables with wet wipes. Her family life was very messy after her brother died when she was sixteen and her mother began to exhibit some mental health problems. Her senior year in high school, Rebecca left the chaos of her grief stricken family in her small Alabama hometown and moved to an exclusive Atlanta neighborhood to live a neater life with her aunt where she could also move into the world of the wealthy and powerful.
But now her mother has had a breakdown, Rebecca has no love life because she is still in love with a man who married one of her friends, and her father has given up trying to live with his crazy wife and has hooked up with a ditzy but wealthy woman. When Rebecca returns home to clean out the house of her mother, who had become a hoarder, she is pursued by Alex, a deputy sheriff who had been friends with her brother. Rebecca's life has tilted on its axis. Suddenly she spends her life dealing with messy things, including not just the disaster of a house but her troubled relationship with everyone in her life. She is attracted to Alex, but she is not ready to also face the messiness of a relationship, particularly as she believes she is still in love with her friend's husband, is sure not ready to return to small town Alabama, and, though she won't admit this to herself, she's certainly not ready to end up with a small town deputy sheriff with a fourteen-year-old daughter.
Whether like this story depends on what you are looking for. As I said, the author writes well and there is a lot of emotion and interesting insights. But this book is really "women's fiction" rather than romance: most of the book is devoted to Rebecca's coming to terms with messy things, including her parents, the love of her life, her job, her life in Atlanta, and her friends, among whom she feels like an outsider. Through this, we watch her evolve and become re-engaged with life and people. There are interactions with Alex throughout the main body of the novel but not too many and they never come to anything. It is not until almost the end of the novel that there is any movement on the relationship between Alex and Rebecca. (There is a HEA.)
I thought I was buying a romance novel so I was a little disappointed that that was not really what this was. But, that's not the main reason I didn't care a lot for this novel.
I like many women fiction novels and one might even think of Pullen's Regrets Only that way. But when I think about Regrets Only or a favorite women's fiction novel of mine, No Place Like Home, which has even more dire circumstances for the heroine, I realize I rate them highly because I really like, admire and enjoy the heroines. Not so much Rebecca. And the heroines of these other novels have some positive relationships in their lives that help to counteract all of the anger, fear, pain and angst. All of Rebecca's relationships were too screwed up to be really satisfying. So, I found there was almost nothing for much of this novel that made me feel a little frisson of pleasure or happiness. The chronic unhappiness and distress was so wearing that half way through I was ready for it to be over. Just my reaction. I can understand why others might feel differently.
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