The Marriage Pact: A Novel

The Marriage Pact: A Novel

by M.J. Pullen

Hardcover(First Edition)

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This debut by M.J. Pullen launches a charming series about a group of thirty-somethings in Atlanta making surprising discoveries about friendship, love, and happily-ever-after.

Marci Thompson always knew what life would be like by her thirtieth birthday. A large but cozy suburban home shared with a charming husband and two brilliant children. A celebrated career as a writer, complete with mahogany shelves and a summer book tour. A life full of adventure with her friends and family by her side.

Instead, Marci lives alone in 480 square feet of converted motel space next to a punk rock band, hundreds of miles from her friends and family. She works in a temporary accounting assignment that has somehow stretched from two weeks into nine months. And the only bright spot in her life, not to mention the only sex she's had in two years, is an illicit affair with her married boss, Doug.

Thirty is not at all what it is cracked up to be.

Then the reappearance of an old friend with whom she had made a drunken marriage pact ten years earlier opens a long-forgotten door, and the lines between right and wrong, heartache and happiness are all about to get very blurry, as Marci faces the most difficult choices of her life.

The Marriage Pact is a delightful debut that will have readers laughing, crying, and falling completely in love.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250070937
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 11/03/2015
Series: Marriage Pact Series , #1
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 8.10(w) x 5.80(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

MANDA (M.J.) PULLEN, former therapist and marketer, is the author of complex, funny contemporary romances, including The Marriage Pact. 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. She has a weakness for sappy movies, craft beer, gossip, and boys who talk baseball. 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.

Read an Excerpt

The Marriage Pact

By M. J. Pullen

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2015 Amanda Pullen Turetsky
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-8189-1


Austin, Texas — April 2011

Marci Thompson marked the occasion of her thirtieth birthday by leaving her 480-square-foot apartment early and going to the dentist. Dr. Kim, the only dentist in Austin who had 7:00 A.M. appointments at the last minute, sang an off-key "Happy Birthday" while he poked and prodded in her mouth with bitter-tasting latex gloves. It was a pathetic start to a new decade.

Even though her dentist father was four states away in Georgia, and even though she was thirty years old today, she still could not disappoint him by missing the traditional birthday deadline for her annual appointment. Since she had put it off until last minute, the cleaning meant missing her own private tradition of hot coffee and birthday pancakes with gobs of blueberry syrup. She longed to be at a window booth at Kerbey Lane Café instead of at a sterile office with a mouth full of instruments. But this was the only thing her dad still asked of his adult daughters, and Marci preferred it by far to her mother's frequent hints about grandchildren.

She escaped Dr. Kim's office and ran to catch the 8:13 bus. When she unearthed her phone from the mess in her purse, there were three messages waiting. Her sister, Nicole, who lived in Washington, D.C., with her fiancé, Ravi, wished Marci a happy birthday and announced that she'd just e-mailed pictures of several wedding cakes on which she wanted Marci's prompt and honest opinion. Nicole, in contrast to her older sister, always had her dental appointment done and report submitted a month in advance.

In the second message, her mother sang, a little better than Dr. Kim. In the background, her dad chimed in and yelled that he'd be calling later to ask about her teeth. "Oh, Arthur!" her mother scolded. "She's turning thirty today. I think she can handle taking care of her own teeth!" Then, in a quiet undertone, she murmured into the phone, "Please do get your checkup, sweetheart. You know how your father is about it ..."

The final message was the soft drawl of her best friend, Suzanne, who still lived in Atlanta but called from a hotel room in Chicago, where she was helping to put on a large party for one of her corporate clients. "Enjoy your big three-oh, darling! Love you much!" The message was genuine, but the tone artificially perky. Marci knew Suzanne was not a morning person but sometimes pretended for the sake of her profession. And birthdays.

Marci hung up the phone and stared out the bus window. She felt loved and lonely at the same time. The messages were all three sweet and thoughtful, and all long-distance. With one possible exception, they were the most personal birthday wishes she would receive all day. She was so lost in this reflection that she almost missed the stop for her temp job.

The lobby of the high-rise that housed TDL & S Advertising (named for its founders Teague, Dodgen, Lane & Stanton) was decorated in a style that could only be described as "cowboy formal." Deeply polished mahogany walls and exquisite marble floors were accented with cowhide rugs, leather furniture, and wrought iron shaped into Texas's signature five-pointed stars. Between the elevators, native wildflowers were gathered in a crystal vase shaped like a boot.

Marci could not resist the temptation to examine her distorted reflection in the polished brass doors as she waited for them to open. Her frizzy brown curls were their usual untamed mess, hazel eyes oddly gold looking in the imperfect light. Not skinny to begin with, she had put on at least ten pounds since January, and her black polyester pencil skirt strained across her ass, which she hoped looked broader in the reflection than in real life.

Behind her, she heard the confident clack of tiny heels as Candice from human resources strode toward the elevator in a flowing pastel skirt and peasant blouse, with a wispy tan scarf that did not match, but mysteriously worked.

"Hi, Marci. How's it going?"

"Great, thanks." Marci tried to sound chipper. Candice, who had been her first contact at TDL & S when she came from the temp agency, still signed her timesheets. So in a certain light Candice was technically a sort of supervisor, though Marci rarely saw her.

"Wonderful," Candice said. "Victoria tells me you're quite an asset over there in accounting."

"Thanks, I'm ..." She looked for words that were both positive and truthful. "I'm glad to be useful."

With a perfunctory smile, Candice returned her gaze to the shiny doors. Marci fidgeted with her knit blouse, trying to stretch it down to cover more of the bulge around her waistline without exposing too much of her ample, lightly freckled cleavage.

As they stood side by side in the warped brass reflection, Marci tried to refrain from comparing herself to the tiny human resources manager. She refused to notice, for example, that the girl was five years younger and looked more polished and put-together than Marci did on her best day. Kind of sickeningly petite and adorable, too. And there was no point in observing that, at twenty-five, Candice had an actual, grownup job with an office and a nameplate on her desk. Or musing that she probably had a boyfriend who would acknowledge their relationship on Facebook. Not that Marci was comparing.

She'd heard on a talk show recently that when women made comparisons between themselves, it undermined their self-esteem and feminist solidarity or something. She didn't want to undermine her self-esteem and her sisterly relationships on her birthday, for heaven's sake. So she waited, not wondering about Candice's online relationship status or envying her tiny waist at all.

They had just entered the elevator when Candice reached out to keep the doors from closing. "Hurry up, Doug!" she called.

Marci felt a tremor of excitement run through her. The insecurities that had been piling up just seconds before were erased entirely as a familiar brown loafer stepped onto the carpeted elevator floor. Doug was wearing pressed khaki chinos, a blue chambray shirt with the sleeves rolled up, and sunglasses on top of his head. He smelled amazing.

"Hey, Candice, what's up?" he said, smiling at the HR manager, and then tossed Marci a quick wink and said, "Good morning, Megan." She nodded and suppressed a shy grin, her cheeks burning. Originally a mistake, "Megan" had become their little inside joke. Sometimes people corrected him when he said it at the office, but today Candice did not seem to notice.

"Are you coming to the happy hour today?" Candice asked him.

"Not sure yet," Doug said. "Somebody has to keep this place running."

"You should come; it's going to be fun," she implored. Then Candice seemed to remember that they were not alone in the elevator, because she hurriedly added to Marci, "Of course, you're welcome to come, too. It's five thirty at Maudie's."

Marci thanked Candice and the elevator doors opened. In a flash, the chambray shirt was on its way to the corner office near the production area ("the creatives," they were called), while Marci and Candice disembarked toward the administrative end of the office. A long day of filing and data entry awaited, and she felt disappointed that she and Doug hadn't been able to exchange anything but glances.

At noon, she stalled with a stack of files in the copy room to avoid an invitation to lunch with the rest of the accounting department. She liked her coworkers, despite the oppressive dullness of the work. Her supervisor, Victoria, was the kind of woman who in her late thirties seemed married to her career and religious about her daily routines. But as long as Marci did her work carefully and on time, she was a reasonable boss and always cordial.

Two other chatty women in the department kept a running tab on all the office gossip, never expressing any interest in Marci herself. Finally, there was Jeremy. Hired just a year earlier, he was around her age and bent over backward to include Marci in all department lunches and conversations. She was never sure whether his efforts were just friendly or if there was more to it. Whatever the case, it was her birthday and she didn't want to make small talk over salads today.

When Marci heard Victoria's and Jeremy's voices drift safely toward the elevators, she finished her copies and returned to her desk to wait. She had not been able to talk to Doug privately in a couple of days. But about once every two weeks, they managed to get away together during the lunch hour, almost always for the short drive back to her place, and she now realized she not only hoped this would happen today, she'd counted on it.

Marci shuffled the files a few times, sorted her in-box unnecessarily, and straightened the supplies in her desk. She tried to do some data entry but found she could not concentrate and kept having to go back and erase the invoice numbers she had put in the system and start over. All the while, she kept glancing over her cubicle, hoping to see Doug's smile emerge any second.

By 12:40, she was restless and hungry. Cell phone reception was notoriously bad in this part of the building, but she decided to check her e-mail anyway. She glanced around the department to make sure she was alone. Personal e-mail was strongly discouraged at the advertising firm and absolutely forbidden by the temp agency, so she rarely risked it. Even though she had only ever checked it briefly while on a break, she was plagued by fear of being called to a meeting with some IT person, who would have a stack of documentation of her errant ways.

She had thirty-two new messages. At least half were automated emails from online retailers wishing her a happy birthday with 10 percent off and free shipping. Along with the note from Nicole, there were a few e-cards from friends, which she decided to open later. A couple of notifications from writing discussion lists of which she was a member but never made time to read. A forwarded chain e-mail from Suzanne's grandmother, alerting her that her UPS delivery driver might be a member of Al Qaeda. A sale on her favorite jeans at the plus-size outlet store. Happy birthday from her chiropractor.

As she neared the bottom of the highlighted portion of her inbox, she saw the first new message had been sent at 12:01 A.M. from Jake Stillwell, one of her best friends from college. Nothing was in the subject line, but she saw there was an attachment. After a split second's hesitation, curiosity beat out the scary IT guy. She clicked to open it, read the two short sentences Jake had included, and sat back while the image loaded on the screen. No. It couldn't be. Had he really kept it?

The consternation must still have been visible on her face a few moments later, when Doug's head appeared around the side of her cubicle, because he stopped his momentum to ask, "Everything okay?" despite his obvious hurry. Startled, she lunged forward and clicked the windows closed, even though Doug certainly would not care that she was checking her e-mail from the office.

"It's fine. I'm ... fine," she said.

"Okay, good. Listen, babe," he began, and Marci looked around wide-eyed to make sure no one was around to hear the familiar term. He laughed at her panic, as usual. "I already checked — we're alone, kiddo."


"I just came by to say I can't go to lunch today. There's a meeting at Motorola this afternoon — a big project we might be doing for them. I have to be there. Frank's been really riding my ass about bringing in new clients lately ... Hey, are you sure you're okay?" He looked genuinely concerned.

"Yes, I'm fine," she said, pasting on a smile. "Just a weird e-mail from home."


Marci remained silent. She couldn't really explain it to Doug.

"Anyway, sweetheart, I'm sorry that I can't go to lunch with you on your birthday. I promise I will make it up to you tonight. Cathy's, um ..." He hesitated, flustered, and then finished in a rush. Usually he avoided saying his wife's name to Marci. "Well, I'm free for a while tonight."

Without warning, he leaned down and kissed her. He had never so much as touched her hand in the office before, and her body tingled with the danger and excitement in response. Afterward, he kept his face close to hers. She smelled his clean skin and resisted the temptation to put her palm flat against the crisp white undershirt beneath the blue chambray.

His voice in her ear was husky. "I really did want to take you to lunch." His tone suggested eating lunch had probably not been on the agenda. Her heart pounded and she looked around wildly, expecting to see someone come around the corner at any second and find them in this pose, for which there was no feasible professional explanation. "I'll find you later." She closed her eyes, inhaling his scent. When she opened them, he was gone.

Two seconds later, Jeremy appeared at her desk. He tossed a small styrofoam box on her keyboard. "Where were you? We went to Guero's."

His obvious disappointment that she had missed lunch was flattering. She smiled at him. "I got caught here, making copies."

"Well, here you go. Happy birthday."

"Oh, how did you ...?"

"I overheard you mention it on the phone yesterday. Sorry if that was eavesdropping. I'm not a creep — I promise." His tone was eager and solicitous, as always. Marci opened the box and found a rich-looking chocolate layer cake with some sort of raspberry sauce drizzled over the top. "I know how much you love chocolate," he said proudly.

Jeremy reminded Marci of a golden retriever who had just dropped a treasured chew toy at her feet and wanted a pat on the head. She thanked him for the cake and gave him a quick hug. She really was grateful, because Victoria had just come back to the office with the rest of the team, and Marci's stomach growled menacingly.

The afternoon passed at a snail's pace. Marci couldn't tell whether Doug was back in the office or still out at Motorola. She wished someone on the production side of the office would ask for her help with filing. Not only did those days put her in a position to interact with Doug, but also that side of the office had a wall of windows with a spectacular view of Town Lake.

More than that, those days brought her into the midst of the writers and designers, who did the work she was desperate to do herself. Nine months earlier, that had been her initial reason for taking this assignment; the staffing agency had insisted it would be a great way to get her foot in the door as a copywriter. She had jumped at the chance, even though it paid two dollars per hour less than any other temp job. The more often she could show her face on the production side, the more likely they would be to think of her for entry-level opportunities.

But no such luck today. None of the other departments had requested her help, so she plodded along entering invoices into the accounts receivable database. Her mind drifted to Doug frequently, and her excitement that he would be free tonight. She wondered what was pulling Cathy away.

Since the unexpected start of their relationship five months earlier, Marci had tried hard to block thoughts of Cathy from her mind. Primarily because they made her feel like a horrible person, somewhere between pond scum and dog feces. But lately a kind of morbid curiosity had begun to overtake her when she and Doug were together. Perhaps it was a self-preservation instinct, but she couldn't help questioning whether Cathy really believed the explanations for Doug's frequent absences and whether his excuses were really as believable as he seemed to think. Maybe it was also because she had seen Cathy in person now.

Knowing the spouses would attend, she had carefully avoided the company Christmas party back in December. But a few weeks ago, Marci had been asked to fill in for one of the secretaries in the fancy wooden cubicles in the more public part of the office, just a few offices away from Doug and the rest of the vice presidents. She liked working for Elena and Tracy, the account managers, and it was nice to be able to see the office running, people going back and forth all the time, discussing creative choices and arguing about visual impact.


Excerpted from The Marriage Pact by M. J. Pullen. Copyright © 2015 Amanda Pullen Turetsky. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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The Marriage Pact 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
JackieBCentralTexasJB More than 1 year ago
My Thoughts This was one of those impulse free read purchases that I made a while back on Amazon, it turned out to be a really good decision as when I opened up the book it sucked me in immediately with Marci's story and kept me turning pages all day until done as had to know how her journey ended! Marci is working as a temp and within the firm she is working for is a married man whom she becomes involved with, they fall in love but he stays with his wife of over 20 years only seeing Marci on occasions when the wife is out with friends or out of town. It is an unsatisfactory life both professionally and personally and Marci feels even lower as her 30th birthday has come and gone without any of her life goals being realized. Out of the blue one day she receives an email from Jake Stillwell. Once upon a time they were "friends with benefits" and in a moment of drunken exuberance Marci and Jake penned a contract or "Marriage Pact" on a cocktail napkin which basically stated they would marry each other if they were both single once they hit 30. When she gets this reminder from Jake Marci is at first caught off guard, on further thought though she realizes that she has feelings for Jake that stem deeper than mere friendship and this causes her to reevaluate her relationship with her lover from work, Doug. One day Doug sends Marci a short email asking her to stay late after work at which point he tells her their relationship is over, this starts a chain of events that cause her to quit her job, call Jake asking him to help her move home and in the end also causes Marci to accept Jake's proposal to become engaged to be married to him. This story does not end with Marci moving back to her hometown in Georgia, it takes some very interesting turns into the relationships between Marci and her friends and family. Marci finally understands that all this time her search for independence has in fact really been a coping mechanism that allows her to walk away when things become too much for her to handle. This includes not pursuing her dreams of writing, not allowing herself to form a lasting relationship with anyone and most of all keeps her from facing up to the fact that her life will never be what she wants unless she takes a chance on failing. The Marriage Pact is one of those books you can dive into and lose yourself easily, it's characters are very easy to relate to and the relationships between them are believable as well. For anyone who loves a friends to lovers story this is one you will totally enjoy, once you get past some of the back and forth from present day to past events that can be a bit overwhelming every now and again. If like me you need to know what happens than by all means pick up this book and see how life turns out for Marci after all! {Read and shared my honest thoughts on the book.}
NC_ReaderAN More than 1 year ago
Over all I enjoyed this book. The Marriage Pact was a decent start to a good series...Although I did have some major issues with it; the first issue being that the relationship with Doug was not defined well enough for me. I understood on the surface, the reason why Marci would be so devastated that when it was over that she would move in the middle of the night is not clear. The same could be said about Marci’s relationship with Jake. I wish it had been introduced sooner with more details for a greater understanding on his importance in Marci’s life. I feel as if Pullen just tried to fit too much into this book. In doing that Pullen left out things that would have added to the enjoyment of the reading and left too many questions that the reader had to infer the answers to.
Bette313 More than 1 year ago
I'm really torn writing this review. I want to be fair to the author. The writing is very well done. There's great character development, nice pace to the story, and sadly I must admit the story itself is something that occurs all the time so it's definitely real. In addition to that, it definitely evoked a ton of emotions. So for all that, kudos to the author. Very well done. The story itself, however, I hated. While infidelity may occur all the time, it obviously is a real hot button for me. I tried to like these characters but in my opinion, Doug is a pig and deserves whatever heartbreak he gets. Marci I just wanted to take by the shoulders and shake. HARD! Jake, the only main character I really liked, I just wanted to give a big hug to and tell him to move on. This story for me just didn't give me the escape I look for while reading a great book. Quite frankly it just made me mad. The author did wrap the story up nicely and give me the HEA I crave but it still wasn't enough.
DaneWeimMama More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed this book very much.... liked the premise of old friends promising to marry if they are still single at 30 years old. Interesting story behind the characters getting to the point in their lives where they choice to go ahead with the pact. All the characters in this book were full of depth & really interesting. One of my favorite scenes was between the Dad & his daughters a good way into the book.... he gave such good advice. Would recommend this book to anyone. Given a free copy from in exchange for an honest review.
AdriLisa More than 1 year ago
I truly enjoyed the UNIQUE storytelling of M.J. Pullen The Marriage Pact by MJ Pullen is the kind of novel that I like to dive into because I like characters with various complexities such as Marci is being portrayed – nothing boring here. When reading the story, Doug is not free to love, let’s put it this way, and Marci on the other hand, needs to sort out a few things. The pact is sort of “fantasy” any young woman would probably fall for, well at least at the time of the understanding.  The challenge is there. Finally settling down with a cup of tea – I kept on reading and finding unique characters that made the story glue together in such a nice way.  I truly enjoyed it. It is youthful. I has a class of its own. Give me more of this “quest for love” in every which way. I do recommend it. Adriana LG
NerdAlertBL More than 1 year ago
                       The Marriage Pact                            by - MJ Pullen ****I was given a copy in exchange for an honest review for Nerd Alert Book Love Blog**** Marci just turned 30 and she gets a birthday email from college best friend Jake and he's attached a copy of their drunken marriage pact they made 10 years prior.  She is not living the life she dreamed she would be. She is working a temp job, living in a tiny apartment,  and having a secret affair with her married boss.  When Doug breaks off their 6 month affair to stay with his wife Marci is devastated and heartbroken!  She calls Jake and tells him she lost her job and wants to come home. Once back home she moves in with her other best friend and helps her family plan her sister's wedding. At her sister's wedding Marci agrees to the marriage pact with Jake. But Doug comes to town wanting Marci back. Will Marci take Marci back? Will Jake get past Marci and Doug's past and fight to keep Marci? Or will every thing fall apart? This is a nicely written story about the struggles of a young single woman who wants more from her life and she wants love and to be loved. I enjoyed the flash backs to their college days and getting to know Marci and Jake's past and friendship.  I really liked this story and give it a Nerd Alert B+ or 4 stars. Make sure to check out her other books and see what is in store for Marci's friends.  
PureJonel More than 1 year ago
What girl, over the age of 25 and single, hasn’t thought about doing this?  It’s brilliant.  But the question remains, would you follow through?  This novel takes you on a bit of a no holds barred joy ride into the lives of individuals just trying to make it through the trials of everyday life.  Not only is this storyline very well and eloquently put together, but Pullen’s writing style also draws you in.  As a reader you begin to feel like you are surrounded by the characters.  You can hear them talking and see them acting out their everyday lives.  It’s an amazing feeling. The characters in this novel are brilliant.  I became quite attached to them.  They were like old college friends, to the extent that I wanted to throw a pillow at them once or twice for being ridiculous.  But at the same time, they were being real people.  It was so nice to get to know characters who actually let you into their lives as a whole, rather than simply giving you sneak peeks into certain aspects.   As a whole, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with these characters and cannot wait to continue on throughout life with them.  I also wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys romance with a dash of reality added in for good measure.  
TeenBlurb More than 1 year ago
The Marriage Pact is a story of falling in love with the idea of love, realizations, and finding that one person that fits you. Marci and Jake made a pact in college that said if there were not married by the time they were thirty, then they would marry each other. This story reminds me a lot of My Best Friends Wedding, except the roles are reversed. Marci is the one who is in a relationship and Jake is in love with Marci. Jake is just, WOW, a nice guy, handsome, and he is nothing but supportive of Marci. Marci is having an affair with a married man who says he loves her and his is going to leave his wife, when that does not happen Marci goes back to her home town to lick her wounds, but what she gets is Jake. Jake is such a great friend to Marci, but there are times you want to say, “Kiss already!” or “Tell him how you really feel!” The suspense is killing me! 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, and there are the times that you just want to sit there and cry. There were times that I kept picturing the scene in My Best Friends Wedding where they all break out into song at the rehearsal dinner. I could see that happening with this great cast of characters! This story is a must read that will have you eagerly awaiting the next installment in the series! I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
juliejed More than 1 year ago
This is a fun and easy read. Cute story waiting for the next one to be published hopefully it will be soon!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago