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Monday, June 8, 2015

Review: The Marriage Contract by Katee Robert

Raise your hand if you've ever had a book take your expectations and turn them sideways *raises hand* This was definitely different than what I'm used to. It's darker and edgier and the characters are unpredictable but you know what? Katee Robert made it work so well that I'm already anticipating the next book in the series!

Format: .mobi (provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review)
Publisher: Forever (Grand Central Publishing)
Release Date: June 2, 2015

Teague O'Malley hates pretty much everything associated with his family's name. And when his father orders him to marry Callista Sheridan to create a "business" alliance, Teague's ready to tell his dad exactly where he can stuff his millions. But then Teague actually meets his new fiancée, sees the bruises on her neck and the fight still left in her big blue eyes, and vows he will do everything in his power to protect her.

Everyone knows the O'Malleys have a dangerous reputation. But Callie wasn't aware just what that meant until she saw Teague, the embodiment of lethal grace and coiled power. His slightest touch sizzles through her. But the closer they get, the more trouble they're in. Because Callie's keeping a dark secret-and what Teague doesn't know could get him killed.

Whatever I had thought Katee Robert’s The Marriage Contract was about was nowhere near what it ended up being.

Never have I read a romance where the main characters were heirs to rival mob families. Characters who aren’t 100% good but aren’t evil either. This was in a word: Different. At least for me it was because I am still having a hard time putting my reading experience into words. It was a bit like Romeo and Juliet, except that Teague and Callie didn’t know each other prior to their engagement and they weren’t in love with each other until much later.

Teague O’Malley despises his life and anything associated with his family name. When his father orders him to marry Calista “Callie” Sheridan in order to create a business alliance, Teague is ready to walk out of the only life he’s ever known. Then he meets Callie and is intrigued by the protective instincts that surface when he sees bruises around her neck.

The bruises on Callie’s neck are part of a secret she had hoped to take to her grave but with her impending marriage to Teague, resentments and a need for vengeance threaten that secret. Callie knows that she shouldn’t let Teague get too close but she can’t help but fall a little more for the terrifyingly tender and caring man that is hidden beneath a ruthless exterior. The more time she spends with him, the more Callie realizes that her secret could get them all killed.

This was a difficult world to place two characters like Teague and Callie in. These two wanted so desperately to get out of the life they were born into and have lives where they called the shots. They wanted to live without having to make terrible sacrifices for “the good of the family.” Teague and Callie’s fathers saw them as little more than pawns in their quest for more power. Their feelings didn’t count; it was clear when Callie had been “given” to another mob family, the Hallorans for their eldest son to marry. When that son was killed, Callie’s father didn’t even blink before “giving” her to the O’Malley family for Teague to marry. Never did these fathers ever ask what Teague and Callie wanted, they just threw them together to marry and have kids in order to create an alliance between the families.

Teague and Callie weren’t the only ones who were affected by the life they grew up in. I noticed how that lifestyle of violence, death, sacrifice and being treated as no more than a pawn chipped away at the goodness of other characters as well. Specifically Teague’s siblings. With each O’Malley sibling author Katee Robert showed varying degrees of how the life affected each one of them. From the still innocent and purely good Devlin, to the cynical and bitter older sister Carrigan and everyone in between.

Clearly the author was looking for a challenge when she wrote this book and it must have been quite the challenge writing a romance in this violent setting, with all the conflicts designed to tear away at a character’s soul and still be able to create two characters that could still be defined as “the good guys.” The author also managed to capture and project that trapped feeling that all the characters seemed to be drowning in from start to finish. What started out as a forced marriage turned into the beginnings of a turf war and a need for vengeance between three rival families. How any of these characters survived with their nerves and mental stability in tact is beyond me. I was a nervous wreck through most of the book just wondering when the other shoe would drop. When it finally did, the conflicts just kept falling at Teague and Callie’s feet. I didn’t think there would ever be a solution to them that didn’t end in mass casualties. In the end though, I felt that Katee Robert delivered a believable ending to this chapter of the series but I have a feeling this is only the beginning when it comes to conflicts. One big question I have though is will there be a change to the way things are run in these families with Teague and Callie’s love match? Will they give their own children the choices they never had or will they use them as pawns as well all in the name of “Protecting the Family?”

The Marriage Contract isn’t a sunshine and rainbows romance. It’s raw, it’s edgy and sometimes, it got a bit dark. Something I never thought I would enjoy. Though a steady diet of darker romance like this wouldn’t sit well with me, I will be making an exception for this series. With the way this book ended, leaving more questions about the O’Malley siblings than answers, I just don’t see myself turning away from the next book. Or the one after.

Final Verdict: I can't wait to see where this edgy new series goes!

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