Book Review: Arranged by Catherine McKenzie

Synopsis: Anne Blythe is always the bridesmaid, never the bride. With all her friends getting married and having babies, Anne keeps having failed relationships with Peirce Bronson look-alikes. The day she dumps her most recent lying, cheating boyfriend is the day that Anne picks up a business card for a dating service… or so she thinks. Wanting to break her disastrous dating cycle, Anne calls the company to have them find her perfect match and finds herself in Mexico meeting the man of her arranged marriage! Anne begins to think that Jack truly is the man of her dreams when she discovers the company isn’t want it seems. And neither is Jack.

Cover: Based on the style of the cover, I wonder if the publishing company originally planned for a hardcover book (though admittedly, mock hard covers are becoming more popular). This trade paperback is bound with a dust-jacket style wrapping; the cover is slightly thicker than normal, practically on par with the weight of a cereal box and has flaps. The front flap has the synopsis and the back flap the author bio, with the back copy of the book being author/book praise. The photo on the front cover is that of a table at the wedding dinner with bouquets of flowers in the foreground.

Plot: At first you think you know what is going to happen. Anne will call the company and find it is an arranged marriage service and do one of two things. Anne with either back out at the last minute and then find the love of her life, or she will fall in love with one of the men the company provides. But after Anne returns from Mexico, as the reader you are continually trying to figure out what actually will happen next… at one point I decided that Jack must be an undercover CiA operative!

Hook: In western society we grow up with the belief of romantic love being the most important part of our lives, but some Eastern cultures still have arranged marriages. Once it became known that some brides choose to have an arranged marriages, there has been less of a prejudice against the process.  This book grabs you because you wonder why anyone raised on fairy tale love would choose this option and if it truly could work out better than a love match.

Character Development: Anne has a pattern she has never swayed from and that is finding a gorgeous guy with black hair, blue eyes, and nice abs so she can fall desperately in love with him only to have her heart broken at his lack of perfection.   She is always being taken in by looks and failing to notice their personality until it is too late. Over the course of the book Anne tries to stop being attracted to the same type of guy and lose her desire for a fairy tale romance. While she does manage to break her pattern when it comes to looks, Anne can’t stop her belief that in the end love is everything.

Character: Dr Szwick is someone you’re not sure if you are to like or dislike. He is the therapist that all marriage candidates have to meet with before and after the wedding in order to deal with their new status and secrets (they are not to tell about the marriage being arranged). Dr Szwick makes both Anne and Jack uncomfortable and occasionally angry so, as the reader, you want to side with them in their dislike. But you also know that he makes the characters see things as they are, to understand themselves, and think things through in order to make better decisions. Dr Szwick genuinely wants to help his patients and lead them towards happy and fulfilling lives.

Quote: I guess I feel like I’m never going to meet the person I’m supposed to be with.

The Verdict: I don’t really know where I heard of this book, possibly from my long ago search of Canadian authors, but I wanted to read it more than Catherine’s first novel “Spin”. While I’m not sure I liked this book as much as the other, I did enjoy it and it also made me think hard about my beliefs in regards to romantic love and analyzing my own dating patterns. Essentially, you get out of this book what you want from it, and it is entirely up to you how much that is.

Would you ever consider an arranged marriage? Why or why not? 

Previous Reviews: SpinA Scottish Ferry Tale

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Author: JaimeKristal

JaimeKristal is a freelance editor and writer. She started her book review blog "Tales of a Booklover" for the enjoyment of sharing her love of reading.

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